by Jasper Fforde
Thursday Next returns, not only for a fourth adventure full of sci-fi weirdness, outrageous comedy, danger, extreme sports, and literary high jinks. She also returns to her hometown of Swindon, in her alternate-1980s version of England, where croquet is a full-contact sport, where literary characters, historical figures, extinct creatures, and the undead walk around while real people can be erased from existence by means of time travel. It is a world with game shows called Name That Fruit!, with commercial sponsors like the the Toast Advisory Board, with a mighty business conglomerate making a bid to become the next world religion, and with a runaway fictional character trying to take over the British government. And of course, its up to Thursday Next to stop him.
Fresh off a two-year stint as the head of Jurisfiction the police force that watches over the world of books Thursday returns home with a toddler son who only speaks typesetters gibberish, a vague plan to restore her eradicated husband, and a dithering Danish prince named Hamlet. Before long, her problems have multiplied. Her undead-slaying friend, Spike Stoker, needs her help rescuing the president from a detour through death. Meanwhile, Spikes chirpy wife turns out to be an assassin with a contract on Thursdays head. Also meanwhile, the local patron saint has predicted that if the hometown croquet team wins the national, the Goliath corporation and a political tyrant will fall. Not that she needs any more pressure in her life, Thursday suddenly finds herself managing the team and knowing that if they fail, the world will come to a fiery end.
Plus, Thursday needs to save loads of Danish literature from being burned (dont ask). She needs to do something to save the plot of Hamlet from a hostile takeover by The Merry Wives of Windsor (really, dont ask). She has to cope with a husband who flickers in and out of existence, an over-aggressive pet dodo, and the problems arising from having Otto von Bismarck, Hamlet, and the mistress of Horatio Nelson under one roof. She has eerie encounters with genetically engineered monsters, a series of near-death experiences, and a device invented by her uncle who cannot remember what it does. But naturally, her most pressing problem is the difficulty in finding good child care.
How does she balance all of these weird and dangerous adventures in only a couple of weeks time? With fast reflexes, a faster wit, an instinct for literary integrity, and guts, guts, guts! From an athletic arena where lawyers and judges are part of the game, to a group therapy session called Eradications Anonymous and all the way through one unbroken series of scary, loopy, fast-action escapades, where the boundaries, between fiction and reality, life and death, past and future, are all blurred. You name it, Thursday Next does it once again: she makes you laugh out loud; she moves you emotionally; she offers moments of fast-paced excitement, eerie chills, and straight-to-the-gut social satire. And even after four books, her story seems fresh and original right to the alarmingly satisfying end.
Will the chapter titled Final Curtain really be the last we see of Thursday Next? I hope not. But even if so, the spin-off Nursery Crime series continues to show great promise.
Recommended Age: 17+
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