Posts Tagged ‘Thursday Next’

What fun! Or should that be “ffun?” Jasper Fforde doubles readers’ pleasure with two new books — the seventh entry in the Thursday Next series and the first volume in a young adult series.

First, Next. In The Woman Who Died a Lot, literary law enforcement agent extraordinaire Thursday Next is still recovering from an assassination attempt when problems arise both at work and on the homefront. Reluctantly sidelined from Spec Ops and bookjumping, Thursday’s new stint as chief librarian at the Swindon branch is marred by 100 per cent budget cuts as Britain copes with a stupidity surplus. Meanwhile, her genius daughter Tuesday is having trouble perfecting the Anti-Smite shield before an asteroid-pillar of fire strikes Swindon end of the week, talented son Friday faces a bleak future in the ChronoGuard as a might-have-been, and younger daughter Jenny, well, she doesn’t exist except as a pesky mindworm in Thursday’s memory in spite of hubby Landen’s repeated reminders that she’s a never-was. Add in the Day Player replicas of Thursday unleashed by the all-powerful Goliath Company and it’s an unusually busy seven days for our favorite literary detective. And she’s still attempting to enter DRM — Dark Reading Matter — for its potential yield of raw metaphor, although other explorers have vanished in theory.

Newcomers to BookWorld Jurisprudence would do best to start with The Eyre Affair, the first Thursday  Next novel, which I remember describing as “Harry Potter for English majors.” It remains the perfect intro to FForde’s realm of absurdism, an inventive genre-bending mash-up of fantasy and crime, funny and punny.

Or you could try The Last Dragonslayer, launching the Chronicles of Kazam. It’s a playful primer to Fforde’s alternate world-view, clever yet silly. Pragmatic foundling Jennifer Strange, almost 16, runs a mystical arts management group-employment agency for magicians, all of whom are running low on power in this day and age. Magic carpet-riders deliver pizza and workaday wizards rewire houses.

Fforde has a fine time world-building with full-on whimsy. The plot involves a prophecy about the death of the Last Dragon (as opposed to the Previous), which leads to Jennifer discovering new career skills amid greedy property developers and mercurial magicians.  Be warned that not all end wells for everyone, but enough loose ends are tied up and enough left loose to make a sequel mandatory.

Open Book: I raced through Jasper Fforde’s The Woman Who Died A Lot (Viking Penguin, paperback ARC) so I could devour The Last Dragonslayer (Harcourt hardcover), a birthday present from my friend Laura, another Fforde aficionado and Thursday Next wanna-be.

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My list of heroines-I-wanna-be grows ever longer — Nancy Drew, Scout Finch, Elizabeth Bennet, Harriet Vane, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Hermione Granger, Thursday Next. And now Mwfanwy  Thomas.

Who is Myfanwy (rhymes with Tiffany) Thomas? Myfanwy herself would like to know. At the beginning of Daniel O’Malley’s clever genre-bender, The Rook, “On Her Majesty’s Supernatural Secret Service,” a young woman wakes up in a London park with no memory of herself. A letter in her pocket, which begins “Dear You” and is signed “Sincerely, Me” tells her that she now inhabits the body of Myfanwy Alice Thomas. A second letter offers her a choice — leave London immediately and assume a new, moneyed identity far, far away, or become Myfanwy Thomas and track down the killers of the real Myfanwy’s memories. The second choice is more dangerous given that the new Myfanwy is surrounded by motionless bodies wearing latex gloves and that unknown enemies are hot on her trail. Move, Myfanwy!

More letters from “Me” provide explanations and instructions as Myfanwy pretends to be her former self, a high-level operative in the Chequy, the secret government agency that guards Britain against supernatural threats. There are more of these than you might imagine, and Myfanwy gets on-the-job training almost immediately when she’s called on to fight a mysterious, enveloping purple fungus. Thank goodness she has some special powers. She’s going to need them as she not only contends with ghosts, ghoulies and grafters, but also a conspiracy within the shadow world of the Chequy.

This might sound a tad complicated, but O’Malley’s narrative is fast-paced and funny, a la Jasper Fforde’s Thursday Next novels and the BBC’s Dr. Who-spinoff, Torchwood. There’s some similar deft world-building as well, the villains are dastardly indeed, and there’s more to appealing Mywfany than meets the eye. Fun, fun, fun. Sign me up for the sequel.

Open Book: I read a digital edition of The Rook by Daniel O’Malley (Little, Brown) provided by the publisher through NetGalley. Since it is about to expire, I’ll be buying a copy to keep and reread.

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