Sunday, January 06, 2008

The Well of Lost Plots - Jasper Fforde

The Well of Lost Plots by Jasper Fforde
Leaving Swindon behind her, to hide out in The Well of Lost Plots - the place where all fiction is created - Thursday Next, Literary Detective and soon-to-be one parent family, ponders her next move from inside an unpublished novel of dubious merit entitled Caversham Heights. Her husband, Landen, exists only in her memories and with Goliath and the Chronoguard on her tail in the real world, the safest place for her to be is inside the covers of a book.

But changes are afoot within the world of fiction. The much-awaited upgrade to the centuries-old book system - in which grammasites will be exterminated, punctuation standardised and the number of possible plots increased from eight to an astonishing thirty-two - is only weeks away. But if this is the beginning of a golden age in fictional narrative, then why are Jurisfiction agents mysteriously dying? Perkins is eaten by the minotaur, Snell succumbs to the Mispeling Vyrus and Godot is missing.

As the date of the upgrade looms closer and the bookworld prepares for the 923rd Annual Fiction Awards, Thursday must unmask the villain responsible for the murders, establish just what exactly the upgrade entails - and do battle with an old enemy intent on playing havoc with her memories.
Once again, Fforde has provided a totally insane and totally fun adventure. I hadn't read this one before, although it was on my bookshelf, so I'm not sure why I hadn't read it. I wish I had done so sooner - although since I didn't I got to enjoy it now. I listened to most of this as an audiobook (which makes footnotes interesting), but after I got the book out to check one chapter that I'd found a little confusing to listen to, I found myself alternating between both media. Today, I just wanted to get to the end, picked up the book and finished it.

Thursday remains a brilliant character and well-written narrator and she tells the story of her adventures in the Book World with great aplomb. I'm not the sort to laugh out loud (or not much anyway) but I certainly found myself giggling upon occasion.

Fforde's Book World is a well crafted place, complete with its own rules, regulations and police force. The Well of Lost Plots is a particularly clever creation, full of books in progress and a whole infrastructure to support this. I'm sure any would-be writer can relate to the character's fears for their future if their book fails to find a publisher and be fascinated by the development of a generic chracter (all of which attend a school called St. Tabula-Rasa's). The way all the book characters have full and complicated lives outside the times their books are being read and the way various characters, especially those from out of print books, turn up in other people's books is a delight. The Well of Lost Plots is full of puns, literary illusions (many of which I'm sure I missed since I was never an English major) and a very wicked sort of humour. If you like those sorts of things, you'll love this book. If you don't, you'll hate it.

I suspect part of the reason I didn't originally read this is that I was afraid my lack of reading in the classics would make me miss too much. I haven't found that to be a problem and I was surprised that I "got" more than I would have expected to. It's not all about "literature" either - there was a great scene in a rough bar down in one of the Well's sublevels that was a direct rip-off of the cantina scene in Star Wars, right down to the ratty human speaking in an unfamiliar dialect (in this case, courier bold). I also loved Thursday's near-fatal trip into an Enid Blyton novel, that proves things aren't all sunshine and smiles in even the most apparently innocuous book.

I'll be moving right on to Thursday's next adventure, Something Rotten, and hoping the fact none of my school English teachers ever chose to have the class study Hamlet won't hinder my enjoyment. Eventually, I'll also be reading Fforde's Nursery Crime series (after I finish this series of course), which was set up as a sub-plot in this book.

The Well of Lost Plots
Thursday Next, Book 3

1 comment:

Marg said...

I love the Fforde books! I do wonder how the footnotes all work in the audio version though!