Book review: Thursday Next #3: The Well of Lost Plots by Jasper Fforde (Hodder & Stoughton, 2003)
Thursday Next is in trouble. Deep trouble …
Pursued by a sinister multinational corporation and an evil genius with a penchant for clothes shopping and memory modification, literary detective Thursday Next is on the run. Not an ideal situation considering she’s pregnant by her husband who is presently suffering a non-existence problem.
Taking refuge in the Well of Lost Plots – a place where all fiction is created – Thursday ponders her next move from inside an unpublished novel of dubious merit entitled Caversham Heights. But in Thursday’s world, trouble is only ever a page away, and when a succession of JurisFiction agents are killed, only one woman is up to the job of unmasking the villain responsible.
Will Thursday ever be able to enjoy the quiet life again, or is she about to lose the plot completely?
Unlike The Eyre Affair, which was a self-contained story, The Well of Lost Plots isn’t so much of a sequel to Lost in a Good Book as it is a direct continuation. There were things left hanging from the previous book, such as the current non-existence of Thursday’s husband, Aornis trying to kill Thursday, and the in-fiction trial for changing the ending of Jane Eyre.
In this instalment of the madness that is the world of Thursday Next, she’s taking a break from reality by hiding out in the unpublished crime novel Caversham Heights, while waiting for her bun in the oven. Her grandmother comes along to help her remember Landen, seeing as how the mnenomorph sister of Acheron Hades is living inside Thursday’s memories, trying to undo Thursday from inside her own mind. Thursday is also sharing a houseboat (an old airplane) with a couple of Generics (generic characters on the way to become proper characters).
Meanwhile, Thursday is also a trainee Jurisfiction agent, mentored by the Dickensian Miss Haversham (Great Expectations). Inside the book world, there is a whole other world, and it’s policed by the agency known as Jurisfiction. A more hands-on version of the LiteraTecs of the series’ real world, if you like. Her duties involve things like dodging Anti-Cath terrorists and giving the characters in Wuthering Heights anger management counselling.
There is a new way of reading books about to be introduced, the UltraWord engine, which should be a cause for great celebration (as is the big annual Book Awards ceremony), but something’s amiss in the BookWorld. Jurisfiction agents keep getting accidentally killed. But by whom, and for what reason?
I’ve come to expect a high-quality and very book-nerdy story, and Fforde delivers this beautifully. At the same time I’m slightly disappointed. It’s starting to feel like the same thing over and over, especially with the outstanding issues from the previous novel in the series. A feeling of “geez, would you come to a conclusion this side of the 22nd Century?” so to speak.
Still, it’s an enjoyable book. It’s fun, it’s imaginative, it’s clever (the “mispeling vyrus” is brilliant) … and even Mr Rochester makes an appearance. To have the Jurisfiction have their headquarters at the end of a chapter at the beginning of Sense and Sensibility is … well, “unexpected” wouldn’t perhaps be the right word, because most of the things in the Thursday Next world is unexpected. A happy surprise, more like.
If only I had read more of Charles Dickens than Oliver Twist when I was about 12, maybe I would have got the Dickensian references. As it was, I had fun with the Wuthering Heights cast and the two evolving Generics, and – of course – the eponymous Well of Lost Plots.
Hopefully, there is some more resolutions to be had in the next novel – Something Rotten.
4 out of 5 boxing scenes.