Thursday Next returns in another postmodern literary detective fantasy from Fforde (The Big Over Easy, 2005, etc.).
Once again, the author creates a world in which only permeable boundaries separate truth from fiction, the living from the dead (or extinct: Thursday knits a sweater for her pet dodo, Pickwick). Our heroine revisits places and people from earlier Fforde novels, as well as from an immoderate number of English and American classics—one memorable page contains allusions to The Woman in White, Robert Ludlum, Jason Bourne, Our Mutual Friend, Bleak House and The Mayor of Casterbridge. Although the Special Operations Network has nominally been shut down, in reality Thursday works undercover with Acme Carpets and on the side runs an underground cheese market, featuring such tempting morsels as Mynachlog-ddu Old Contemptible, “kept in a glass jar because it will eat through cardboard or steel.” Thursday embarks on a dizzying set of adventures through fictive territory. Untoward things have been happening in the literary world. For example, the natural comedy in Thomas Hardy novels has mysteriously been removed—Jude the Obscure originally began as one of the most “rip-roaringly funny novels in the English Language”—and Thursday travels through space and time to rectify this situation. Her contemporaries are not as interested in reading as they are in watching reality TV shows like England’s Funniest Chainsaw Mishaps or Samaritan Kidney Swap. Meanwhile, Thursday has to deal with Friday, her teenaged lump of a son, whose main goals in life are sleeping and forming a band called The Gobshites. While Fforde’s humor can be affecting, it can also grate with its self-consciousness, as the author nudges readers to admire his verbal dexterity.
Vertiginous cleverness here proves to be almost too much of a good thing.