Monday, April 25, 2011

One of Our Thursdays is Missing {book review}

One of Our Thursdays is Missing by Jasper Fforde {book review}

Awaiting the next installment in a beloved series can be nerve-wracking (e.g. - the final Harry Potter movie). You can't wait to come alongside your fictional friends once again but also worry that some of the magic may have been lost during the separation.

Fortunately, the sixth book in the Thursday Next series retains its freshness with new ideas, characters and perspectives but doesn't sacrifice any of its original charm or quirky humor in the process. 

For Thursday Next novices, I would recommend this series if you:

1. want to try something new (I can't think of many readalikes for this series)
2. would like to try some fantasy but don't consider yourself a fantasy reader
3. are a bibliophile
4. could go for a laugh right about now

The series resides in an alternate reality England, which in some ways is not terribly different from what we know. However, there are some oddities as well, such as: 

1. a Crimean War that endures today
2. a fanaticism of literature which requires a special policing department dedicated to literary crimes
3. the re-engineering of dodos and Neanderthals
4. a government agency which engages in and regulates time travel.

The general public is aware of all these things, but what is lesser known is that in addition to the RealWorld that they inhabit, there also exists the BookWorld.

All the characters and plots of books, as well as the primordial parts of books which have yet to be written, live in the BookWorld. The two worlds remain strictly separated, except for a chosen few.

Thursday Next is one of those rare RealWorld residents that can cross between the two worlds. Next's cool ease and relatable faults, reminiscent of Kinsey Millhone, make her a perfect counterpoint to the series' larger-than-life characters, such as the corrupt Jack Schitt, homicidal-yet-clueless Emperor Zhark and vanquisher of dark beings, Spike Stoker.

Since we last tuned in, the RealWorld Thursday has gone missing, and it's up to the BookWorld Thursday to find her as well as avert a literary civil war.

Part of the charm of this book is getting to experience the BookWorld through the written Thursday's veteran eyes and the RealWorld for the first time from her fresh perspective. So much of a text's depth comes from the experiences that the reader brings to it. As a result, the BookWorld lacks much of idiosyncratic richness of the RealWorld. One of the wonders that the written Thursday marvels over is crowd interaction:
By using subtle sensory cues and working on a basic set of rules you can enter a crowd full of people all heading in different directions and come out on the other side without touching anyone or causing an accident... 
I stepped into the crowd, and almost immediately a woman stopped dead in front of me...I could sense I was disrupting the smooth liquidity of the crowd, and based on the noises people were making, it wasn't appreciated. I got to the other side of the street without bumping into anyone, but only just.
This outsider's perspective comes to mind everyday as I navigate the crowds in the train station. Such freshness is what keeps my relationship with the series going strong.

Readalikes (If you liked...)

As I mentioned, the originality of this series makes it difficult to compare it to other works, but I'll give it a try.

If you enjoy the Thursday Next series because you're a bibliophile, you might enjoy the realistic humor of The Uncommon Reader by Alan Bennett.

If you like Thursday's character, you might like Sue Grafton mysteries.

If you appreciate nontraditional fantasy, you might like The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger or The Book of Lost Things by John Connolly.

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