Monday, December 10, 2012

The Woman Who Died A Lot (Jasper Fforde)

Jasper Fforde is an absolute genius. I mean that sincerely. I don't know of any author who is able to write books with such complete wackiness that is simultaneously clever and full of emotions. I first discovered his Thursday Next series in 2008 and have been absolutely charmed by them ever since. Here is the basic premise of the series: Thursday Next is a detective (although this does not feel like the right word because she isn't what the word "detective" traditionally describes) who lives in an alternate universe (dodos as pets! George Formby as president-for-life!) where there is a policing service for the bizarre called SpecOps (short for Special Operations, which always leaves me to wonder if the "c" is "SpecOps" is a "k" or a "sh"). She is also able to read herself into books, where she discovers that there is a policing agency called Jurisfiction that makes sure books run as they are intended to. Of course, for someone who loves books, what more could possibly be asked for?

All those things I've mentioned are details from books one and two. The Woman Who Died A Lot is book 7 in this series, and it was an absolute delight. Books 5 and 6 were, in my opinion, the weaker books in the series, and I was afraid that Fforde had hit a slump and would be unable to maintain the zany in tandem with the good. My fears were (thankfully) allayed. TWWDAL is as delightfully crazy as the series at its best (book 4, Something Rotten, is my favorite).

In this book alone, we have a plot about time travel (the problem being that someone traveled into the future and discovered that the technology responsible for time travel hasn't been invented yet, meaning it doesn't exist), a plot about doppelganger clones, a plot about an angry deity getting ready to shower down his wrath on Swindon in a beam of fiery fury and a (tiny) plot about the mysterious Dark Reading Matter alluded to so frequently earlier in the series.

Fforde manages to weave together these and several other elements (Goliath! Aornis Hades!) so cleverly that picking it apart is just as fun as actually reading the book. Characters are bright and vivid and just as fun to read as ever. Even when new characters appear, it's a delight (I'm looking at you, Colonel Wexler and you, Blyton fanatic). The author never stops slipping in tiny things to keep the reader's brain going (I love the hotline to Nancy Pearl in the library!).

For me, what's so delightful about the Thursday Next books is their conclusions--watching the author very masterfully (this word is so horribly overused but there is no other word to describe Fforde's hand but "masterful") draw everything together after dropping hints all over, hints that are incredibly obvious when you've reached the end but are infuriatingly impossible to piece together in the heat of the moment.

The Thursday Next books are a pleasure to read in every possible way, and if you love books, then these are absolutely necessary to read. You will love it. I promise.

My Rating: 5/5
The Woman Who Died A Lot on Goodreads
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