Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Book Review: Something Rotten

This is Book 4 of the "Thursday Next" series, which sees our intrepid heroine (Thursday) returning to her hometown of Swindon, England. With her are her son, Friday, her ever-faithful dodo, Pickwick, Pickwick's son, Alan, and Hamlet. Yes, that one.

Tuesday's husband is still eradicated, so Tuesday moves in with her mum, who has kept Tuesday's bedroom the same since Tuesday was 19. Staying with Mum are Otto von Bismark and Lady Emma Hamilton, the mistress of Lord Nelson.

Don't worry--Hamlet is not rewritten, although Hamlet is amazed to find there are so many interpretations of him. (Side note: Hamlet ultimately likes my personal favorite best. However, I may have to find a copy of the Kenneth Branaugh version--which is 4 hours long--and check that one out as well.)

Tuesday's primary mission is to stop a fictional character from becoming Dictator for Life of England. Along the way, she rescues the President of England from a premature death, witnesses the second coming of Swindon's own 13th Century saint and seer, is the target of an assassin who is the wife of a very good friend, tries to find reliable childcare for Friday (who speaks only in Lorem Ipsum, and has to manage the Swindon Mallets Croquet Team in the SuperHoop championship, the results of which could save the world from Armaggedon. Note: the croquet played is not your grandmother's croquet. The players on the Swindon Mallets wear body armor.

All in under 400 pages. And I haven't even mentioned the Minotaur or the Neanderthals.

Jasper Fforde manages to tie up several loose ends that have been flapping about since Book One: The Eyre Affair. So, while it's not essential that you have read the first three books, I think you'd be a bit lost if you haven't. I read The Eyre Affair about 18 months ago, so some of the details are fuzzy. Fortunately, DD#1 also read it and her memory is fresher than mine.

There is an "Author's Note" at the beginning of Book 3 and Book 4 that directs you to Mr. Fforde's website. There are two sections relating to these books--since they're full of spoilers, you must enter the code word, which you won't know unless you've read them. Mr. Fforde has some "deleted scenes" and talks about how the writing process works for him. There are also some text corrections and some translations of Britishisms to Amerglish for those of us on the left bank of The Pond. (If you've read enough Brit Lit, you'll know most of them. If you were taught how to infer meaning from the sense of the text, you'll figure out the rest. I mean, come on, this isn't Russian!)

Again, this is not a book for everyone. Mr. Fforde is quite surreal, although not as bad as Monty Python. This is the type of book I like to take on vacation: not too quick a read, but not totally empty calories.

Mr. Fforde has another series out, The Nursery Crime Series. The first story is The Big Over Easy, featuring Detective Jack Spratt and Sergeant Mary Mary. They investigate the great fall of one Humpty Dumpty. I haven't read it yet, but it's going on the list--maybe for the long weekend over President's Day.

On the March Hare scale: 4 out 5 bookmarks.