Friday, March 02, 2007

Jasper Fforde books

Having read a good few good reviews of these books, I finally got around to reading 'The Eyre Affair' by Jasper Fforde in the summer time last year. It is brilliant, I loved it. The action takes place in the 1980s in an alternative history where the Crimean war is still going on, airships are more common than planes, Wales is a republic, Swindon is an important town, and so on. The main character is called 'Thursday Next' (female) and many other characters in the story have equally off-the-wall names, my favourite being 'Braxton Hicks'. I loved the aspects of that book where we got to explore that strange alternative reality - airships, cloned dodos, 'Spec Ops' and all the weird and mysterious things they do. The book is also fantastically well written by someone who knows how to manipulate language to great comic effect, whilst still being very, very clever. Part of the plot involves our heroine and the main villain getting inside an early manuscript of 'Jane Eyre' and inadvertently changing the plot for the better. In this story it was important that the action took place in an early manuscript - from which all subsequent versions of the book were taken - because then all versions of the book would be changed. Anyway, I read through that book in a few days and rushed headlong into the next Thursday Next book...

'Lost in a good book' is also a good book, but I would shy away from using the word 'brilliant' to describe it. Certainly, the author's fantastic use of language and highly entertaining spin on literary classics continues, but I found the actual plot to be less interesting. Only one of the two main plot strands started in this book is resolved here, the other (more interesting) strand is left unresolved and is carried over to the next book. The plot strand that is resolved (the end of the world is averted) is resolved a bit too quickly and cleanly at the last minute to be satisfying. In this book we get to find out a bit more of the alternative Swindon, and we find out more about getting into fictional books, but the whole thing was a bit of a disappointment compared to the first book. But as there was an unresolved plot, I rushed headlong into...

'The well of lost plots' picks up directly from the end of the previous book and basically leaves the unresolved plot from the last book totally unresolved throughout. The book ends and the only plot strand that I care about is still unresolved. Disappointing. The action in this book takes place almost entirely inside the 'Well of lost plots' - the unearthly repository of all the definitive versions of all books that have ever been written, or are in the process of being written, but have not been published. Here the characters in these books have independent lives of their own, etc. The main plot of the book is about the release of a new book 'operating system'. Its all a bit Microsoft really. I don't care! I like computers, I like books. One of the great things about books is that they are not computers! I don't want to read about an operating system for books. Basically I didn't care about 90% of the plot in this book. So, despite the ongoing, unresolved plot, I am in no rush to read the next book int he series. I may never read it. The storytelling is still done with great relish and joyous use of the English language, but a dull story well told is still a dull story. There are flashes of genius in there, I particularly liked the discussion of the "that that" and "had had" problem in literature, but I couldn't bring myself to care about the plot.

I'll read something by someone else next...

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4 Comments:

At 4:16 pm, Blogger Marcus G said...

After the Thursday Next series, which frankly ran out of steam, Fforde developed a new set of fantasies with Mary Mary and Jack Spratt of the Nursery Crime Division. I loved "The Big Over Easy", and thought "The Fourth Bear" one of his best.

Like much modern fiction, Fforde's books sometimes feel like the publisher's deadline came before they were finished. So the first two-thirds were great, and then they tumble towards rather inadequate endings. I am told that there is a school of writing where an ending is not necessary - we live in a world where things are not well rounded and neatly finished and literature now reflects this. Piffle. I want a book to have a beginning, middle and end, and anything else is lazy!

So go for "the Big Over Easy" and its sequel. If anything, I found them just as good if not even better than Thursday Next.

 
At 7:04 pm, Blogger Ricky Carvel said...

I have five books on my 'to be read' shelf, so I'll not be getting back to Jasper Fforde in a hurry. But I may try 'The big over easy' sometime.

Just out of interest, given that I didn't much like 'the well of lost plots', is it worth my while to ever read 'Something Rotten'?

Did you know J.F. also takes photos. This is my favourite of his, his Christmas card from 2005... ;o)

R.

 
At 10:20 pm, Blogger Marcus G said...

Hmm...

"Something Rotten" suffers from a bit of a damp squib ending to the whole TN series, as I recall,(though it's a while since I read it), though for a good two thirds I think it was enormously entertaining.

The Jack Spratt/Mary Mary stuff gets my vote as a better bet. But then you might always disagree.

We could be standing in a literary version of a virtual video shop, each sure that the case we are holding holds the surest way to make us happy. And each of us is individually right, but also guaranteed to spoil the group's evening as a whole. Remember those days?

Still. There's always Aberystwyth Mon Amour. Now there is another excellent series of novels - surely you have read those?

 
At 11:20 pm, Blogger Ricky Carvel said...

I read the first Aber Mon Amour book, but haven't yet got around to the sequels.

I'm sure I knew some of those characters during my time at Aber...

;o)

 

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