Thursday Next: First Among Sequels
by Jasper Fforde
Thursday Next: First Among Sequels is Jasper Fforde's return to the Thursday Next series after playing with Nursery Crimes for a few years. He seems to treat it as a re-introduction to the world, even though I don't know how many people would read it without reading the first 4 books. It re-enters the Thursday-verse when she is 50 and has 2 (3?) kids. She works for Acme Carpets, which is a front for a now defunct and free-lance Spec-Ops, which is a front for her work in Jurisfiction (the policing force of Bookworld). Sound complex? That's just the simple stuff. Friday, her son was supposed to join the Chronoguard (the time police force) a year or so ago, but he hasn't and his future self is pissed. Goliath (evil corporation) is back, and suspiciously kowtowing to Thursday, their nemesis. Sherlock Holmes is dead (killed at Reichenbach falls, which apparently wasn't supposed to happen). Thursday is training the two Thursdays from her previous books to be Jurisfiction agents and one of them is evil. A nemesis from her past might have returned.... I'm just scratching the surface here, folks.
First off, Bookworld is an amazing creation. It is the world behind literature. The characters in books know that they are characters in books, and act the part while being read. When the narrative is not focused on them, they can do what ever they want! Jurisfiction is the intra-literary police force that makes sure there are no Pagerunners (people who illegally jump through books - which is the reason why Feste had to be replaced by Fabian in the gulling scene of Twelfth Night), grammasites (beasties that will try to eat all of your verbs, so you can't do anything, or all of your adjectives so that you are nondescript),etc, and much more. Books are built in giant airplane hangers in the Well of Lost Plots (the place where all book ideas start). You can buy plot devices at a store, like "suddenly a shot rang out." There is a giant central library with every book in English run by the Cat formerly known as Cheshire (they redistricted, so he is technically now the Unitary Authority of Warrington Cat). You can jump into (almost) any book.
This, again, is just scratching the surface.
However, as with most of his books, the first half of the book is all exposition and world-building. You tend not to meet the villain or the crisis until 3/4 of the way through the book. However, when you do, all the exposition he has built up becomes essential in the solving of the problem. It is brilliant, but you will only enjoy it if you can bask in the glory that is Bookworld.
Overall, this wasn't my favorite of the series, but I love how Bookworld gets richer and more complex with each book.