The more you know about literature, the more hilarious you'll find this fantasy. Characters are being manufactured in record numbers because Vikram Seth is planning a new novel, and no one wants a return to minimalism simply because of a character shortage. Heathcliff, Catherine, and the rest of the characters from Wuthering Heights attend anger management classes, and Mr. Toad is relentless in his competition with Miss Havisham for the fastest driver in both the Book World and the Outland. And if you're interesting in writing, you'll gain tips for keeping your novel out of the Text Sea, as Fforde pokes fun at hackneyed writing and incomplete character development.
Because this is my first Fforde novel, I started reading this without any knowledge of what has happened previously in the series, but the author provides enough of a synopsis in the beginning to give a new reader the proper bearings. Despite this, there remains a disjointedness at times as so much satire is pumped into the book that does little to advance the plot. Sometimes Thursday seems to be there purely as a straight man, raising the question that perhaps Fforde should have heeded some of his own lessons in fiction writing. Fortunately, these lapses are few and don't hinder the enjoyment of the novel as a whole. This relatively long novel is not demanding and can be read more quickly than the page count might indicate.
As a literary joke, The Well of Lost Plots is a triumph. As a mystery/fantasy, it is less successful. Readers will nonetheless delight in Fforde's imagination as he takes them through the land of the unpublished and the more solid, though more turbulent, ground of the classics.
As an English major graduate with a good knowledge of classic fiction under my belt, what I love most about the Thursday Next series is the amount of humor in the text. Fforde sprinkles witty tongue-in-cheek jokes about all kinds of literature and literary characters throughout the story. The cast of Wuthering Heights is enrolled in a rage counselling group, everyone ends up waiting for Agent Godot, and a multitude of other characters from well known novels have cameos in this book.
My only complaint about this novel is that I was eager to have the plot regarding Thursday's erradiacated husband Landen furthered more than it was. This novel mainly deals with Thursday's own inner battles against her mindworm and the murders in the Well of Lost Plots. --But perhaps I'm too eager. The next Next book is slated for release this August...so the rest will come in time.
I would highly recommend this novel to fans of the Thursday Next series. For those unfamiliar, read The Eyre Affair!
Thursday Next is in self-exile. After her husband was erased as a blackmail ploy and the world was almost reduced to goo, she is lying low to wait for her baby's birth, and to figure out how to bring her husband back. Problem is, she is now living in an unpublished detective thriller in the Well of Lost Plots, a sort of fiction limbo. The fictional people are thrilled to meet an Outlander (a person from the real world), but Thursday must deal with some generic extra roommates, and a pregnancy by the husband who no longer technically exists.
Then her mentor dies horribly, and Thursday finds that her brain is being invaded by memory-erasing mindworm. She sets out to uncover a black market that is recycling characters, and to avoid the attacks of the evil Aornis. Soon the world of fiction is under attack yet again -- and it's Thursday Next to somehow stop everything from collapsing.
One of the greatest things about Fforde's books is how hysterically smart they are. Fforde peppers his book with the Lewis Carroll, Falstaff, the Questing Beast, Mr. Toad, the Minotaur, the early works of the Brontë sisters, Heathcliff, and much more. What's more, he gives them a wink-nudge twist worthy of the best of British comedy.
That isn't to say that it's perfect. Fforde seems to lose the flow from time to time, and the plot takes quite some time to figure out where it's going. But his dialogue is still wickedly funny (when talking about discarded fantasy novels: "Do you have unicorns?" "Yes, sackloads"), and his subtle satire is delicious. It almost makes you forget that the plot meanders.
Thursday is a little more weathered in her third mystery; she's a little more vulnerable than before, which has dulled her edge. She still totes a gun and can be the toughie when required, though. The hilariously tough Ms. Havisham and nurturing Gran serve as nice foils and backups. So do ibb and obb, a pair of generic background characters who have no personalities, backgrounds... or senses of humor.
Fforde's unique fantasy-mysteries are like reading an Escher print, with a bit of Monty Python sprinkled in the margins. "Well of Lost Plots" isn't as good as the two before it, but it's still wickedly intellectual goofiness. Highly recommended.
Thursday Next is back! Hoorah! Read more