Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Jasper Fforde

Reading Jasper Ffforde’s Thursday Next series is like jumping into a blender with an armful of books selected from almost every genre. His stories defy narrow categorisation. They combine elements of Science Fiction, Fantasy, Horror, Crime and Humour, seasoned with a few pages from literary criticism and grammar text books. If I have overlooked a genre, it’s probably there anyway, like a familiar spice that you recognise in a meal but can’t quite isolate and identify.

My first attempted Jasper Fforde book was The Well of Lost Plots, the third in his Thursday next series. I struggled with it several years ago and eventually gave up. Recently I decided to try again, but this time starting with his first book, The Eyre Affair; and I now realise it is essential that the Thursday Next series be read in order as each volume builds upon what has happened in previous books.

Today Fforde would be my favourite writer (although tomorrow may bring about change). I love his continuing flood of strange ideas and distorted realities. I think his special talent is to bring so much weirdness together into one place and somehow give it a logical credibility.

In Forde’s “Nextian” universe, movement between the “real” world and literary worlds is possible. Some of the action of The Eyre Affair takes place within Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre as Thursday Next follows villain Acheron Hades into the pages of that classic text. Can she save that book from a man whose proven ruthlessness challenges the security and stability of well-loved literature?

Lost in a Good Book follows Thursday’s life after the events of the first book and adds to our knowledge of her world which has similarities to our own but has a significantly different history, technologies and priorities: the national sport seems to be croquet, literary societies are a powerful political force and the power of coincidence can be used as a lethal weapon.

After reading those first two books, I am definitely ready to return to The Well of Lost Plots. And despite my earlier experience I am looking forward to it.

Fforde’s website is worth a visit (there is a link in the side bar, see "links for writers"). I have now bought most of his books, the majority from the author himself. While this did work out a bit more expensive than buying them locally, all the books are autographed and come with a free, randomly selected postcard, some of which are limited editions.

I know this isn't the most enlightening book "review" written. I feel any detailed attempt to describe and critique these novels would be like a regression to my youth when friends and I would quote Monty Python, Goon Show and Fawlty Towers dialogue to each other. Second hand experience is just not the same. You need to go to the source for yourself and enjoy the vibrancy of the original.

From my personal viewpoint, Jasper Fforde's books have been one of the best discoveries I've made for years.

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