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First Among Sequels (Thursday Next, Book 5) Paperback – July 29, 2008
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“Playful . . . It’s not hard to see what this enthusiasm is about. . . . It’s easy to be delighted by a writer who loves books so madly.”
—Janet Maslin, The New York Times
“What keeps this series humming is Fforde’s lively engagement with books and the indefatigable woman he’s created to defend them.”
“Richly crammed with jokes, ideas, and action. Brainier silliness is hard to find”
“The BookWorld seems to have encouraged Fforde’s rogue imagination to escape all fetters and really go wild.”
—Michael Dirda, The Washington Post
“For the past six years, Jasper Fforde has been . . . churning out one impossibly winning book after the next about Thursday Next. You needn’t have spent half your childhood sitting up at night with a flashlight reading these books to enjoy First Among Sequels. What captivates here is something that will appeal to any reader—and that’s the feeling that there’s something at stake in fiction, that characters created in books are every bit as real as the memory of a person. Of all the Thursday books, this one is by far the most busily plotted, but Fforde’s greatest gift is on display. He beautifully captures that sense of embattlement which hovers over readers today in a world crowed with other forms of entertainment.”
—John Freeman, Newsday
“Bookworms looking for a new literary world to escape to after Harry Potter may find this a welcome addition to the bookshelf.”
—The Boston Globe
“An invigorating romp for all lovers of literature. In his 2003 novel The Eyre Affair, Fforde introduced readers to a futuristic world where books reigned supreme. Now, years later, [Thursday Next] is back, older, wiser, married with children and working for Jurisdiction, the policing agency that works within books. It’s not entirely necessary—though perhaps more fun—to read the books in the proper order. Fforde gives enough background in Thursday Next to inform readers of all they need to know to find both books hilarious, entertaining.”
—Kim Curtis, Associated Press
“First Among Sequels is so jam-packed with goofy jokes and shaggy plot lines that some readers may tire before the end. That would be a shame, since they’d miss the book’s exciting conclusion on the dangerous high seas of piratical swashbuckling. Argh!”
—The Seattle Times
“[With a] furiously agile imagination . . . Fforde has shaken up genres—fantasy, comedy, crime, sci-fi, parody, literary criticism—and come up with a superb mishmash with lots of affectionate in-jokes for any book lover. There’s a good chance the aptly titled First Among Sequels is the best of Fforde’s novels.”
—The Miami Herald
“Fforde really unleashes his imagination, and it knows no bounds, especially in reference to specific books, displaying . . . his ‘bibliowit.’ Despite all the allusions, illusions, neologisms, puns, and other literary sleights-of-hand, the reader comes to see that for all its futuristic, alternate-world shenanigans, First Among Sequels is a down-to-earth (well, sort of) cautionary tale about good and evil, as well as a family-centered love story about a good marriage.”
—The Washington Times
“Warning: Reading one of Jasper Fforde’s Thursday Next novels could, if you are not careful, have the effect of making other novels appear dull, uninspired, pedestrian, and predictable. Outright silliness . . . surrounded by strokes of inspired, demented genius. This is a novel with a deep love for fiction and a respect for how books, more than any other medium, can transform a life.”
—The Tampa Tribute
“Fans of satiric literary humor are in for a treat.”
“Reads like a well-edited Harry Potter; First Among Sequels is for adults who want sophisticated with their fantasy, but who still possess an appreciation for the intricate world-building of a well-imagined children’s novel. Canonical in-jokes abound. . . .What dedicated reader wouldn’t laugh at the suggestion of a parallel universe in which Jude the Obscure is renowned as a comic novel?”
“What is most enjoyable about Jasper Fforde’s work is not its silliness—though there is plenty of that. It is admiring the skill that keeps all of those silly balls in the air. First Among Sequels does something as highly improbably as the life of its heroine: it continues to surprise and entertain. What makes Fforde’s work such fun is [his] unrestrained combination of wit and lunacy. Underlying that, though, is a love of a good story that rights true. It works magnificently.”
—The Denver Post
“Recommending Fforde’s novels is a bookseller’s dilemma. You can go on about literature-as-technology in popular culture in the Nextian world. . . . Or you can tackle his Nursery Crime series. But handselling First Among Sequels is easy. Just hand [the reader] a copy and tell them to read a couple of pages—and have plenty of earlier titles on hand, because you’ll sell them too!”
“Irrepressibly playful and relentlessly imaginative.”
—Adam Begley, The New York Observer
About the Author
Jasper Fforde traded a varied career in the film industry for staring vacantly out of the window and arranging words on a page. He lives and writes in Wales. The Eyre Affair was his first novel in the bestselling series of Thursday Next novels, which includes Lost in a Good Book, The Well of Lost Plots, Something Rotten, First Among Sequels, One of Our Thursdays is Missing, and The Woman Who Died A Lot. The series has more than one million copies (and counting) in print. He is also the author of The Big Over Easy and The Fourth Bear of the Nursery Crime series, Shades of Grey, and books for young readers, including The Last Dragonslayer. Visit jasperfforde.com.
