Monday, December 21, 2009
Detective Thursday Next is back for another round of time traveling and bookish sleuthing after Fforde's successful debut, The Eyre Affair. Like his earlier novel, this one is set in the U.K., in an alternate version of our universe-one in which time travel is possible and the boundaries between life and literature are porous. Thursday works for Special Ops in the Literary Detectives division. She's made an enemy of the corrupt Goliath Corporation, which manufactures absolutely everything, by imprisoning one of its executives, Jack Schitt, in the pages of Poe's The Raven. In return, the corporation eradicates her new husband, Landen. Since no one really dies in this chronologically fluid universe, Landen could be restored-but Goliath won't do it until Thursday brings back Schitt. But rescuing Schitt is easier said than done-Poe's oeuvre is dangerous territory. Thursday enlists the help of Great Expectations' Miss Havisham, who works for the intra-literature police force, Jurisfiction, and the two leap into the pages of Kafka's The Trial, Austen's Sense and Sensibility and Carroll's Alice in Wonderland. Thursday also finds time to authenticate Cardenio, a newly discovered Shakespeare tragedy, and save the world from being engulfed by an oozing pink sludge. Time flies-and leaps and zigzags-while reading this wickedly funny and clever fantasy.
Having read the first in the series, The Eyre Affair, I was a bit iffy on continuing with it right away. I hadn't really gotten into it and was disappointed there wasn't more Mr. Rochester. *grin* Finally, I decided to get on to the next book, and found it in audiobook format and I'm so glad I did! I enjoyed this 2nd book in the Thursday Next series so much more - the characters literally all came to life and I found Thursday, our literary detective heroine, more endearing than ever! The book is very funny and absurd in parts, that kind of dry British humor that is dead pan and ridiculous at the same time, while being completely matter of fact as if it has no idea it's so funny! And the names are a scream! The narrator, Elizabeth Sastre, was great. She was wonderful at all the voices and British accents of all the many characters. Her Thursday voice was just perfect as a youngish (30's) British modern who seems to be the only voice of reason amidst a world of crazies (except for her beloved Landen).
The genre is alternate history with some fantasy under the premise that the Nazis invaded England during World War II and won the war. Forty upteen years later, this is now what England is like under the thumb of a big brother-like Goliath Corporation (coincidence the book takes place one year after 1984?) Spec Ops is the other big company, a bureaucratic governmental type that everyone seems to work for, including Thurday. Thursday is riding high on publicity of her Eyre Affair, but she finds herself in trouble soon enough and to make matters worse, her new husband, Landen, has been eradicated forever unless she helps Goliath retrieve a shady character left to rot in Poe's The Raven. She must figure out how she can get into The Raven to do it, and at the same time, save Landen. She is put into the capable hands of Miss Havisham from Dickens, Great Expectations who deigns to take Thursday on as her apprentice at Jurisfiction, a fantastical giant library where you can jump in and out of books at will. Jurisfiction is amazing and vast and I can't even begin to describe it. The best parts of the book are with Miss Havisham and Thursday slowly but surely learns to jump in and out of books. I also loved the brief interlude spent in Sense and Sensibility , meeting Marianne and then Mrs. Dashwood, who claims it was all her husband John's fault that the Dashwood women never got any money! She pleads innocence and worries that everyone will hate her and she will be known as a literary villainess forever! (Of course she's right, and everyone does hate her for her what she did to the poor Dashwood girls after their father died!)
Meanwhile, while trying to save Landen - and the world - Thursday's father pops in from his time travel journeys from time to time and helps her feel better, though often even more confused than ever! At times Thursday even gets to talk with Landen in her memories. It's poignant to think that Thursday has lost Landen so soon after getting married - especially since she finds herself pregnant! But, if he's been eradicated and never existed - who is the father? I found it very amusing when Thursday is afraid it could be the dashing and very handsome Miles Hawk of the sexy voice!
There are many puzzling quandaries throughout the book, but they are mostly answered and throughout all of it, we get to meet dozens of funny and quirky literary characters most will recognize. They were especially entertaining in audiobook form, the Cheshire Cat and Miss Havisham were my two favorites. I'm in awe of Jasper Fforde for he is extremely talented, this book brings the art form of the absurd to new highs. The many names of the various characters are hilarious and you must pay attention to really catch all the details and absurdity that abounds - it was indeed very, very clever!
I'm eager to read the next book in the series, which will definitely be on audiobook, I can't imagine not listening to these books now. Very, very entertaining, but I imagine they'd be just as funny and amusing in print as well. I highly recommend! Oh, and this was my final book in my TBR Challenge this year! A great finish!