Have you ever played the game were you have decided what you would wish for if you were given three by a genie? After the inevitable 1000 more wishes and the one thats unprintable on a website such as this, it leaves that final wish which differs from person to person. My wish would to be the ability to transport myself into a character in a book or film. Imagine appearing in Star Wars or living the life of relaxation in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. The problem is that you could get into a book and ruin it by killing off a character or discovering the treasure too soon. If books had a life of their own outside the written page who would be there to make sure the stories we love never changed? Enter Thursday Next and her co-workers as Literacy Detectives.
Something Rotten is the final part of the Thursday Next books by Jasper Fforde and aims to wrap up some of the issues that have arisen throughout. Thursday has returned to the real world after living in a book for the past few years with her son Friday. It turns out that her husband has been removed from history and she wants him back. If this was not enough Hamlet has joined her as there is a coo going on in his play. With cloning Shakespeares, international croquet matches to win, and visits to the underworld, getting her husband back is going to be no easy matter.
As you can tell this book has quite a strange storyline and looks quite complicated. However, I was happy to find that it was actually an easy read and that all the subplots flowed quite easily. Fforde is able to layer all the different elements of the story in a way that makes them work. Therefore, although the threads themselves did not pose too much of a problem I felt the central story suffered. By juggling successfully all the funny side plots Fforde has neglected to actually produce a decent main thrust. All the elements are held together by Thursday trying to get her husband back. However, due to the disparity in threads the reader never truly feels like it matters whether she succeeds or not.
I think that Fforde suffers somewhat from trying to be too clever for his own good, throughout this entire novel. The jokes are complicated if you are not particularly well read and this could alienate some people. I also think that he goes through great lengths to try and set up a joke only, by the time it took to execute, for it to fall flat.
The reason I found this book even more confusing was because it is the first one I have read in the series, but in reality it should be the last. Something Rotten seems to refer to characters and situations that have appeared elsewhere and seeing as I have not read the earlier titles, this left me a little confused. Obviously this would not be a criticism for fans of the books as they would be able to smile riley at numerous references that I was oblivious too.
Even though I have criticised the story and Ffordes love of reflecting back on previous novels there is still a lot to recommend this book. If you like to read, then the literary reference in the book are great. Also the fact that Fforde is able to hold an increasingly complicated set of stories together so that the ending is a success should be commended.
A last area of merit is Ffordes obvious love for the characters involved in the book. Thursday Next in particular is a wonderful creation being both super sleuth and a great mother at the same time. She is supported by a rich variety of co-stars including a Neanderthal, a vampire hunter, a galactic evil emperor and a mother who loves to bake Battenberg cake. These well realised characters are eccentric and otherworldly, but still are identifiable in real world terms. By taking extreme situations and people out of context and sticking them in a clique English setting, Fforde has a rich and ridiculous tapestry to work with.
So who would I recommend this book too? Firstly, I would say to try and read the books in order as not knowing who many of the characters were did detract from the impact of the story. Secondly, I would say that this book would appeal to someone who loves to read lots and wants to try something else. The Thursday Next books have been compared to Robert Rankins style, but as a fan of his I would say they seem similar on face level but are actually very different. Rankin is far more science fiction whilst Fforde is more literary comedy. For all the confusing elements and suffering central story I did enjoy the ideas in the book and also the characters. I aim to read the rest of the books in order and I feel that they will get higher marks.
Author: Jasper Fforde
Price: amazon uk - £6.39
play.com - £5.99