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on April 29, 2004
It's rare that a new author can build a franchise immediately, but this is exactly what Japser Fforde has been able to do with his Thursday Next book adventures. But is he able to pull off the trifecta with his third in the series, "The Well of Lost Plots"?
Not many authors are able to boast a wholly original idea and create a unique world out of it; Fforde has. Readers follow his heroine Thursday Next not only in her books, but into books themselves. In "WOLP," we find her pregnant and hiding away from the Microsoft-like Goliath Corporation, a monolithic, über-corporation none too happy with how she foiled their latest attempt at world domination in the previous book, "Lost in a Good Book." With the ability to actually jump into the storyline of a novel, Thursday has stolen into an unpublished, hackneyed, detective potboiler. There she expects to have her baby in peace, even as she fights to remember the husband the Goliath Corporation erased from the timestream.
But all is not well in the Well of Lost Plots inside the Great Library, the repository of all books ever written. Her hideout book is threatened with being dismantled and sold for scrap ideas. As she tries to become a Jurisfiction agent (charged with keeping storylines pure), she watches her future colleagues--themselves characters from various novels (including "Great Expectations" and "Alice in Wonderland")--killed off one by one. And to top it all off, her memories are being erased by supervillain Aornis Hades, the Minotaur goes on a rampage, and the upcoming upgrade to UltraWord (a new way of improving the book-reading experience) may instead destroy the book world. Toss in two housemates struggling with going from generic characters to fully realized, starring roles in their own novel, and Thursday finds her peaceful escape coming apart at the binding.
For fans of the Next novels ("The Eyre Affair" is the first in the series), coming back to Thursday's adventures is a breath of fresh air in a formulaic marketplace. And yes, another book will come after "WOLP." But this third book has some problems that make it less enjoyable than the previous two--problems that will hopefully be rectified by the fourth novel.
Like so many novels today, it is too long by almost twenty percent, yet the battle against Aornis Hades ends abruptly and with few details. But perhaps most hurtful of all, Fforde's clever world within books has become overrun with too many characters. This makes it hard to keep track of who's who. And the author's attempts to further develop his world leaves readers with almost TOO much detail. Like many books that do this, the flow of reading is interrupted while the reader scurries back to previous novels in the series or to an earlier chapter to doublecheck info. Lastly, "WOLP" takes far too long developing its complex storyline. A third of the way in and virtually nothing has happened. This makes "WOLP" more tedious reading than the earlier books.
Jasper Fforde has conjured up an enjoyable sci-fi/fantasy series that takes us into the world of books like no other before it. Its wacky vision makes it noteworthy. But let's hope that in the next Next book will have more story, better writing, and a whole lot less of everything else or else readers are going to need a shelf of reference books dedicated to the series in order to follow it.
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on March 17, 2004
I have to agree with the "Icing without the Cake" reviewer. While the latest installment is a highly enjoyable read the substance and heart of the story just isn't there. In the previous two books Mr. Fforde not only provided wit and entertainment but also depth in both characters and plot.
I can't help but feel that the lack of action in Thursday's "real world Swindon" has deprived this book of the urgency and impact of The Eyre Affair and Lost in a Good Book. I also miss the Next family and her cohorts at Spec Ops; without them a little of the magic gets lost.
This latest novel reads very much like the later Piers Anthony Xanth books. Amusing yes, but not gut wrenchingly compelling. The Well of Lost Plots comes off very much as a bridging book in the series and doesn't seriously move the macro story arc along. Don't expect Thursday's troubles with Goliath Corporation to be resolved nor the return of Laden. By all means read this latest installment but for first time readers of Fforde I wouldn't recommend starting here. I very much hope that the next book will return us to Swindon, the quirky characters, and the literary references tempered by substantive story.
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on February 22, 2004
Nextian devotees undoubtedly appreciate Jasper Fforde's playful use of the English language; leave it to a Brit to give us a good linguistic chuckle. The Well of Lost Plots is no different in this regard and is, perhaps, a device used even more so in Book Three. The word play that provides much of the novel's banter is quite clever (note how many times Fforde gets away with using the word "that" consecutively in a single sentence), and the author's choice of characters and plot devices exposes his devotion to stodgy British literature as delightfully campy (even if you hated Anna Karenina the first time around, it may appeal when the reader gets to eavesdrop on the story, recounted as a phone conversation rife with gossip, pushed into the margins of the novel's footnotes). Alas, so much of the book is clever that the story never gets beyond its own wit. The sharp tongue of the story's heroine (and the sharp wit of its author) have iced us a rich cake in the first two novels, wheras all we're left with this time around is the icing.
As such, the third installment of the Thursday Next series does not measure up to its predecessors. Of course, any fan of the Fforde series will want to read this Next story (pun intended), but there is an unfortunate and unintended irony to the title in that the story is itself a lost plot. The world-not-unlike-our-own circa 1985 that Fforde has been painting for us made The Eyre Affair and Lost in a Good Book novels that readers would devour with all the voracity of the latest Harry Potter, whereas The Well of Lost Plots abandons said world for that of Jurisfiction and the meta-realities of the written word. While Jurisfiction provided the backdrop for much of the story's wit up until now, it is the primary setting of Thursday's adventures here and readers may find themselves sorely missing Thursday's Swindon - the one populated with genetically re-issued species and airships and Rocky Horror-esque productions of Richard III. Instead we are lamming it with Thursday as she explores a crossroads of fiction, primarily British, in which characters are mysteriously dying. Characters, I might add, that are simply re-created upon their deaths (not quite like their former selves, but the possibility of replacement certainly diminishes the stakes inherent within the very basic instinct of survival). The rules of this new environment aren't terribly clear and the motives of its inhabitants confusing if not absent (they are, after all, fictional characters and seem to have a kind of reprogrammed id).
Again, fans won't want to miss this one, and if you've read this far you may as well press on (the promise of returning to Thursday's old life in which she clashes with Goliath, that corporate monstrosity we love to hate, holds for future novels), but don't expect the calibur of previous installments. Rather, enjoy this for what it is: clever.
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on May 5, 2004
Jasper Fforde is as clever as ever in further developing Thursday's world, but for much of this book things feel seriously off track. The plot meanders and there were several times that I came dangerously close to putting this book down and not picking it up again. Instead of being sucked into Thursday's story I was content to pay the occasional visit and enjoy Fforde's latest clever concoction, but I never felt the compelling need to pick the book up and see what happened next. I wound up returning this book late to the library _ evidence enough that WOLP lacked the can't-put-it-down quality of the previous two outings.
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on October 2, 2003
This book is unlike any other: it's part three of a series of zany books that are non-stop jokefests about literature and writing within the framework of a sort-of mystery story. Lots of funny lines but ultimately a little tiring.
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on May 25, 2004
Although this book was clever, it was not as engaging as the first two. I actually got bored -- something I could not have imagined reading the first two which I could not put down.
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on November 28, 2008
Good book in general but not with as much action. It plays a lot on cool ways to explore books rather than being a full blown story
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