Thursday, February 16, 2012

The Well of Lost Plots ~ Jasper Fforde

Due to the mixed responses I got to this post, I've decided to test out my idea for a while before committing.  Therefore, I've added a Mister Linky to this post and am going to see if anything happens (I'll probably due it for the next few reviews, because who knows what the rest of you have read - but we'll find out!).  You are invited to link to your review of The Well of Lost Plots at this end of this post, no matter when you wrote it.  There is no need to link back, but if the link doesn't go to a post that's actually about the book, be warned: I will delete it.  Link on!

Okay, I'll come write out and say it - I didn't like The Well of Lost Plots as much as The Eyre Affair and Lost in a Good Book.

To catch you up: Thursday Next, pregnant and pursued by Goliath, the ChronoGuard, and SpecOps, has decided to take a vacation in the pages of Caversham Heights.  Never heard of it?  That's because it's a work-in-progress, located at the bottom of the Well of Lost Plots, where all fiction is created.  Considering that she now is fictional, you think she'd be safe among Miss Havisham and the Bellman from Sense and Sensibility, but no - she has a mindworm trying to make her lose all her memories of the father of her child (who was eradicated at age two), somebody is killing off Jufisfiction Operatives, and the novel she resides in is threatened with being broken down into text.  Life in her alternate reality is never simple for Thursday Next.

It's a clever plot, with a lot going on without being too much to handle.  It's kind of nice to see that Thursday is human and therefore breakable (not because she is a woman but because when you're pregnant, you should probably get out of the line of fire).  It's rife with all sorts of fun characters and silly subplots, like nursery characters going on strike, "generics" (genderless, personality-less, featureless future characters) being trained up into character types, and escaped minotaurs.  There's always something going on.

The main problem I find with The Well of Lost Plots is how few laugh-out-loud moments it has.  After the two preceding novels, I expected to be laughing hysterically every other paragraph, but instead it was only every other chapter.  What is that about?  I know I sound silly, but I'm serious - this book made me serious.  The clever play on literary references and re-imaginings of reality's social problems are really what made the series for me up until now and without that, the writing loses a lot.  Of course, that's not to say that it doesn't have it's moments.  I'd give you an example, but I think it would need to much backstory to be entertaining, plus it's far too long.  Suffice it to say, that it includes the adult hero of adventure stories for boys and his wife, who happens to be a gorilla in a pinafore.

Which brings me to my next point.  Fforde just spends too much of this novel world-building.  Though we spent some of Lost in a Good Book in the Great Library, Fforde really gives it life in this installment. The problem is, he does so at the cost of plot, silliness, and logic.  I spent so much time trying to figure out the logistics of it (the characters read each other? or something?) that I had little time to just enjoy the novel.  Maybe the whole novel was full of literary witticisms that the last two books could only dream of and I missed them because I was so busy trying to figure out why only sometimes can characters read each other's thoughts.  Fforde spent so much time figuring out the book world that the vast majority of the book's action took place in that last quarter of the novel, which threw off the balance and had me wondering if anything more exciting than an escaped minotaur would ever happen.

It's not all bad.  My favorite bit was about UltraWord, a new platform for reading novels that the Book World is anticipating.  Though shiny and fancy, in truth UltraWord has a dark side and is a wonderful riff on the advent of ebooks, in all of their evil wrong-doing.  Cantaloupes will never smell the same to me again...

So yeah, I'll probably read First Among Sequels, the fourth installment in the series, but with lowered expectations.  I liked The Well of Lost Plots well enough, don't get me wrong.  It was still a nice break from more serious endeavors (how hoity-toity does that sound?) and gave me a few good chuckles, it just didn't live up to the first two books.  I still recommend the series to everybody who likes to be silly and pat themselves on the back for understanding literary references.


  1. Alas, I have no reviews of this book because I read it so long ago...BUT I do recall this was my favorite of the THursday Next books, so I'm sorry it disappointed you. All plotting and character development aside, I think it was the first book where I thought the author had written something truly original and therefore unique.

    1. I agree, it definitely is unique. I guess it just spent too much time for my taste building something unique rather than just being unique. If that means anything.

  2. I think I loved Well of Lost Plots so much because Fforde spends so much time building the BookWorld out. Though anytime I think too much into how things work, I get confused. But I realized if I just let it go and accepted it, I got swept up in the world. Sort of like trying to think too much about the time travel stuff.

    Glad you plan on keeping up with the series but I'm sorry you didn't like this one more. Le sad.

    1. You're right, it is like trying to work your head around time travel! Lol. I kept wondering where all the matter goes.