four and a half years ago I read the first book in the Thursday Next series by Jasper Fforde. I really enjoyed it a lot. So much so that I've sought out and followed information on the series and the new books that have been released. Sadly, it has taken me this long to finally revisit the world of Thursday Next. As I dove into Lost in a Good Book I quickly remembered what I had loved about The Eyre Affair and found myself laughing and really enjoying this world all over again.
In case you're unfamiliar with the concept, these books take place in an alternate version of the mid-80s. History is completely different. War is raging but a different war than happened normally in the 20th century. Science and technology are booming such that there exist all sorts of cool science-fiction elements such as time travel, tubes through the Earth, full scale animal (and neanderthal) cloning and of course, the ability to interact directly with literature. Supernatural elements exist as well…werewolves, vampires and other beasties. The world is obsessed with literature much in the way our world is now obsessed with sports, movie or music celebrities. Instead of clamoring over the latest movie star or football hero, the public fights dirty over signed copies of books or names themselves after famous authors and characters.
Thursday works for "Special Ops -- SpecOps" in their Literary division. Mostly she deals with the trafficking of fraudulent works of literature though sometimes something more meaty comes along. In the first book, Thursday's uncle had built a "Prose Portal" which allowed Thursday to actually enter into the world of a book and interact with it directly. As you may have guessed from the title The Eyre Affair, book one had her entrenched in the world of Jane Eyre.
With book two, Lost in a Good Book, her uncle's Prose Portal is gone thus leaving no way for Thursday or anybody else to enter a book world. This is overly troubling for leaders of the megacorporate organization Goliath since in book one (WARNING: Minor Spoiler) Thursday managed to trap one of their high level officers inside Poe's poem The Raven and they'd really like to get him out.
WARNING: The next ~4 paragraphs include high level plot descriptions that might have minor spoilerific phrases. Nothing earth shattering, but if you want to be completely surprised, skip down 5 paragraphs from here.
Thursday tries to convince Goliath that she has no way to retrieve the trapped man but they won't believe her and they won't take "no" for an answer. Illegally using some special technology, Goliath proceeds to take action against Thursday in an effort to blackmail her into helping them. I won't spoil it for you by telling you what they do, but I will tell you that their plan succeeds and she spends the rest of the book trying to figure out a way to get "inside" The Raven in order to get her life back and be out from under Goliath's thumb.
In addition to this main plot with Goliath, we also get to interact with Thursday's father. He is a member of the "ChronoGuard"…the time traveling branch of SpecOps. Earlier in life, he was fed up with the politics and bureaucracy and so he has gone "on the run" and is doing his own thing. Naturally the ChronoGuard doesn't like having a renegade out there so they're trying to stop him and thus they are also shadowing Thursday and trying to get her to help them. Her father does show up and lets Thursday know that unless they can do something to stop it, the world is going to end in a matter of days. Yet another mystery for her to try and unravel.
And then we have plot thread number three. It seems that someone is trying to kill Thursday. She has her suspicions as to who and why but she can't manage to find any way to find them or uncover the plot…so she keeps her eyes and ears open and keeps digging.
Finally, we have the literary involvement. As the title suggests, Thursday is indeed going to go back into "a good book." It seems that a previous Spec Ops member learned how to "book jump" into a book just by reading. Thursday goes in search of this person and naturally gets more than she bargains for. Again, I don't want to spoil the adventure but rest assured that you are going to interact with some zany characters from literature and have a lot of fun with the methods and techniques the author uses to interact with them.
(End Spoiler plot descriptions)
So as you can tell, the plot pacing and intricacies of this book are really quite involved. There are a ton of different things going on all at once spinning you in all sorts of outlandish directions. In many ways I think this helps us relate even more closely to Thursday since she is feeling very disoriented, confused and unsure of what to do next. By overwhelming the readers and keeping us spinning, it helps keep us just as off-balanced as Thursday. At the same time, the story is straightforward and logical and really fairly easy to follow and understand.
There is so much that I absolutely loved about this book. There are so many clever and wonderful ways that the author plays with form, structure, formatting, punctuation and theme. It's just amazingly detailed and filled with tons of little nuances. I'm sure I missed many of them but there are also tons of subtle (and not so subtle) nods at books, authors and characters from classic literature. Even without a heavy literary background, you should be able to enjoy the zany adventures and fun going on.
If you have a love of language and wordplay, you are likely to love this book. If you are a fan of literature and reading (and don't mind them being 'tainted' through interesting reimaginings), you are bound to enjoy this. If you enjoy a fun yet lighthearted sic-fi alternate contemporary history book, then this is perfect for you.
I found myself laughing out loud again and again. The plots kept me guessing and spinning 'round and 'round right up to the end. As this is book 2 in the series, you should probably read The Eyre Affair first though I think you could probably jump in on book 2 and after muddling through the first couple of chapters you'd be perfectly fine. I think I enjoyed Lost in a Good Book more than its predecessor. While this book resolves some of the major issues Thursday is battling against, there are still a number of things left very much undone and I'm really looking forward to finding out how she deals with them and what adventures she has next. I will certainly move on to the next book…and it won't take me 4 years to do it this time.
4.5 out of 5 stars
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