Reviews by Evelyn C. Leeper

Reviews by Evelyn C. Leeper

All reviews copyright 1984-2011 Evelyn C. Leeper.


LOST IN A GOOD BOOK by Jasper Fforde:

[From "This Week's Reading", MT VOID, 05/23/2003]

Jasper Fforde's second "Thursday Next" novel, LOST IN A GOOD BOOK, finally showed up at the library and while I enjoyed it quite a bit (more than the Swanwick, certainly), it seemed a notch below the first (THE EYRE AFFAIR). Of course, it had to work against the fact that the premise of and the ideas in THE EYRE AFFAIR were fresh and new, while here he must take something we are already familiar with and try to improve it. The punning names seemed more forced, and there was no marvelous set piece like the "Richard III" performance in THE EYRE AFFAIR. Still, if you liked the first book, you'll certainly want to read this. [-ecl]

To order Lost in a Good Book from amazon.com, click here.


ONE OF OUR THURSDAYS IS MISSING by Jasper Fforde:

[From "This Week's Reading", MT VOID, 09/02/2011]

I listened to ONE OF OUR THURSDAYS IS MISSING by Jasper Fforde (read by Emily Gray) (ISBN 978-0-670-02252-6, audiobook ISBN 978-1-449-85468-3) on audiobook, because the audiobook was available and the "dead tree" copy was checked out. On the one hand, I obviously skim less with an audiobook. On the other, I find my mind wanders more.

This is the sixth in the "Thursday Next" series (which began with THE EYRE AFFAIR). This takes a different point of view than the previous volumes. All of those were told from the point of view of Thursday, an agent for Verifiction responsible for preventing crimes against literature. No, not eBooks, but people going into the Book World and changing books there--eliminating Guildenstern from "Hamlet" or helping Mrs. Rochester escape from her locked room, for example. ONE OF OUR THURSDAYS IS MISSING is told from the point of view of "the written Thursday Next" (as she is called)--the character in the previous books who is the fictional version of the real Thursday Next in our world, or rather in a world in which Verifiction, the Book World, the continuing Crimean War, and the break-away Wales are all real.

However, in retrospect, one can say that every one of the books in the series changes its focus. The first (THE EYRE AFFAIR) has a fair amount about the continuing Crimean War and the break-away Wales, while also introducing Verifiction and the Prose Portal (into the Book World). The second (LOST IN A GOOD BOOK) got rid of a lot of the alternate history elements, and the third (THE WELL OF LOST PLOTS) barely mentioned them. The fourth (SOMETHING ROTTEN) has a definite Book World/real world focus, with Hamlet hiding out in England while the literary detectives try to prevent the hijacking of the play script. By the fifth (THURSDAY NEXT: FIRST AMONG SEQUELS) Fforde has become more subtle in many of his character names, and starts covering the mechanics of Book World. Also, he has a lot more topical references about the state of reading and books today, such as a bookstore with three coffeehouses (one with a branch of itself inside itself), and DVDs, stationary, gifts, and computer games, but a staff that has no idea what a book is.

In ONE OF OUR THURSDAYS IS MISSING, Fforde continues the topical references, adding eBooks to the list of threats to the Book World. The real Thursday Next has gone missing, and the written Thursday Next is called upon to impersonate her. Wrapped around all this are the details of life in the Book World: the geography, the social standing of various genres, what happens when a book is read, what happens when a book is not read, and so on. We also discover (slight spoiler) that the written characters are not identical to their "real-life" counterparts. (For example, a character killed off in a book may still be alive in the real world.) It is wonderful world-building, and I highly recommend it.

Just as Alexander McCall Smith began with his "Number 1 Ladies Detective Agency" and then branched out into a "44 Scotland Street" series and so on, Fforde also has another series, the "Nursery Rhyme" series. In both cases, I much prefer their first series.

(Note: Some people try to purchase all the books in a series they like in matching editions. I have managed to continue my tradition having no two books in this series matching. My copy of THE EYRE AFFAIR is a US Viking hardback, LOST IN A GOOD BOOK is a US Viking trade paperback, THE WELL OF LOST PLOTS is a UK Penguin trade paperback, SOMETHING ROTTEN is a NEL trade paperback. and THURSDAY NEXT: FIRST AMONG SEQUELS is a US Penguin trade paperback. I suppose that while I had ONE OF OUR THURSDAYS IS MISSING downloaded on my iPod, that was yet a sixth format.)

To order One of Our Thursdays Is Missing from amazon.com, click here.


