The Thursday Next novels have to be my all-time favourite series - what's not to love about a kick-ass woman who can jump into books? The last installment, One of Our Thursdays is Missing was a little bit of a let-down, but this latest installment more than makes up for it - a return to 'proper' Thursday Next!
Plot summary - The BookWorld's leading enforcement officer Thursday Next is four months into an enforced semi-retirement following an assassination attempt. She returns home to Swindon for what you'd expect to be a time of recuperation. If only life were that simple.
Thursday is faced with an array of family problems - son Friday's lack of focus since his career in the Chronoguard wasrelegated to a might-have-been, daughter Tuesday's difficulty perfecting the Anti-Smote shield needed to thwart an angry Deity's promise to wipe Swindon off the face of the earth, and Jenny, who doesn't exist.
And that's not all. With Goliath attempting to replace Thursday at every opportunity with synthetic Thursdays, the prediction that Friday's Destiny-Aware colleagues will die in mysterious circumstances, and a looming meteorite that could destroy all human life on earth, Thursday's retirement is going to be anything but easy.
I would love to know what exactly powers Jasper Fforde's imagination. Not only has be produced four different series of completely unique and absurd books, this is the seventh and latest book in the Thursday Next series and it's just as imaginative as ever. In addition to creating a fully-functioning world inside books (complete with the JurisFiction policing agency and grammar-stealing beasts), but the world that 'real' Thursday Next lives in is just as filled out.
It's especially great that the author takes little snippets of our real lives and tweaks them to fit into the book. TK Maxx, for example, isn't just a designer label outlet store, it's also a time-loop containment facility where dangerous prisoners are kept, condemned to spend eternity stuck in a dentist's waiting room or waiting for their girlfriend to finish trying on clothes.
This world is also a lot more literary-obsessed than our own - television and all the various gadgets still exist, but books are a much more prominent feature. I love the Marlovian preachers in the earlier books - they traipse from door to door, preaching about how Kit Marlowe was the true author of Shakespeare's works. The Woman Who Died A Lot is no different - the Swindon in this book has its own share of literary asides.
I do wish that there had been more BookJumping in this book - it's what One of Our Thursdays Is Missing suffered from. Mind, at least this book talked about the BookWorld a lot - you do learn more about its functionality and Golaith's secret interest in it. It's just not the same without the occasional literary character popping up though - where are Mrs Tiggywinkle and Emperor Zhark!?
Still, although the plot is real world-based, it's a remarkably good one. Goliath are back to their old tricks and SpecOps has been reformed so there's plenty to keep us entertained. It's fast paced and unique - god knows how Jasper Fforde hasn't repeated a plot point in seven books, but it's true.
I just didn't want this book to end - while reading I was constantly aware that I wouldn't have any unread Thursday Next books! I kept putting it down to savour it just that little bit longer. I can't wait for the next one, the title of which has already been announced as Dark Reading Matter. It doesn't sound like there will be much BookJumping in this one either, but I can always hope!
I just adore these books. If Jasper Fforde ever definitively writes an end to this series, I will literally cry. They're inventive, bookish fantasy for grown-ups, as well as producing that great little "Ah!" moment when a character from a classic novel you've read pops up to say hello.