by Jasper Fforde
Reviewed by Steven H Silver
The fourth adventure of Jasper Fforde's Thursday Next, Something Rotten, returns the literary detective to the Swindon of her native world, in which the Crimean War lasted until the 1970s and classical literature is popular culture. Returning to Swindon after spending more than two years in the world of Jurisfiction, Next must pick up the pieces of her life, figure out what is happening with her old foes Goliath Corp. and Yorrick Kaine, and try to settle in with toddler Friday, even as she attempts to reactualize her husband, Landen Parke-Laine.
Kaine's plot seems to be based on the denigration of everything Danish, beginning with sanctions against the country and ending with the burning of all books of Danish provenance in England. Next, accompanied by the realization of Hamlet, work to find as many books as they can and shepherd them out of England into Wales. As if this isn't enough, Fforde throws the reincarnation of a fourteenth century saint (with the name Zvlkx) into the mix. Zvlkx has come back to see his seventh Revealment come to fruition. Since it involves the Swindon croquet team and Yorrick Kaine, naturally Next finds herself in the middle of the situation, although Fforde does not resolve her difficulties with the obvious approach.
Fforde's version of Next's real world is more interesting than his version of the world of Jurisfiction, and Something Rotten benefits from this vision, being a stronger novel than The Well of Lost Plots. Although there is no longer the sense of novelty from The Eyre Affair, by this point, Fforde's creation is detailed enough that he is able to move the plot along with misdirection, using both references to fiction and to the world he has envisioned.
While the earlier novels were enjoyable just for the strangeness and humor Fforde brought to them, Something Rotten relies more on plot and the interconnectedness of people and events from the earlier novels. Amazingly, he manages to tie up many of the loose plot threads dating back to The Eyre Affair and Lost in a Good Book. Just when it seems that Next will be able to live happily ever after, Fforde introduces twists and expands seemingly minor incidents to give himself a springboard for future installments of the story of Thursday Next.
Something Rotten is one of those novels which could, but shouldn't, be read on its own. Readers definitely will appreciate the relationships and the story more if they have knowledge available in the previous works in the series. Fortunately, all three earlier books are readily available and highly enjoyable. Getting up to speed on Fforde's writings and the adventures of Thursday Next is a most entertaining "task."
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