* Prices may differ from that shown
Beware: this book will make you laugh out loud on trains, in planes and cars. I wouldn't advise trying to read it on a bicycle. This is a BookWorld novel featuring Literary Detective Thursday Next, which means that there is sense of familiarity with the character and setting, but this is coupled with a sense of newness as Fforde has moved the narrative to fourteen years after Thursday's adventures in 'Something Rotten' and settled her down with her family. Fortunately for readers, Thursday is not that settled as a wife and mother and still finds time to fit carpets, do SpecOps work and exercise her veto at the Council of Genres while working for Jurisfiction. Actually, she doesn't fit many carpets, but then she is trying to train up two new Jurisfiction cadets without letting her husband know that she's doing anything more dangerous than the occasional estimate for new materials.
This is just a brief overview of how the situation stands at the beginning of the novel but it cannot do justice to the Fforde's inventiveness. New and old characters work together to avoid the end of time and the death of reading, two events which may be related. Most episodes that might initially seem entertaining but discrete are eventually stitched together in a logical/ fantastical/ postmodern manner that would surely have Douglas Adams chuckling. Some episodes that aren't developed may be resolved in later books in the series. Part of the joy of this series is identifying the references to other published works and finding old characters responding appropriately to new situations. The Bennet family all behave in a suitable manner when their novel is under threat and their response to Thursday's intervention is classic.
There is certainly a lot happening but the novel only became confusing once. I have read chapter 36 several times now and still can't work out how Fforde creates a particular event. Fortunately, once passed, this one wrinkle didn't detract from my enjoyment of the rest of the novel. If you are prepared to suspend disbelief, there are many enjoyable parallels between the real world and the BookWorld. Similarly, wordplay is a key feature of these novels but, again, rather than create confusion this helps readers to develop links between the real and the textual.
Overall the novel is highly entertaining, genuinely witty and a real page turner. It does end on a cliffhanger, but the final few pages are so clearly setting up the next in the series that you do not feel that anything has been left out of this novel. If you haven't read about Thursday Next before then it is worth starting with 'The Eyre Affair' for sheer enjoyment, but the references to past events are suitably developed to allow newcomers to enjoy this story on its own.
Fourteen years after Thursday Next pegged out at Superhoop '88, her Jurisfiction job has been downgraded due to a potential conflict of interest, since her previous adventures are now themselves in print. Thursday's time is spent worrying about her teenage son Friday and tutoring new recruits. This being fiction, however, jeopardy is never far away. Sherlock Holmes is killed at the Rheinbach falls and his series is stopped in its tracks. Before this can be righted, Miss Marple dies in a narratively inexplicable car accident, bringing her series also to a close. Thursday, receiving a death-threat clearly intended for her written self, realises what is going on - there is a serial killer is loose in the Bookworld. Meanwhile, Goliath have perfected a 22-seater Prose Portal Luxury Coach, and plan on taking literary tourists on a holiday to the works of Jane Austen. Thursday alone realises the true intent of Goliath's unwanted incursions into fiction, but she can't fight all these battles on her own. She must team up with the one person she really can't get along with - the written Thursday Next, currently starring in The Great Samuel Pepys Fiasco. But it's no time to be picky.