Monday, July 21, 2008

Thursday Next

If I have ever read a more raucous and joyful ode to reading than Jasper Fforde's Thursday Next series, then I have long forgotten it. Set in a fantastical alternate Britain, the series heroine is the titular Next who is a member of the Literary Detectives, a government organization that combats book crime, such as, say, the unlawful editing of books. How can such events occur? Well as it happens, what is written in books exists in it own dimension and if you were to enter that dimension, you could say, leech all the comedy out of the Thomas Hardy books and make them terrible tragedies, as some nasty did in these books.

Did that last bit make you chuckle or leave you confused? If it is the former, these books are for you. In addition to being entirely about books and reading, these stories are marked by an unrelenting tide of jokes. I can think of few books that I want to read that I can also call "madcap," but this is certainly one. One scene features a Beatrix Potter character conversing with a Ming the Merciless clone, over tea. It is a mark of Fforde's skill as a writer in that he can be so incredibly silly, while also sucking you into the (often nonsensical) story.

His latest book in the series, Thursday Next, First Among Sequels, may be his most enjoyable yet. Flinging from one crisis to another, Next deals with (as usual) threats to the BookWorld, the universe, declining read rates, her family and to her pet Dodo (genetically re-engineered, wouldn't you know). The pacing is among the most relentless in this volume, so that if one joke or encounter leaves you a bit dry, you will soon find another.

While I won't stoop to spoiling, I will say that this is a series that can read out of order if you so chose. Yes, certain personages fates will be known to you, but like as not, they have changed in bizarre ways, so that you will be surprised nonetheless. The fun here is in Fforde's seemingly bottomless invention and literary referencing. If you are an inveterate reader, then you need to try these books.


Citizen Reader said...

Okay, now I have to try these books. I've been putting it off but you leave me no choice.

Tripp said...

Be in a goofy sort or mood. Or ready to get into one.