Jasper Fforde's unique brand of inspired insanity makes "Something Rotten" a welcome addition to his enormously entertaining and often hilarious Thursday Next series. Thursday is the head of Jurisfiction, the policing agency that "safeguards the stability of the written word" in literature. However, she is tiring of her hectic, stressful, and often dangerous job and she needs a break. Thursday takes her two-year-old son, Friday, and decides to head for the Outland. She returns to her home town of Swindon, England, determined to bring back her "eradicated" husband, Landen Parke-Lane.
Thursday's return home, unfortunately, brings a new set of problems to plague this beleaguered heroine. She is saddled with Hamlet, the Prince of Denmark, who is unhappy with the indecisive manner in which he has been portrayed by actors. In addition, the Council of Genres wants Thursday to do something about the dictatorial and ruthless Yorrick Kaine, an escaped fictionaut who is planning to dominate the world. To make matters worse, a mysterious and deadly assassin is out to get Thursday, and she has to watch her back constantly.
"Something Rotten" is filled with puns, literary allusions, slapstick, dizzying time travel, ribald humor, naughty words, brilliant satire, and non-stop action. Often, the wacky plot makes little sense, and the many characters enter and exit so often that the unprepared reader may be left with a migraine. However, Fforde rewards the patient reader in many ways. The author entertains us with his large cast of colorful and varied characters. Thursday Next is an appealing heroine who is smart, courageous, warmhearted, determined, and resourceful. Melanie Bradshaw, the gorilla wife of Commander Bradshaw, provides Friday with much-needed child care in a pinch. Yorrick Kaine is Thursday's fearsome and frightening opponent, and his backers, the men behind the colossal Goliath Corporation, represent all of those reprehensible conglomerates that gleefully and heartlessly trample on human rights. Lady Emma Hamilton is a boarder who stays with Thursday's mom, and she proves to be a handful. Emma is a lush who has the hots for Hamlet. Colonel Next is Thursday's dad, and he travels through time, meeting up with and helping his daughter now and then. It is no accident that several characters from "Alice in Wonderland" also make key appearances in this whimsical and imaginative novel.
Thursday's adventures are funny, poignant, and sometimes dazzling in their complexity. There is even a no-holds-barred "SuperHoop" croquet match that is as wild and unpredictable as the Quidditch matches in the Harry Potter novels. "Something Rotten" may confuse devotees of linear literature. However, if you like a creative and daring author who loves wordplay, creates timebending and mindbending escapades, and who inserts timely and pointed social commentary into his narrative, then you will find Jasper Fforde's "Something Rotten" as delightful as I did.