Lost between the sentences?

Bookhounders may remember that I was rather alarmed last year when I finally got around to reading Jasper Fforde's latest installment in the Thursday Next series First Among Sequels. It had a distinctly end of series feel, and was nowhere near as amusing as the earlier books in the Next canon. I was thrilled however to discover in March that another volume had now been added to the series, One of Our Thursdays is Missing which had rocketed up to no. 1 in the UK best seller charts - Jasper's first no. 1. In fact I was so pleased about it that I emailed him - my first ever fan mail, and was extraordinarily chuffed to receive a very nice (and totally unexpected) email back from him.

So....the $1 million dollar question - is it as good as the rest of the series? Well, um, no....but it's a lot better than First among sequels and is generally a great fun read. There are two major problems with the novel however - the one is the sheer level of inventiveness with ideas being fired off all over the place. Reading it reminded me of having a high fever as a child and having brightly coloured hallucinations. It's that sort of a read. Lots of great ideas shooting off in all directions, but few are fully developed, and the narrative keeps being led astray by the latest new toy/thought.

The other problem is the way that this plot has been developed. I hasten to say that this is not a problem for Thursday fans, who will know what's gone before and will be able to follow it with the minimum of confusion, but for those new to the Bookworld scenario it is an extremely confusing read.

The "real" Thursday Next has disappeared on the eve of peace talks in the Book World (Racy fiction is preparing to go to war), meanwhile the "fictional" Thursday Next is coping with not being as much of a star as the "real" Thursday, and dealing with the rumbunctious fictional Pickwick (a great contrast to the "real" dodo). Forced by the Council of Genres to pose as her real life self, fictional Thursday sets off on a series of adventures to find the real Thursday and to avoid all-out war. Accompanied by her butler, the wonderful Sprocket - a great new character who's a cross between C3PO and Jeeves, she sets out on a dangerous journey up the Metaphoric River.

Part of the reason I think this volume doesn't work as well as some of the earlier ones is that in the fictional Thursday, we're dealing with a very different character to the much racier "real" Thursday, and although likeable, she's not likeable in the same way that her gutsier counterpart is. Sprocket is fabulous, a great new character, who I'm looking forward to seeing further developed. Not my favourite Thursday, and not one I'd recommend to a new reader of the series, but it was still a fun read, and I look forward to seeing in which direction Jasper Fforde will next be taking his creations.


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