Published: 10 November 2011
Publisher: Hodder and Stoughton
Genre: Science Fiction/Fantasy
★ ★ ★ ★ ★ – 5 Stars
Only the diplomatic skills of ace literary detective Thursday Next can avert a devastating genre war. But a week before the peace talks, Thursday vanishes. Has she simply returned home to the RealWorld or is this something more sinister?
All is not yet lost. Living at the quiet end of the speculative fiction is the written Thursday Next, eager to prove herself worthy of her illustrious namesake.
The fictional Thursday is soon hot on the trail of her factual alter-ego, and quickly stumbles upon a plot so fiendish that it threatens the very BookWorld itself.
Let’s start by saying this: who knew reading could be so complex?
From the beginning chapters, and really the title and spoiler blurb on the back of the book, we find out that Thursday Next is missing. However due to the books she’s written there is a Thursday who can take her place until she is found. This instantly changes the tone of the book as the new Thursday takes over as narrative voice. Despite looking like the Real Thursday, her written counterpart has a much different personality, and this is reflected in the narrative voice. As I started reading, I had a constant feeling of discomfort as I read because I felt like something was off. It wasn’t until much later that I realised it was because it was a different Thursday altogether. I think if Jasper had tried to write using the Thursday style I had grown accustomed to in the past five books it would not be believable. Of course the tone would be different, because the narrator was a different person, despite looking exactly the same. I am not saying this is a bad thing at all, it was a little bit like going through the Looking Glass, it is very familiar, but it wasn’t at the same time. Actually, pretty much the entire novel felt like that.
With the main protagonist missing, we are taken away from the official and policing part of BookWorld, and instead we are given a civilian point of view. I do think having anything too much like the past books would have felt very out of place in this unfamiliar world. Even when written Thursday meets people from real Thursday’s world you can feel the difference. You really get the sense she is a different person trying to be someone else, and outsider looking in the window, yet still somehow participating.
I did find myself missing the old Book World, despite us never really getting an expansive description of it before. A lot of the previous books consisted of jumping from one to the other with few stable points of reference like the Great Library. There was nothing wrong with the new BookWorld certainly. it just took a little getting used to. I understand why it had to be done though; story wise I can see that the old set up probably would not have been possible considering the plot, and certainly not make half the things in the narrative possible. So in that regard I am fine with the changes, but a small part of me missed it. I think the other part is I just missed the Real Thursday, familiar characters, the Jurisfiction and official side of BookWorld. As much as I loved seeing the Book World from the civilian and written characters perspective, after five books focusing on one side, it was an adjustment seeing the flip side.
Don’t get me wrong, it was brilliant all the same. Once you take the story as it is you began to see the immense effort Jasper had gone to. The detail in this book is astounding. It is not even always relevant, but the descriptions and the minute things like street names or conversations and logic that you tend to just brush over, yet have probably needed just as much thought as the narrative itself. I can’t even begin to list the detail Jasper has put into the BookWorld and the novel itself this time around. Something that I thought was truly beautiful was the way the RealWorld is described through Jasper’s BookWorld descriptions. His descriptions of everyday life and activities are rather poetic, which considering how poetry is viewed in these books, shouldn’t be taken as an insult. The wriggling in your seat excitement returns, not entirely through the whole book, but enough and in the right places to make you grin like the Cheshire Cat filled with warm bubbles.
The fact that this book is similar yet very different to the others works well for the BookWorld’s advantage. As readers we are given a full layout and story in this world from the point of view of the characters that live in it. They are the fictional counterparts of all the books, and while there is the mystery to be solved, the reality is we are given a complete breakdown and introduction to the Book World we have only seen glimpses of in the past, and all in the name of solving the mystery. This is something Jasper is very good at, telling us what we need to know but without interrupting the story’s flow. A lot is revealed from past books that you didn’t even realise needed to be solved, but there is also a few unanswered things as well. There were some unrelated revelations though. We have finally discovered an explanation of how there, their and they’re problems arise in the RealWorld, discover how important syntax is, and how Malapropism is funny, but also makes conversation a little trying. We get to see the dangers of comedy, realise that yes, clowns are an offset of the Horror genre, that humans in a crowd are very much like starling and fish, and the awkward back and forth shuffle between two people on the street is not as simple as it makes out to be.
I really do not want to give any more away for fear of spoilers, but in all truthfulness there is also no time. There is just so much beautiful description, so much detail, imagination, forethought, genius, humour, absurdity, and amazement in this book that you wouldn’t even know where to begin telling you about it all. Even if I did explain them all and gush over their awesomeness, it’d take the joy away from discovering them yourselves and admiring Jasper in your own way. Not all of them even ruin plot, it’s just simple pleasures in the BookWorld life and the story itself that is being told.
A lot of the story seems rather normal for the most part, but then you come to a point where you start to doubt everything you had accepted as true. I entered into this story blindly and accepted what Jasper told me as per usual, when he starts to mess with you there is nothing else to do except try and solve the puzzle or just accept defeat and just read on in confused acceptance until he wants you to know anything. You still have no real idea about what is going on through this book, but where confusion sat most of the time in past books, now instead becomes an air of mystery to a certain degree.
Since I have given nothing out about what actually happens in this book, I suggest you rush out and read it right away. Aside from the plot there is so much more to love about this book, and so many new things that after you reset what you know about these books you will find them a rather intriguing change. A refreshing change is what I think we’ll call this, but I look forward to getting back into the writing and point of view I know and love. What this book does well is give a great insight into how reading is actually done, and received, which changes how you read yourself. Don’t resist it, just accept it and enter this world blissfully; and by the time you finish you will feel as suspicious and guilty for getting sleepy when reading a book as I do now.