“One of our Thursdays is missing” is the sixth book of the Thursday Next series. I read the first and adored it; it seemed like the perfect mix of literary sci-fi, fantasy (or suspension of belief if you prefer that), and a nice twist on the good vs. bad plotline. If this is your first introduction to the Next series, I’ll tell you now that you should be reading this stuff in order. Jumping in at the 6th book might be a bewildering experience because Fforde offers no explanations or back-story – either you’re in it or you’re not.
Still, here’s a primer : Thursday Next is our intrepid SpecOps officer, SpecOps being a special unit given to investigating crimes of the Book World. The Book World is a sort of alternate universe where “written” characters play out their book-roles. Thursday has the special ability to be able to travel in and out of Book World, but she actually belongs to the “Real World” – i.e.; the one which you and I inhabit. In this 6th installment of the Next Series, Book World is being remade from the Great Library Book World to a Geographic Book World. Written Thursday lives on Fiction Island, and Fforde has a nice little map in the beginning of this book to help the navigational details sit in your head. This is what written Thursday sees when she awakens inside the Remade BookWorld :
“Unlike the RealWorld, which is conveniently located on the outside of a sphere, the new BookWorld was anchored on the inside of a sphere, thus ensuring that the horizons worked in the opposite way to those in RealWorld. . . .I noticed too that we were not alone. Stuck on the inside of the sphere were hundreds of other islands very similar to our own, and each a haven for a category of literature within.”
In “One of our Thursdays is missing” RealWorld Thursday has disappeared, and “written” Thursday (i.e.; the one from Book World) is trying to find her. So there are actually two Thursdays and one of them is missing – hence the title. Racy Novel and Women’s Fiction, two neighboring genres in the Book World seem to be unable to get along with each other, chiefly because of the trouble Racy Novel’s leader Speedy Muffler has been causing. Muffler’s dissatisfaction stems from the fact that Racy Novel has been declared a member of the Axis of Unreadable along with “Celebrity Bio” and “Misery Memoirs”. When he threatens to hurl a dirty bomb into Women’s Fiction, Peace Talks are initiated, and Next is to lead them. When she disappears with just a week to go for the Talks, “written” Thursday suspects abduction or worse.
Unlike the first book “The Eyre Affair” where RealWorld Thursday traveled into Book World to battle a fictional enemy Acheron Hades, this time around written Thursday must travel to find the genuine article, a process which involves being shot across by a cannon and processed by many Textual Sieves, to land into the RealWorld – “a brutal and beautiful place, run for the most part on passion, fads, incentives, and , mathemantics” and visited most often for things beginning with c : cooking, copulation, Caravaggio, coastlines and chocolate.
It all starts when the JAID (Jurisfiction Accident Investigation Department) calls upon written Thursday to find out why a novel, which was traveling across the BookWorld sky, has broken up and scattered it’s graphemes right into a scene from another book. Aiding her in the investigation, is Thursday’s clockwork butler Sprockett, who displays emotion with a mechanical arrow – it can point to Worried, Thinking, Doubtful, Peeved etc. Not aiding her are the Men in Plaid (MiP) – a seemingly corruptible version of the Jurisfiction Police.
While I’ve got to say that Jasper Fforde displays an amazing creative skill, with lots of detail thrown in, this novel didn’t work for me as “The Eyre Affair” did. The plot is rather thin, and characters not well developed enough to hold interest. Fforde’s writing is humorous but the focus is, from what I could see, on word-play; this book is way too punny for it’s own good. I didn’t get much of a “feeling” for Written Thursday, who is the main protagonist here. Yes, she is modeled on the RealWorld Thursday, and strives to prove herself as capable her as her inspiration. She also suffers from angst and worry and pines for companionship and Next’s RealWorld husband and kids. But other than these facts I know little about Written Thursday, and I can’t root for her like I would like to.
Fforde ffans will probably like this, but newbies prepare for much literary wordsmithing.
Cross-posted from here.