Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Review of One of Our Thursdays is Missing by Jasper Fforde

The BookWorld has undergone a transformation from Great Library format to Geographic format. Hanging on the inside of a globe, all forms of writing are organised into clusters of islands that are divided into genres. Related genres are located near to each other and trade text, plot devices, metaphors and so on. All is not well, however, with a genre war about to erupt. Jurisfiction agent Thursday Next is due to chair peace talks in a week’s time only she has vanished in suspicious circumstances. Worried about the consequences of the impending battle Jurisfiction turns to the written Thursday Next who is living in a small corner of speculative fiction, maintaining her four book series and trying to keep her readers and fellow characters happy. She is asked to investigate the mysterious break-up of a vanity book that was being transported across BookWorld, leaving a trail of narrative debris in its wake. Soon the Men in Plaid, agents of the Council of Genres, are trailing after her, her understudy is upstaging her, and her Designated Love Interest is revealed to have a murderous back story. Written Thursday has to live up to the reputation of her real world counterpart and save the day or risk being erased from the BookWorld.

One of Our Thursdays is Missing is a very clever book. In some senses too clever. As usual, Fforde’s playfulness with language and intertextuality is in full flight. However, the construction of the BookWorld, and Fforde’s explanations as to how it is organised and works, seemed, to me at least, to get somewhat in the way of the story. It is only in the few pages where Thursday is sent into the ‘real world’ – Outland – that the narrative flows in the same way as previous books. In those stories, the cleverness and inventiveness of Fforde’s imagination comes through loud and clear without it overly clogging the story. The plot then is smart and witty, but the storyline is more a witty observational piece rather than a compelling page turner. Despite these gripes, One of Thursdays is Missing is an enjoyable read. One has to admire the sheer cleverness and playfulness of Fforde’s writing, but sometimes less is more.


Mack said...

This is a fun read though quite different than the other books in the series. One aspect that I really enjoyed was the way he played with describing genres in the new geographic book world. Unfortunately just about any example I give would be a spoiler. I don't think I've read another author who has created such a convincing and detailed world that follows its own internal logic so well.

Mack said...

Rob, I just noticed that you have the U.S. cover in your review. Is that what's available in Ireland? I got my copy from The Book Depository for the U.K. cover so the style would match my other Fforde books.

Rob Kitchin said...

Mack, I agree that the world he creates is well realised and has a strong internal logic. The Discworld of Terry Pratchett also has a convincing internal logic as well. The difference I think is that Pratchett has let the full wonders of the Discworld, and its various geographies and social realities, unfold over dozens of books. Fforde it seemed to me wanted to try and spell out the full workings of BookWorld in one go and that got in the way of the story a little. He didn't do that with the first four books, which is why I think they worked better as stories. Well, for me at least.

I bought my copy as a hardback in Canada a month or so ago.

michael said...

Enjoyed your review, but this was the sixth book in the Thursday Next series.

The Eyre Affair
Lost in a Good Book
The Well of Lost Plots
Something Rotten
First Among Sequels
One of Our Thursdays is Missing

According to Fforde at his website TH7 will probably take place in the Real World. My guess it will deal with the evil plot Written Thursday got caught up in while in Real World.

Rob Kitchin said...

Michael, the reference to maintaining her four book series is I'm fairly certain directly from the book (or at least the book jacket), so I'm not why it says that given this book is the sixth as you say. There's probably a reason as opposed to a typo, but if there is I'm not sure what it is.

michael said...

Ah, that is because the Nextian Universe and ours are not the same. Our Thursday Next books are not the ones Written Thursday is in. Written Thursday's series is read by those in Real World. This also explains who the Racy Action Hero Written Thursday this book's Written Thursday replaced.

It typically as simple as anything else in the Thursday Next books...ours and theirs...or...this is where the reader head begins to hurt and considers turning on TV instead.