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|Chicago Sun Times Review
Sept 5th 2004
|The Well of Lost Plots|
|Review by BY DOLORES AND ROGER FLAHERTY .|
Imaginative silliness for book lovers
Thursday Next, who started with the Swindon (England) police as a Special Operations 27 literary detective, is now a member of the BookWorld's investigative arm, Jurisfiction, where she is apprenticed to Miss Havisham, a stern guide who still wears her bridal veil. Next lives in a flying boat in the Well of Lost Plots, where she has been assigned a role in a failing crime novel under the Character Exchange Program.
So goes the narrative thread of The Well of Lost Plots, by Jasper Fforde (Penguin, $14). It's a wildly imaginative, pun-filled bundle of literary allusions, satire, criticism and delightful silliness, the third in a series especially for book lovers featuring Next, a mother-to-be. Her husband, Landon, has been eradicated by character manipulators who caused him to die as a toddler, avenging Next's victory in creating a happy ending for Jane Eyre. She has entered BookWorld in an effort to retrieve him.
At the moment he lives only in Next's memories and even they are threatened by Aornis, an agent of forgetfulness who has a bone to pick with the detective. Meanwhile, Next is increasingly caught up in strange doings at Jurisfiction where agents are being bumped off. It may have something to do with a new computer program.
That's about as much summation of the narrative as you're going to get -- this is a mystery, sort of. But you need to know a bit more of the silliness, for instance, about Generics. These are creatures that have no character until they are educated at St. Tabularasa School, where they acquire qualities that give them depth, some achieving much more than others. (You don't need much development to be in a mob scene.)
There are Transgenre Taxis that can deliver characters from, say, a mystery novel into a romance; the Text Sea, where letters can be fished up and made into words; Grammasites, also known as Gerunds, a parasitic life-form that lives inside books and feeds on grammar, and Echolocators who make sure no two characters in a book have the same name.
BookWorld has scenes with the Cat formerly known as Cheshire uttering obscurities, another with Next providing rage counseling to the characters in Wuthering Heights, where all but the mature Catherine are angry at Heathcliff. There are meetings where everyone is waiting for Godot and where Beatrice and Benedict from Much Ado About Nothing argue constantly and where the Oxford English Dictionary is used to ward off the Mispeling Vyrus. The virus causes such aberrations as door hinges to disappear and be replaced by singes, burn marks.
OK. This is probably a book for book lovers, although Fforde has achieved a substantial following with his Thursday Next works. He even has a Web site, www.Jasperfforde.com, where he peddles T-shirts and other items connected to the books. He is one zany and canny guy. And he obviously loves books.
The Eyre Affair and Lost in a Good Book, by Jasper Fforde (Penguin, each $14). These are two earlier novels in Fforde's series. The Eyre Affair has to do with Thursday Next's role in giving the book the ending we're familiar with. Lost in a Good Book marks Next's entry into BookWorld after her enemies rewrote her husband's life. A fourth book, Something Rotten, is just out in hardcover