by Jasper Fforde



400pp/$24.95/July 2007

Reviewed by Steven H Silver

Thursday Next: First Among Sequels is the Jasper Fforde reimagining of his own character, Thursday Next.  Set about fifteen years after the first novel, The Eyre Affair, Fforde indicates that all the previous books in the series (plus an unpublished book entitles The Great Samuel Pepys Fiasco) were simply novelizations of the exploits of the actual Thursday Next, who appears for the first time in First Among Sequels.

Fforde is content in this novel to take his time in establishing the plot, focusing instead on reestablishing his characters and their relationships, both to each other and to the world around them.  Thursday and Landen Parke-Laine are in a relatively stable relationship with their three children, Friday, Tuesday, and the oddly named Jenny.  Although Thursday’s Special Ops unit has been disbanded, her job at Acme Carpets is just a cover for continuing their covert operations even more covertly.

This new domesticity provides Fforde with plenty of fodder for conflict, as Landen does not know of Thursday’s continuing activities in either Special Ops or Jurisfiction, the strange demimonde of literary works.  Further, both Thursday and Landen must figure out why their son, Friday, refuses to join the Chronoguard despite having met a future version of their son who is important in the organization.  One of the major subplots of the novel concerns his recruitment and the potential end of the world if he doesn’t enlist.

First Among Sequels also finds Thursday Next working with the Goliath Corporation.  Although Thursday is not happy with the situation, Goliath, the massive conglomerate which essentially runs the world Fforde has created, gives every appearance of having altered their activities, at least with regard to Thursday.  Naturally, Thursday views this change with suspicion.

With Thursday aware of her own novelizations, First Among Sequels is even more metafictional than the earlier works in the series.  Unfortunately, this makes the character less interesting as she deals with people’s perception of her based on reading the earlier books, which exist in her world as well as ours.  The conflicts Fforde bases on those earlier books is intriguing, but often seems a bit muddy.

The strange use of fiction, similar in many ways to Lewis Carroll’s, continues in First Among Sequels, which does imbue the novel with the same charm as the early books, however the setting seems to be running a little thin. Fforde seems almost to be reaching, as if he has said what he wanted to say with the character and her setting, but doesn’t feel he can let the series end, which makes his references to Sherlock Holmes and Reichenbach Falls seem almost ironic.

While not the strongest book in the series, First Among Sequels is still enjoyable and gives indications that Fforde can recapture the feel of the earlier books.  His cleverness in playing with the readers’ expectations is clearly evident and the setting still retains the appeal that has carried it this far.  Fforde’s metafictional world of Thursday Next can support additional books if Fforde truly desires to continue following Thursday’s adventures.

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