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First Among Sequels (Thursday Next) Paperback – Bargain Price, July 29, 2008
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From Publishers Weekly
Full of bizarre subplots, many of which don't go anywhere, bestseller Fforde's fifth novel to feature intrepid literary detective Thursday Next (after 2004's Something Rotten) blends elements of mystery, campy science fiction and screwball fantasy à la Terry Pratchett's Discworld. With the Stupidity Surplus reaching dangerously high levels all over England, Acme Carpets employee and undercover SpecOps investigator Next has her hands full trying to persuade her 16-year-old slacker son, Friday, to join the ChronoGuard, which deals with temporal stability; if Friday continues to sleep away his future, the end is near—for everyone. To complicate matters, a malicious apprentice begins making classic works of literature into reality book shows (Pride and Prejudice becomes The Bennets), a ruthless corporation tries to turn the Bookworld into a tourist trap, and the Cheese Enforcement Agency tries to bust Next for smuggling killer curd. The fate of the world may lie in a Longfellow poem. Fans of satiric literary humor are in for a treat. (July)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Bookmarks Magazine
Set in a world where books are more fun than television, more serious than the CIA, and more important than proper diet and exercise, the Thursday Next novels continue to grow in popularity-which is a good sign. In the fifth novel of the series (after Something Rotten, ***1/2 Nov/Dec 2004), Jasper Fforde again shows off his delicious British wit (and occasionally heavy-handed use of puns) in another zany romp. If you're already a fan, First Among Sequels is sure to thrill. If you're new to the series, you might as well dive right in. Either way, you'll soon have a new appreciation of Henry Longfellow.
Copyright © 2004 Phillips & Nelson Media, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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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.