Thursday Next’s adventures continue.
A very random book without much in the way of a plot. This doesn’t have to be a bad thing – and wouldn’t be if Fforde wisely chose to simply let us revel in ludicrous episodic adventures. Something like a Dr. Who or Sherlock Holmes structure, where there doesn’t have to be some big linking overstory, but enjoyable characters can pop up here and there in different distinct episodes within a loose framework. Fortunately you don’t need a workable plot or antagonist to make the story enjoyable: Fforde’s sense of humour playing with literary conventions and his ability to create a stream of eccentric characters in imaginative settings are enough.
However, the unnecessary poorly executed plot (Landon is erased, and Thursday doesn’t quite get around to restoring him – end of part two) does dilute the pleasure of the book: Plot is the second weakest aspect of this series so far. Yes, I understand that central to the fun of this book is playing with things without them having to make rigorous scientific sense, but it is possible to work towards satisfying resolutions consistent within the imagined (if surreal) world. It is annoying that supposedly super-perceptive street-wise Thursday only uses her unique and impressive powers to serve – with childlike trust – people who have only ever lied to her. This just doesn’t work with what we know of Thursday. The line ‘blinded by love’ doesn’t cut it – Goliath is her enemy, and it is totally out of character that she never tries to take them on. It also is dodgy that she is happily distracted by adventures with Miss Havisham and a nice holiday by the sea, when she’s supposed to be a driven, intelligent, highly resourceful and supernaturally gifted hero with her one true love to restore. It’d be great if Fforde could combine his impressive imagination with a robust novel (or even series) structure – but here it would be better if he dropped the deeper plots.
And while he’s at it, it’d be great if his dodgy villains were collateral damage in this process. They’re the weakest aspect of the series. This book’s Hades is similarly paper thin: handed super-evil powers without even a whiff of explanation, and the motive, “You killed my brother,” only making sense until you trace it back to the total lack of motive in her sibling. Likewise the Goliath corporation – the merest carbon shadowy mega-company lifted from a hundred bad derivative Hollywood flicks – which Fforde can’t even bother giving a history.
So, sure, this is OK, and could even have been outstanding – Fforde has some real originality and talent – if not for the couple of glaring flaws.