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By the time I reached the end of Something Rotten, though, I felt the joke had run its course. Not that there's not a lot more material to be used - there is - it just seemed that Fforde's particular approach to was losing its edge. Fforde may have felt the same, since the series paused for several years.
I think both he and I were right. First Among Sequels, while showing all the same cleverness and literary in-jokes as the earlier books, feels forced. It's clever, but it's just not as funny as it should be.
I felt somewhat the same about the first book of the Nursery Crime series - more clever than funny. I still think Fforde has a lot going for him; I expect to pick up the first books of some of his (many) other series. And I very strongly recommend the first Thursday Next quartet. This book, however, I think is best suited to true aficionados or to newcomers.
The Thursday Next series by Jasper Fforde must rank as one of the greatest flights of imagination in the annals of fiction. For the bibliophile, the imagery contained in the narratives is mind-boggling and addictive.
Next lives in the English town of Swindon. In the first four volumes of the series (The Eyre Affair: A Thursday Next Novel,Lost in a Good Book (A Thursday Next Novel),The Well of Lost Plots (Thursday Next Series), and Something Rotten (Thursday Next Novels)), it's the mid-1980s. In FIRST AMONG SEQUELS, it's 2002. But Fforde's United Kingdom isn't the one we know; mammoth herds roam the island, cloned Neanderthals comprise a subclass, Thursday has a pet dodo bird, and long distance travel is by Gravitube.
But the author's most ambitious imaginative construct is Bookworld. Existing in an alternate universe, it's where books exist as physical entities, where the plots - and, most importantly in the Next series, the fictional plots - exist as something akin to stage sets on which the literary characters are actors that play their roles when the book is read by someone in Outland, i.e. Thursday's "real" world. You can get a sense of the place from a description of Hanger Eight in Bookworld's Book Maintenance Facility:
"... there was room on the hanger floor for not only Darcy's country home of Pemberly but also Rosings, Netherfield and Longbourn as well. They had all been hoisted from (Pride and Prejudice (Penguin Classics)) by a massive overhead crane so the empty husk of the novel could be checked for fatigue cracks before being fumigated for nesting grammasites and then repainted. At the same time, an army of technicians, plasterers, painters, carpenters and so forth were crawling over the houses, locations, props, furnishings and costumes, all of which had been removed for checking and maintenance."
Next has the capability, unique among Outlanders, to travel between her world and Bookworld. As such, she's the super-agent of Jurisfiction, Bookworld's enforcement agency tasked with keeping order within the fiction genre. Disorder includes such things as book characters attempting to escape to Outland, the inexplicable seepage of humor from comedic novels, improvised and unauthorized dialogue by mischievous character understudies, outbreaks of the MAWk-I5H virus in works by Dickens, the buildup of irony on dialogue injectors, malicious narrative corruption, and plot disruptions caused by a shortage of the pianos used as props.
Thursday also smuggles Welsh cheese; an underground cheese market rose in response to the England's hated Cheese Duty which levies taxes ranging from 1300 to 1500 percent on the smelly foodstuff. Personally, I'd like to see Machynlleth Wedi Marw, a "really strong cheese", stocked in my local supermarket.
"It'll bring you up in a rash just by looking at it. Denser than enriched plutonium, two grams can season enough macaroni and cheese for eight hundred men. The smell alone will corrode iron. A concentration in air of only seventeen parts per million will bring on nausea and unconsciousness within twenty seconds ... Open only out of doors, and even then only with a doctor's certificate and well away from populated areas."
FIRST AMONG SEQUELS is the best yet of the Next series. It compels me to suspect that the author is on some mind-expanding substance; it's that inspired. A brilliant plot development is Thursday's encounter with Thursday 1-4 and Thursday 5, the former being the lead character in the first four installments of the series (described as being "the violent ones, full of death and gratuitous sex"), and the latter the timid and yogurt-loving Next of THE GREAT SAMUEL PEPYS FIASCO. (Am I confusing you? Never mind; it makes perfect sense within the pages, just as will the part played by the recipe for unscrambled scrambled eggs in the prevention of the End of Time as we know it.)
I've always considered myself a linear-thinking, down-to-earth kind of guy. But the tremendous appeal of the Thursday Next series to my reader's appreciation has challenged that self-assessment. If you're a book-lover like me determined to read until the last gasp, do yourself the great favor of devouring FIRST AMONG SEQUELS, and indeed the entire series if you haven't yet done so. Lose yourself in a good book.
I HIGHLY recommend anything by Jasper Fforde, and if you want to read the Thursday Next series, start with The Eyre Affair. They're just so much more fun when you get to live along with Thursday and just watch how she's handling stuff.