Friday, May 4, 2007

What I'm Reading: The Well of Lost Plots

Jasper Fforde's first book, The Eyre Affair, left me laughing, saying, "Wow, that is a very, very, very clever guy." His main character, Thursday Next, is a literary detective in a British alternate reality in which literature is a critical part of existence. Even if you're not supremely well read (I'm not, but Fforde certainly is, though he doesn't rub your nose in it), it's fun because there's a real detective story at play, led by a fascinating lead character, in convoluted world where people are able to go into books and characters in books are able to come into the real world.

The Eyre Affair was a big hit, rightly so, and Fford went on to write more Thursday Next books, and also a loosely linked spinoff series of Nursery Crime novels (starting with The Big Over Easy) which I liked very much.

Sadly, The Well of Lost Plots, the third in the Thursday Next series, was not nearly as good as the first two. I was awfully close to just giving up on this one. The first 100 pages are mostly exposition (the world is so complicated that it takes a lot to catch the reader up) and clever jokes. But no story. He's a self-aware writer, so at one point, Thursday even comments to one of the other characters, when asked how it's going, that her day has been mostly exposition so far (she's living in a book at this point, in hiding). Fforde is so inventive, but as a reader, I'm don't want an author to give up plot for cleverness.

Luckily for me, I brought the book with me on the bus to New York, determined to see if I could finish it. The second half of the book jumps into high gear, like any good detective story, once people start getting killed (and a mispeling vyrus gets loose, which is very bad news is you're text-based and living in a book).

I suppose it's a relief to know that even my favorite writers mess up sometimes (they are human after all) (I'm struggling with some very similar plot/story issues on my new novel right now). I'll still pick up his other books, very soon. If you haven't read any Fforde yet, The Eyre Affair is definitely the place to start.

P.S. Definitely check out Jasper Fforde's web site. It's a hoot. (And I just saw that he's coming to Brookline in July. I'll have to go to the signing of his newest.)

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