I bought the first book of the Thursday Next novel series sometime in 2007, I think. I didn’t read it until the christmas/new year holiday 2009/2010 and then spent the first weeks of 2010 reading the remaining books of this series and totally loved it. It’s so difficult to describe what it’s all about. It’s comic fantasy, which is such a far cry from the usual fantasy a la Tolkien and such. It’s equally imaginative, but in a much more playful and hilariously funny kind of way.
I tried to sum up what it’s all about in a few words, because I want to share some of my favourite lines/moments from this story and it’s impossible to understand what’s funny about it without a general idea what the Thursday Next series is about. I failed to come up with a decent summary of the whole Thursday Next Universe though.
Let’s just say there is the RealWorld (in some ways like our real world and in a lot of ways not like our real world at all) and there is the BookWorld, where all the fictional characters of all books ever written reside. These fictional characters act according to the plot of their books, but they are very self-aware, i.e. they know they are in a book, they know they are just playing parts and they can move freely around the BookWorld and visit other novels and such.
There is a lot of “technobabble” to explain how the BookWorld and the RealWorld are connected, like the ImaginoTransferenceEngine which transfers the written stories into the mind of the readers. There is a lot of technical explanations about the construction of the BookWorld. While life in the RealWorld (and the real world) is based on carbon and oxygen, life in the BookWorld is based on… letters and words and sentences and metaphors and such. If a BookWorld person is injured or dies, the person unravels into pieces of sentences and words and letters. Like I said, it’s a lot of very imaginative technobabble. But I always marvel at the imaginative explanations for everything.
There also is something called the Feedback Loop, which can lead to written persons over time slightly changing their appearance from a vague description in the book to something more specific, because of what the majority of readers imagine this written person to look like. There are the examples of Mrs. Havisham and Sherlock Holmes. But also…
The problem wasn’t just confined to the classics. Harry Potter was seriously pissed off that he’d have to spend the rest of his life looking like Daniel Radcliffe.
I could go on and on about the brilliant clou of this sixth book being written from the point of view of the written Thursday Next, instead of the real Thursday Next, Yes, of course a female hero who saved the RealWorld a few times has her own novel series and even though the written Thursday isn’t quite the hero as her real counterpart yet, she is getting there. Especially when she has to find out what happened to the real Thursday Next, because “one of our Thursdays is Missing” ;-) She travels all through the BookWorld and it was so much fun to be part of this journey and I honestly laughed out loud quite a few times. For example when she stopped by at the island “Fanfiction”,
the fact that Fanfiction was isolated still further gave one an idea of how poorly they were regarded [by the rest of Fiction].
For a reader of fanfiction (like me) the whole description of this part of the BookWorld was so much fun to read. The characters there are similar to real characters, but some were flatter than normal, because their fanfic-writers couldn’t give them the depth the original writers gave them. I immediatly had to think about how very solid AriaAdagio’s Derek would be like in this world compared to the original Derek created by Shonda Rhimes :-). But more important I loved the following sentiment, because it was after all written into this story by the real author Jasper Fforde.
[…]it seemed a party was in full swing. […] “Fanfiction isn’t about copying – it’s a celebration. […]”
Besides these novels the Thursday Next Universe also extends to the internet with various websites about various aspects of the RealWorld and the BookWorld. And of course the Jasper Fforde’s website as well. I guess I know where I will spend some of my online time over the next few days. Offline I will most probably start reading the first novel of another Fforde series: “The Shades of Grey”. I can really need all the fun and hilarity I can get at the moment, with stressful days at work and all the other stuff that I have to deal with..