SOMETHING ROTTEN by Jasper Fforde:

[From "This Week's Reading", MT VOID, 10/08/2004]

Jasper Fforde's SOMETHING ROTTEN (ISBN 0-670-03359-6) is the fourth in the "Thursday Next" series. It's good, but do not start with this one--start with THE EYRE AFFAIR (which my book discussion group is reading in November, so I will undoubtedly be saying something about it then). THE EYRE AFFAIR had a fairly substantial alternate history element, but that was pushed to the back burner by the second book, or indeed, off the stove altogether. Instead, Fforde concentrates on the more literary aspects of his milieu, with the main supporting character here being Hamlet, hiding out in England while the literary detectives try to prevent the hijacking of the play script. I actually think this is an improvement over the previous book, so I'm looking forward to more.

To order Something Rotten from amazon.com, click here.


THURSDAY NEXT: FIRST AMONG SEQUELS by Jasper Fforde:

[From "This Week's Reading", MT VOID, 10/12/2007]

In THURSDAY NEXT: FIRST AMONG SEQUELS (ISBN-13 978-0-670-03871-8, ISBN-10 0-670-03871-7), the fifth in the series that began with THE EYRE AFFAIR, Jasper Fforde is back at the top of his form. He has the usual punning character names (e.g., Cherie Yogert, Cliff Hangar, Harris Tweed), but also more subtle character names, such as Isambard Kingdom Bunuel, "the finest and most surreal book engineer.... When he constructed WAR AND PEACE, no one thought that anything of such scale and grandeur could be built, let alone launched...." If you don't get the joke, maybe this book is not for you.)

Fforde also deals with the mechanics of Book World. "Books suffer wear and tear, just the same as hip joints, cars and reputations. For this reason all books have to go into the maintenance bay for a periodic refit, either every thirty years or every million years, whichever comes first. For those books that suffer a high initial readership but then lose it through boredom or insufficient reader intellect, a partial refit may be in order. Salmon Thrusty's intractable masterpiece THE DEMONIC COUPLETS had had its first two chapters rebuilt six times, but the rest is relatively unscathed."

The plot revolves around Thursday attempts to deal with the decline in reading rates, and the attempt to improve them with such devices as interactive reality shows of the classics. The decline is illustrated by Thursday going to Booktastic!, which now has three coffeehouses (one with a branch of itself inside itself), DVDs, stationary, gifts, computer games, and a staff that has no idea what a book is:

"I was wondering if you had any books."

"Any what?"

"Books. Y'know--about so big and full of words arranged in a specific order to give the effect of reality?"

"You mean DVDs?"

"No, I mean books. They're kind of old-fashioned."

"Ah!" she said. "What you mean are videotapes."

"No, what I mean are books."

We'd exhausted the sum total of her knowledge, so she went into default mode. "You'll have to see the manager."

There's lots more like this, with Fforde taking a good look at just what is causing the drop in reading, and what it might lead to, and how to counteract it. In quality, this is "First Among Sequels"--the best in the series since THE EYRE AFFAIR itself. Highly recommended.

(Note: Some people try to purchase all the books in a series they like in matching editions. I have to figure out what edition to buy to maintain my record: I have the other books in the series with no two matching. My copy of THE EYRE AFFAIR is a US Viking hardback, LOST IN A GOOD BOOK is a US Viking trade paperback, THE WELL OF LOST PLOTS is a UK Penguin trade paperback, and SOMETHING ROTTEN is a NEL trade paperback.)

To order Thursday Next: First Among Sequels from amazon.com, click here.


THE WELL OF LOST PLOTS by Jasper Fforde:

[From "This Week's Reading", MT VOID, 06/11/2004]

Jasper Fforde's THE WELL OF LOST PLOTS (ISBN 0-670-03289-1) is another British alternate history, but completely understandable. Well, understandable if you know some basic English literature. The alternate history aspect of the Crimean War et al that was more evident in the first book (THE EYRE AFFAIR) and had been somewhat diminished in the second (LOST IN A GOOD BOOK), has almost entirely vanished here. Instead the Prose Portal and its ramifications have become the center--and a fine center it is. I'm not sure the puns come quite as fast and furious as in the first two books, but I certainly recommend this one. Caveat: read the other two first.

To order The Well of Lost Plots from amazon.com, click here.


THE WOMAN WHO DIED A LOT by Jasper Fforde:

[From "This Week's Reading", MT VOID, 08/22/2014]

I recently read the sixth book in "Tuesday Next" series, THE WOMAN WHO DIED A LOT, by Jasper Fforde (ISBN 978-0-147-50976-5). This seems to add a couple of new major premises to the series. One, there are "Day Players" who can be substituted for various characters and even they do not know they are not the real thing. (Think David Brin's KILN PEOPLE.) Two, there is an All-Powerful Deity and He has decided to start smiting cities for no discernable reason. Oh, and there is DRM--not Digital Rights Management, but Dark Reading Matter, but at least that is in keeping with the already existing premises. It is okay, but I was bothered by the drifting away from the literary basis of the series.

To order The Woman Who Died a Lot from amazon.com, click here.


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