REVIEW: "The Well of Lost Plots", Jasper Fforde
- BKWLLSPL.RVW 20041007
"The Well of Lost Plots", Jasper Fforde, 2003, 0-340-82592-8
%A Jasper Fforde www.jasperfforde.com
%C 338 Euston Road, London NW1 3BH England
%I Hodder and Stoughton/Headline
%O +44(0)1235400414 fax: +44(0)1235400454 orders@...
%P 360 p.
%T "The Well of Lost Plots"
If you are not a big fan of reading, don't read Jasper Fforde. You'll
find his books silly and probably irritating.
If you like reading; if you enjoy getting lost in a good book; if you
wonder where ideas for books come from and how they get developed; if
you would like to "improve" the ending of your favourite book or if
you are willing to defend the sanctity of a book ending that you don't
particularly like (and if you are willing to fight for either
position); if you have ever imagined the deeper personality or
biography of characters in a children's story; if you like playing
around with words and ideas (and can find the fun in extended jokes
about grammar); then by all means read Jasper Fforde's books. They
are an absolute delight.
There are a great many books that feature writers, and a great many
that discuss the mechanics of writing. Fforde's books are about
reading: the process of it, the identification with characters, the
preferences readers develop, as well as the sheer joy of the act of
If you have read a lot of books, and particularly the classics, then
you will recognize situations and characters referenced in Fforde's
work. If you haven't read them, the bits relevant to the story will
be explained. (I probably don't know enough about Dickens to get some
of *those* references, but there is ample material to enjoy
regardless. Knowing rather a lot about Austen, I can tell that I'm
not missing anything important in the Dickens references because none
of the Austen references require outside knowledge.)
Fforde has written four books, all featuring the character Thursday
Next. In the first, she is a detective in a policing agency
specializing in literary crimes. (This is in an alternate universe
where, in 1985, people really do take literature seriously, the
Germans briefly occupied Britain during the Second World War, the
Crimean War is still going on, airships are common but jets are
unknown, mammoths migrate through villages and genetically modified
dodos are popular pets, and a massive corporation is trying to
solidify its hold on the populace and increase already obscene profits
with no regard for how the corporation and its activities actually
affects people. Some things don't change.) In the second, Thursday
manages to enter the world of books themselves, becoming a trainee in
the agency that polices literature. In the third (this one), she
spends most of her time in literature. (I haven't read the fourth
The books are a series, but they are also a collection of vignettes.
Much of the material can be read in any order for the fun and
silliness. Reading the books in proper sequence is a definite plus,
since you'll know the overall plot, but isn't entirely necessary. (In
fact, Fforde's command of continuity is a bit weak. In the first book
Next's brother is lost in a battle when she takes a load of wounded to
safety and never finds him again when she goes back for him: in the
third the brother is remembered as having been killed in front of her
eyes. But then, someone is messing with her memory anyway, so Fforde
has an excellent way to paper over such lapses, although that device
doesn't work quite so well when it comes to discrepancies in the
layout of the Great Library or when the Sunderland last flew.)
The plot is not exactly surreal, but definitely absurd. Thursday's
father is a member of a time-traveling police agency, except that he
doesn't exist since his own group prevented him from being born when
he went rogue. Non-existence doesn't prevent him from popping up at
I could say that I've included this particular book in the review
series because of the insitution of a whole technology around the
creation of written works, including version histories of the book
operating system, complete with a wonderful analogy to the impending
upgrade of the Internet Protocol prompted by resource exhaustion.
There is even a security threat related to the upgrading of a
monoculture. However, in reality, I just really like this book and
wanted to say so.
copyright Robert M. Slade, 2004 BKWLLSPL.RVW 20041007
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Life was simple before World War II. After that, we had systems.
- Admiral Grace Murray Hopper
http://victoria.tc.ca/techrev or http://sun.soci.niu.edu/~rslade