Wednesday, April 30, 2014

The Woman Who Died A Lot - Jasper Fforde

    2012; 363 pages.  New Author? : No.  Book #7 of the Thursday Next series.  Genre : Fantasy; Alternate Universe; Humor.  Overall Rating : 8½*/10.

    The end of the world is coming; an asteroid is headed our way.  Hey, but that’s 37 years in the future, so who cares?  Much more timely is the Smiting by The Almighty, scheduled for four days from now, and due to hit Swindon, Thursday Next’s hometown.

    But Thursday has more-pressing problems of her own.  Her nemesis, Goliath Corp., wants to do some personal smiting to her.  Her son Friday is predestined to kill somebody this coming weekend.  There is a job opening in her current employer, Spec-Ops, but they want somebody younger and would prefer to put Thursday out to pasture as a librarian.

    And last but not least, daughter Jenny has been very reclusive lately.

What’s To Like...
    For those readers new to the series, Jasper Fforde deftly weaves the 6-book backstory into the first quarter or so of The Woman Who Died A Lot.  This was a nice refresher for me, since it’s been two years since I read the previous book in the series.  Nevertheless, it’s better if you don’t treat the books as standalones, and read them in order, starting with The Eyre Affair (reviewed here).

    There is a lot to like about any Jasper Fforde offering, and this one is no exception.  The writing is witty and page-turning.   There are fictitious quotes to start each chapter; these set the subject matter and are always a delight to read.  The alt-worldly ads that appear at the back of each book are included in the Kindle version; just keep scrolling until you get to them.  There are a couple of way-kewl drawings scattered throughout the text, and of course, Chapter 13 is once again in a class by itself.

    There are several unique delights to TWWDAL.  A couple long-running plotlines are resolved.  It would be a spoiler to say which ones; and of course, you can never be completely sure that they’ll stay resolved, what with the author’s penchant for plot twists.  Fforde also spoofs the currently hot topic of Quantum Physics, and in doing so, introduces a new alternate universe - Dark Reading Matter.

    The ending is great; it was in no way telegraphed, and the addition of a bit of Situational Ethics was sheer genius.

Kewlest New Word. . .
    Nobble (v.) : To try to influence or thwart (someone or something) by underhanded or unfair methods.  (a Britishism)

    Suffice it to say there were a shade over six thousand entirely separate dimensions within the League of Alternative Realities – a tiny fraction of the total, but you didn’t get to join the league until you’d figured out how to move across, something that now seemed so blindingly obvious it’s astonishing we couldn’t see it before.  Our own dimension was coded ID-11 and was the only league member with diphtheria, David Hasselhoff and the French, which amused the rest of the multiverse no end.  (loc. 239)

    “And what news of Swindon?” asked Mother Daisy.  “We have no radio, no TV, and only The Toad on Sunday once a month.”
    “There’s a new roundabout in the Old Town, Acme Carpets is having another sale, SpecOps is to be re-formed – oh, and part of the city is to be wiped from the earth by a cleansing fire on Friday.”
    “An Acme Carpets sale?”  (loc. 2105)

Kindle Details...
    The Woman Who Died A Lot sells for $7.99 at Amazon, which is quite reasonable.  The other six books in the series are priced in the $9.99-$10.99 range for the Kindle.  I borrowed this e-book for free from my local library.

”To me, grass is simply a transitional phase for turning sunlight into milk.”  (loc. 149)
    There are a couple quibbles.  In addition to the backstory, the first quarter of the book presents about five plotlines, and it’s a long time before the reader figures out which one takes precedence.  Also, ANAICT, this is the first book in the series that had zero excursions into BookWorld.  Quantum Mechanics seems to have trumped Literary themes.  However, that may be a plus to a lot of readers.

    The good news is that there will be a sequel (remember when we all feared book #5 was the end of the series?).  The bad news is that there is no target date, and Jasper Fforde seems to be concentrating on a couple of his other series.

    8½ Stars.  Highly recommended, but please read the books in order.  Subtract 1 star if you jump right in with this one being your introduction to Jasper Fforde and Thursday Next; and be prepared to be fascinated, but confused, by the wacky weirdness.

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