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The Well of Lost Plots
Jasper Fforde
Viking, 380 pages

The Well of Lost Plots
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 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

Jasper Fforde's third Thursday Next novel is The Well of Lost Plots. I quite enjoyed the first two, The Eyre Affair and Lost in a Good Book, but I confess I was worried that the motivating conceit behind the books would get stale after a while. But so far Fforde has done a good job of varying things so that each book has stayed fun and fresh.

The books are set in an alternate history, where for example the Crimean War has continued to the 1980s (the books are set in 1985 or so), and Wales is a Socialist Republic. The most important difference for the books is that literature is a consuming national passion, with performances of Shakespeare's plays treated like midnight showings of The Rocky Horror Picture Show. There are also some decidedly strange aspects -- time travel, for example, with such results as erasing people from history -- including as it happens both Thursday's father and husband. And also, it is possible to travel into the world of a book, and even make permanent alterations. In the first book, Thursday, in order to defeat the arch-villain Acheron Hades, altered the ending of Jane Eyre (to the one we know). In the second book she learned of the Bookworld, an organization of fictional characters, and in order to escape the evil plans of Goliath Corporation, she took an assignment in the Bookworld, under the direction of Miss Havisham (from Dickens' Great Expectations). The first two books were mostly set in the "real world", and one way in which Fforde keeps this third book fresh is that it is set almost entirely in the "bookworld".

Thursday is taking over a minor role in an unpublished detective novel, Caversham Heights. She is still troubled in her memory by Aornis Hades, Acheron's sister. Aornis is a mnemonomorph, who can alter people's memories, and she is trying to erase Thursday's memories of her husband Landen. Miss Havisham is showing Thursday the ropes of her new job, while the Bookworld awaits the release of a new book delivery system, UltraWord™. Then some of Thursday's associates begin to be killed, and the evidence points to Vernham Deane, the villainous squire from a Daphne Farquitt (a Barbara Cartland analogue) novel. But Macbeth's witches have some prophecies for Thursday, and she also begins to be suspicious of the UltraWord system.

The plot is in the end rather silly, and not in any sense the reason to read The Well of Lost Plots. The fun is all in the side bits -- the endless puns, the amusing and well developed ideas of what life in the Bookworld might be like, and running jokes like Miss Havisham's love for fast cars, and her races with Mr. Toad of The Wind in the Willows. One delightful subplot is the developing of two "generic" characters into real people, more or less. Another is the unrest in Wuthering Heights, as almost every character hates the egotistical hero, Heathcliff. Then there is the mispeling vyrus, which infects anything near it with mispelings, which have severe consequences in the Bookworld, as a misspeled object changes to whatever its new spelling represents. This is a fast-moving, funny, and intellectually diverting novel, much of a type and quality with its predecessors.

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

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