Saturday, April 24, 2010
Detective Thursday Next has had her fill of her responsibilities as the Bellman in Jurisfiction, enough with Emperor Zhark's pointlessly dramatic entrances, outbreaks of slapstick raging across pulp genres, and hacking her hair off to fill in for Joan of Arc. Packing up her son, Friday, Thursday returns to Swindon accompanied by none other than the dithering Danish prince Hamlet. Caring for both is more than a full-time job and Thursday decides it is definitely time to get her husband Landen back, if only to babysit. Luckily, those responsible for Landen's eradication, The Goliath Corporation-formerly an oppressive multinational conglomerate, now an oppressive multinational religion-have pledged to right the wrong.
But returning to SpecOps isn't a snap. When outlaw fictioneer Yorrick Kaine seeks to get himself elected dictator, he whips up a frenzy of anti-Danish sentiment and demands mass book burnings. The return of Swindon's patron saint bearing divine prophecies could spell the end of the world within five years, possibly faster if the laughably terrible Swindon Mallets don't win the Superhoop, the most important croquet tournament in the land. And if that's not bad enough, The Merry Wives of Windsor is becoming entangled with Hamlet. Can Thursday find a Shakespeare clone to stop this hostile takeover? Can she prevent the world from plunging into war? Can she vanquish Kaine before he realizes his dream of absolute power? And, most important, will she ever find reliable child care?
As much as I've loved this series, Something Rotten was not up to the same calibre as the previous books about Thursday Next and her neverending fight for truth and justice against the Goliath Corporation and her amusing exploits (literally) in the world of fiction. Even though it was still a laugh and highly enjoyable, (Jasper Fforde has an amazing imagination), I found it hard to follow in parts - the story was all over the place, maybe because I was listening to it on audio.
The above recap of the book tells it all. The fourth in the Thursday Next Series, it's two years later from where the last book ended and Thursday leaves Jurisfiction and finds her way back home to Swindon. She gets a job back with SpecOps, though she has a whole new set of problems to solve.
As in the previous books, Thursday meets various fictional characters, here we meet Hamlet, who is sort of in the background, though by no means as humorous a character as I found Heathcliff or Miss Haversham in the previous novels. In addition, Thursday's mother runs a sort of rooming house for displaced historical figures, one of whom is Lady Emma Hamilton who is carrying on an affair with Hamlet (much to the ire of the tyrannical and diva-like Ophelia). Emma is one of my favorites. Having become a lush due to the untimely death of her Horatio (Wellington) she is living with Thursday's mother until history can be changed (frankly, this was all lost on me, I didn't quite get this part of the story, except that Thursday's father was working on it) She is always looking for a drink, I laughed out loud several times, especially on audio. Meanwhile, Thursday is wondering if her mother may or may not be having a fling with Bismarck - yes, that Bismarck, the same from 19th century Germany - or was it Austria?
Anyhow, the highlight of the story is Thursday and Landon's reunion - they're back together again, although it was touch and go at first - literally! Once he was un-eradicated, it took a couple of times for it to take. Landen had the unhappy misfortune of disappearing at the most inconvenient of times, leaving Thursday in one particularly embarrasing situation with his parents!
I was a bit disappointed that the narrator of Something Rotten was not Elizabeth Sartre, who I had gotten used to in the last two books. Emily Gray did this narration, and she was very good, but she just didn't have the same endearing quality in her characters, though I think I was just spoiled from Sartre. Gray was very good with Lady Hamilton, and very funny with St. Zvlkx (I never would have known how to pronounce his name if not for the audio version - it sounds like "zivilkix") and his lewd and bawdy Old English way of speaking that only Thursday's brother Joffy can translate. She was also good at two year old Friday's speaking, which was some sort of crazy latin word-speak from the world of Jurisfiction. Basically, you couldn't understand a word that Friday said, although it sounded like he was speaking Latin. Since I barely know any Latin to begin with, I don't know if he was speaking gibberish or not!
As usual, there are loads of literary inside jokes, Thursday has her own stalker Millon de Floss, Thursday's foe is Yorrick Kaine - which of course, gives Hamlet his line at the end, "Poor Yorrick - "alas..." You get the idea... The Cat formerly known as Cheshire is back (I love him) and there's a hilarious battle between him and Yorrick - the book definitely had it's moments, but as a whole it kind of fell flat. The ending was very odd too. No spoilers here, but I think it was supposed to be sentimental with Thursday's Gran, but I didn't get that feeling at all. It just left me perplexed and asking "Why?" I wondered if Fforde intended to end the series here and then wrote one more book for it, for it had a sort of final feeling to it. I'm all confused!
Some say they thought this book was a bridge to get Thursday from Jurisfiction back into the real world, maybe it is, I can't say until I read the next (and last) book, First Among Sequels. Whatever it is, it was amusing in parts, but a jumble as a whole. Between the world championship super hoop croquet game, Hamlet's being out of Hamlet, neanderthals saving the world, and the quest to expose Yorrick for who he really was - I was a bit lost in parts. But, as usual, the book is full of smirks and suprises and I'm happy for Thursday that she has her husband Landen back. But, I didn't find this one as good as the others. The ending was a bit wobbly as well. I still liked it, Fforde is incredibly adept and creative with this alternate world, but this is the weakest in the series, in my opinion.