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Something Rotten
Jasper Fforde
Viking, 389 pages

Something Rotten
Jasper Fforde
Jasper Fforde was born in Wales. He spent several years as a focus puller on big-budget Hollywood productions. In the early 90s, he began to spend much of his free time writing short stories and then novels. His first published novel was The Eyre Affair.

Jasper Fforde Website
ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: The Well of Lost Plots
SF Site Review: The Eyre Affair
SF Site Review: Lost In A Good Book
SF Site Review: Lost In A Good Book

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Rich Horton

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Jasper Fforde's Thursday Next books have been a sensation over the last few years. They are set in a curious alternate history, in which the Crimean War extended to the 80s, and Wales is a Socialist Republic, among other changes. Reading is a much more extensive part of popular culture in this world. The books themselves are mostly driven by the fantastical premise that it is possible to travel into books -- possibly even changing the plot. Our heroine, Thursday Next, first became famous for altering the ending of Jane Eyre. At the opening of this latest (and possibly last) novel in the series, she has been living in the fictional world for two years, as head of Jurisfiction, which tries to keep things stable in our fictional universe. Her allies include Emperor Zhark, the villain of a series of pulpy SF novels; Colonel Bradshaw, a fictional explorer/big-game hunter who has married a gorilla; and Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle from the Beatrix Potter stories. Back in the real world, Thursday's big concern is trying to get her husband uneradicated -- the evil Goliath Corporation, it seems, has used time travel to make it so that he was never born. Which hasn't stopped Tuesday from bearing his child, Friday.

In Something Rotten Thursday decides to return to the "real world." Back at her home in Swindon, she learns that there are plenty of problems awaiting. Her husband is still eradicated. Her mother is entertaining a couple of house guests -- Hamlet, who is tired of his reputation for indecisiveness, and Emma Hamilton, who gets into the liquor a lot and hopes that her lover, Lord Nelson, can also be uneradicated. (Apparently he wasn't suppose to die at Trafalgar...) The near hopeless professional croquet team, the Swindon Mallets, must win the Superhoop (something like the World Cup of croquet) or the world will be destroyed. The evil Goliath Corporation is trying to turn itself into a religion. And Yorrick Kaine, who has escaped from his position as a villain in an obscure book to become England's chancellor, is arousing anti-Danish sentiment as part of a ploy to take over the English government.

All is not lost. England's popular president stands in Kaine's way. A 13th Century Saint from Swindon has prophesied that Swindon will win the croquet Superhoop -- and his prophecies all come true, including the one about he himself being reincarnated in the present day. Goliath is offering to restore Thursday's husband in exchange for forgiveness (they need lots of goodwill to become a religion). And Thursday gets her old job back -- too bad about the thousands of pounds of debt she has incurred, to say nothing of her other new job -- manager of the Swindon Mallets!

Obviously the novel is rather busy -- I've hardly scratched the surface: there are also Minotaurs, Neanderthals, problems finding reliable child care, lawyers as a key on-field part of pro sports (not so far fetched, that!), and lots more fun with hopping in and out of books, and back and forth in time. Fforde has done a great job over four books of keeping each new one fresh -- there is enough invention in each book to avoid seeming to rehash the original clever conceit a little too heavily. That said, it was time to resolve things, I think -- and Fforde doesn't disappoint. There may well be further sequels, but Something Rotten quite satisfactorily resolves all the main issues brought up in the first three books. It seems possible the intent is to close the series -- we certainly learn enough about Thursday's life that we really don't have any more questions. Fforde also continues to delight with his linguistic imagination, though on that front this book is probably less wonderful than the others -- which is not a complaint so much as an acknowledgement that they were all hard to top. I recommend all four Thursday Next novels unreservedly.

Copyright © 2004 Rich Horton

Rich Horton is an eclectic reader in and out of the SF and fantasy genres. He's been reading SF since before the Golden Age (that is, since before he was 13). Born in Naperville, IL, he lives and works (as a Software Engineer for the proverbial Major Aerospace Company) in St. Louis area and is a regular contributor to Tangent. Stop by his website at http://www.sff.net/people/richard.horton.


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