Sunday, July 11, 2010

Something Rotten

What I try to do with reviews at this Bookshelf blog is keep it simple and spoiler-free, and let you know whether I'd recommend you pick up a copy of what I just read. Seems to work okay. This time, a brief review of Something Rotten (Viking, 2004)

With the fourth book in his series of Thursday Next lit-fantasy novels, Jasper Fforde pulled a really unexpected trick out of his hat, with an unprecedented result. I finished reading, set it down on my "review" pile and retrieved the second book from the shelf in order to reread it. I've never done that before, but there's a simply brilliant character revelation towards the end of this book that left me so gleefully blindsided that I want to go back and check out the previous two adventures again with this new information in place before moving on to the fifth story.

As with the others in the series, Thursday has an unbelievable amount of nonsense on her plate to handle. Happily, she doesn't have a bizarrely-powered supervillain to handle this time out, but she is trying to stop a war with Denmark while giving Hamlet a vacation from fiction, and find the origin of another fictional character who's taken up residence in the real world and taking over the government with the help of mind control. Plus there's the business of her husband still being eradicated from the time stream while leaving behind a son who speaks in printer's gobbledygook and the reappearance of a 13th-Century prophet and an assassin who doesn't seem to spell correctly and a minotaur that's hiding out in western pulp novels and, basically, more headaches than anybody should have to deal with.

The book's big climax comes at a championship croquet match, which is so lovably ridiculous that I wanted to hug it. With all the completely absurd rules and deviations from what you think croquet is, it ends up reading more like a great big game of Calvinball. I think I giggled a little with every paragraph. I still wish that the Goliath Corporation wasn't so unbearably nasty, and that the bureaucracy and red tape of Thursday's world wasn't so soul-crushing, but overall, this series is such a pleasure that I can't help but recommend them.

And if anybody spoils that character revelation that I mentioned, you have my permission to pop them in the mouth.

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