Friday, July 19, 2013

Something Rotten ~ Jasper Fforde

My reviews of the first three books in the Thursday Next series:
The Eyre Affair
Lost in a Good Book
The Well of Lost Plots

I love reading literature, a term that is difficult to define, but which I am using here to mean serious fiction - fiction that is heavy and makes you think and isn't easy.  Happiness is elusive or complicated, endings uncomfortably resemble reality, and it can be a bit depressing.  Yes, I love this, because it makes me feel real, complex emotions and often to think about life in a new way.  But every so often I need a break.  Enter Thursday Next, Jasper Fforde's literary heroine (literally).

Something Rotten picks up two years after the end of The Well of Lost Plots - Thursday is still hunting the Minotaur, running Jurisfiction, and raising a two-year old - and she is ready to return to reality.  So she packs her bags and returns to Swindon, to find that everybody's least favorite corporation has become a religion, fictional politican Yorrick Kaine is campaigning to become dictator and lobbying against the Danish, and the local croquet team needs to win the championship to prevent the Apocolaypse.  Oh, and Thursday's the only one who can do anything about it.  Really, the only way you can use to describe this book is as a romp.  It's ridiculous and hilarious, but still manages to make you feel smart (at least if you can kinda sorta follow the time travel rules, or lack thereof).
Fforde is clearly a Dr. Who fan.
The earlier books in the series I had some reservations about, but Something Rotten is just fun.  I really loved the introduction of Thursday's son, Friday, who, in addition to only speaking Lorem Ipsum, provides a great foil to all the pseudo-drama of Thursday's heroism.  The only thing that makes having to sneak all the Danish books in England into Wales while also figuring out who will start in the croquet finals to save the world while also watching out for your next assassination attempt while also hunting down a Shakespeare clone to untangle Hamlet from The Merry Wives on Windsor even more hilarious, is having to do all that in time to get home to relieve your babysitter.  The seeming triviality of domestic life, when contrasted with preventing the apocalypse, adds an extra level to this book that its predecessors lacked.

I also love how self-aware this book is at all times.  For example, after nearly being run over by a steamroller, Thursday explains to Hamlet:
A lot happens in the real world for no good reason.  If this were fiction, this little incident would have relevance thirty or so chapters from now; as it is it means nothing - after all, not every incident in life has a meaning. (76)
Of course, this IS fiction, so the steamroller incident is totally relevant (and, assuming that this isn't your first Thursday Next novel, you mark that page so that you can come back to it when your done and figure out the relevance).

Oh, and then there's the croquet, which is much more of a competitive, violent, American football-style sport than what you'd imagine, though it still has English-style obstacles, like a tea party in the middle of the field, attended by real people.  It also has a trio of judges, because every game starts off with various suits by each team's lawyers, in an attempt to gain an advantage before play even starts.  Because Fforde does not skimp on ridiculousness.

I would probably never read the books in this series one after the other because it would get to be a bit much, but I definitely recommend an installment every time you need a break from heavier reading.  Because sometimes, you just have to laugh.


  1. "Fforde does not skimp on ridiculousness." SO TRUE. It's been many years since I read this one, and I admit that I did prefer the earlier Thursday Next books, but any Jasper Fforde novel is one to be celebrated, I think.

    1. Oh, this one was my favorite thus far. But yeah, they're definitely works of ridiculous genius!

  2. Jasper Fforde's Thursday Next adventures are genius. Just one great big literary in-joke. Have you read anything else by him? I read one of his about nursery rhymes (i can't remember the title) but didn't like it as well.

    1. Nah, just the Thursday Next series. I've heard that about the Nursery Crimes. At the rate I've been going with this series, I won't have to worry about branching out for a while though!

  3. I love reading any summary of the Thursday Next books because if you aren't already familiar with his stuff, they are so ridiculous. I mean, even if you are familiar they're ridiculous, but in a way that makes sense. You're right about the addition of Friday adding a little something extra to the Thursday stories that makes them that much better. I mean, I love ALL the Thursday books but yeah, seeing her be a mom on top of saving the world is pretty great.

    1. I just reread the summary, and after only a week it already seems utterly ridiculous. Who am I kidding, it was utterly ridiculous at the time!