“The remaking was one of those moments when one felt a part of literature and not just carried along within it. In less than ten minutes, the entire fabric of the BookWorld was radically altered. The old system was swept away, and everything was changed forever. But the group of people to whom it was ultimately beneficial remained gloriously unaware: the readers. To most of them, books were merely books. If only it were that simple. …”
Jasper Fforde, a speculative fiction writer with a gift of fantastical innovation, is challenging, amazing, and entertaining us once again with his sixth installment of the Thursday Next series, One of Our Thursdays Is Missing. Throughout his decade-long journey of success with the series, Fforde has garnered a reputation as “wildly imaginative” and “mind-bending” in the creation of his unique narrative of “inspired insanity,” “absurd literary humor,” and “byzantine plots.” His Thursday Next series is Norton Juster’s The Phantom Tollbooth amplified a thousand percent complete with a myriad of puns, literary jokes, satirical jibes, time travel, and adrenalin-pumping chase scenes. Synergizing a plethora of genres including science fiction, classic literature, humor, steampunk, and fantasy, Fforde’s series successfully appeals to a diversity of readers.
Contrary to the opinions of other book reviewers, it is entirely possible to comprehend and even enjoy the complexities of One of Our Thursdays Is Missing without previously reading the other books in the series, as long as you fasten your seatbelt, suspend your belief, and be open to a bit of challenge instead of mere escapism. Yet, for those who require a brief introduction, the Thursday Next series is set in two worlds – Great Britain in the 1980’s (the RealWorld) and the universe inside books of all genres (the BookWorld).
In book one of the series, The Eyre Affair, Thursday Next is a Spec Ops Agent in the Literary Division, investigating a nefarious criminal (named Acheron Hades) who is kidnapping characters from books for ransom and threatening to re-write some of the world’s most preeminent works of literature. When he endeavors to take Jane Eyre hostage, Thursday Next saves the day by literally entering the book and halting him from his heinous crimes in the BookWorld.
In One of Our Thursdays Is Missing, Fforde entirely diverges from his other books in two ways. First, the BookWorld is entirely reconstructed. The Council of Genres needs a clearer overview of how the individual novels are set within the BookWorld as a whole. Taking the RealWorld as inspiration, the Council of Genres decides to temporarily close down the imaginotransference engines in order to transform the Great Library BookWorld into a geographic landscape similar to our “reality.” Thus, genres like Crime and Conspiracy border each other (though less harmoniously) and instead of jumping from book to book, characters take TransGenre taxis, steered by reckless and “hastily trained” drivers.
Also, Fforde takes us deeper into the BookWorld than he has in the past, as very little of the story is set in the “RealWorld” where free will exists. Yet, “for all its boundless color, depth, boldness, passion, and humor, the RealWorld doesn’t appear to have any clearly discernable function.” When Thursday Next enters the RealWorld, she is overwhelmed by the multitudinous details which exist without order, narrative purpose, or meaning.
To make things more complicated, Fforde also diverges from his other series by making our protagonist not the real Thursday Next (who is a hero in the BookWorld) but actually the written version of Thursday Next who plays the star within her own novel in the novel. The plot of One of Our Thursdays Is Missing revolves around the disappearance of the real Thursday Next and the fictional version’s quests to discover and rescue her. Finding the real Thursday Next is a matter of urgent importance, as she is expected to negotiate peace talks between the genres of Racy Novel , Women’s Fiction, and Dogma. If peace and reconciliation between the genres are not accomplished, the entire BookWorld could descend into mass upheaval and even war.
As a master of developing multifarious plot lines, the book begins with the fictional Thursday Next acting in her own series (the novel within the novel) while also pursuing her side job with the Jurisfiction Accident Investigation Department (JAID) which oversees two thousand book movements a day, as the transportation of the novels across fictional skies is not without mishap. The fictional Thursday is assigned a case involving the destruction of a Vanity novel which has suffered an in-read breakup and left a narrative debris field halfway across the BookWorld. Someone has destroyed the ISBN numbers from the wreckage and all of a sudden the ruthless Men In Plaid are hunting her down. During her investigation, she befriends an ingenious, clockwork butler named Sprockett (reminiscent of C-3PO from Star Wars) who turns out to be a helpful, talented, and loyal partner. Together, they achieve what no one expects the fictional Thursday to do – solve the crime, pursue heroic, life-threatening adventures, outwit the dangerous Men In Plaid, and search and rescue the real Thursday Next.
Of course, Fforde would intertwine yet another plot line of mutiny within the Thursday Next series (the book within the book), from which she is outcast after hiring an understudy to act out the novel for readers while she is out wanderlusting and saving the BookWorld with Sprockett. This “backup” Thursday panics when more than seven readers pick up the book simultaneously and gains a lecherous reputation by engaging in a scandalous relationship with a goblin from a book next door.
Although the “RealWorld” is disorderly, chaotic, and disorienting to the fictional Thursday Next (and “eighty percent of chat is just meaningless drivel”), Fforde’s humorous descriptions of the RealWorld are truly some of the most enjoyable passages of the book. The fictional Thursday Next enters the “Alive Simulator” in order to appear human in the RealWorld on her quest to find the missing, real Thursday Next. In doing so, she enters a Large Textual Sieve Array with a howitzer cannon which is fired a .346 Absurd speed. She emerges as human for 48 hours with Agent Square, a two-dimensional being from Flatland as her guide through the RealWorld.
When delving into One of Our Thursdays Is Missing, you may enjoy the experience more if you keep track of the four different plot lines and various characters in a notebook nearby. Although many have yet to truly understand the world of Jasper Fforde (as his innovations are as bizarre as Through The Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll), his series has generated somewhat of a cult following which has helped him achieve the status of a New York Times bestselling author. I highly recommend this new release for those who are looking for a bit of a challenge with entertaining lines which will have you both bellylaughing and enchanted throughout the entire story.
~ Victoria Andrew, The Book Goddess