Thursday, June 4, 2015

Binge-reads: The Thursday Next Series

There one particular book that I am always waiting to recommend to you. Sure, I might recommend other stuff first—if I don’t know you very well, or if you’re patently looking for something quite different, I won’t pull out my favourite suggestion until I’m pretty sure you’re in the proper headspace to appreciate it. But I’m keeping it at the back of my mind. If you’re looking for some great speculative fiction, if you like quirky detectives or intelligent action heroes, if you loved The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, or if you just really really love books, then my friend, you are in for a treat.

The Eyre Affair  is the first installment in what is now a 7-book series by UK author Jasper Fforde. Set in an alternate 1985, the series follows Crimean War veteran turned literary detective Thursday Next, as she hunts down the master criminals who are stealing literary characters from the Classics. Thursday acts as the no-nonsense, grounded center of her wacky cohort, which includes: her Uncle Mycroft, a genius inventor who often uses Thursday as a guinea pig for his latest projects; her father, a rogue time-traveler who survived his own eradication from history; and Pickwick, her pet dodo.

While The Eyre Affair lays a lot of groundwork for future books in the series, it can be easily read and enjoyed as a standalone novel. I let more than a year pass by after reading The Eyre Affair before I tracked down and binged through books 2-5 (Lost in a Good Book, The Well of Lost Plots, Something Rotten, and First Among Sequels) in the span of three days. Books 1-4 form a definite tetralogy of their own, with 5-7 (and a planned eighth) comprising a more loosely-related second tetralogy. Aside from The Eyre Affair, only Book #6, One of our Thursdays is Missing (easily the weakest of the series) can reasonably be read on its own without knowledge of the previous books.

While the genre of the series flexes from mystery to science fiction to satire with dabs of romantic comedy, the Thursday Next books all share both a love of literature and a strong interest in dissecting and playing with the rules of narrative. These are book-lover’s books, and if you choose to dive in to this series, you are in for a long, fun ride.

If you’ve already journeyed through the weird world of Thursday’s Swindon and are looking for something similar, try Jasper Fforde’s spin-off series: the Nursery Crime books. There are currently only two titles,The Big Over Easy and The Fourth Bear , which riff on noir mystery conventions. Both can be read as standalone novels.

Number of Books: 7 (with a planned eighth)
Read in Order?: Yes!
Series Highlight: It’s hard to choose, but Something Rotten (Book 4) really brings the first tetralogy together, and lands it on just the right note.

~ by Amy P.

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