The Short Version: A little bruised and battered after the assassination attempt, Thursday Next (the real one) is finding the world moving a bit faster than she can manage. Her genius daughter is also a typical teen girl, her son’s promising career in the ChronoGuard has become a would-have-been (as has the ChronoGuard), Goliath is sending temporary Thursday clones after her, and there’s still the issue of Aornis Hades’ mindworm…
The Review: Oh thank god the real Thursday is back. One of Our Thursdays is Missing was an interesting diversion and (I’m thinking) somewhat of an anomaly in the series overall – but no one can compare with our girl Thursday. The real one, that is – even though Fforde plays a nice game with readers who said they’d missed the “real” Thursday in the last book by introducing the Day Players, who are short-term clones that operate at super-human levels. When Thursday (her consciousness downloaded to the Day Player) comes onto Landen in the store… it was a moment of having the young Thursday, the nearly-superhuman-herself Thursday, back. But age catches up with all of us: Thursday is over 50 now. Might be time to slow down, right?
But the world won’t let her, it seems. There are actually quite a lot of poignant meditations on aging here, although they’re cleverly concealed by the humor and madcap plotting. We get to see Thursday the human being – whether sharing a moment with Landen (the man she still loves) or interacting with her kids (who both love and are embarrassed by her) or even coming into her role as elder stateswoman – and it’s all rather lovely.
I’m hopefully pointing out that there’s a lot of humor too, though. As usual with Fforde, you’re going to be laughing out loud in public. It’s going to happen – as you’re reading on the train or in a coffee shop or secretly at your desk at work. It’s not just the outright humor, though – it’s his ability to work in jokes that might hit you on a secondary or even tertiary level, where your brain takes just that extra second to realize what he’s done and then you’re laughing your ass off even harder for the fact that he did it with a straight face.
The plot itself is quite complex, when you start thinking about it, although it’s mostly complex because there are just so many things going on. We’ve got downtown Swindon being smited (smitten? Hit by straight-up Wrath of God, how’s that?) on Friday, which also happens to be the day Friday is going to shoot someone (the names can be confusing if this is your first time ’round). Goliath is up to its usual tricks and good ol’ Jack Schitt is there to go toe-to-toe with Thursday through it all. Plus, Thursday is now running the library, which is a pretty intense job. In fact, if you take nothing else away from the series, you have to appreciate how awesome the alternate universe Fforde has created continues to be: librarians have a license to kill, dodos are available via a home-cloning kit, and everything just seems… cooler. Sure, there are a lot of new dangerous crazy things and it’s a universe made for fiction… but man I wish it was real. Fforde even makes a perfect shot at those who believe homosexuality to be a sin – he takes a shot at most fundamentalist religious talk, actually. It’s all just a delight.
Rating: 5 out of 5. Look, as happens with these truly exceptional series… there’s not a lot that I can say that’ll bend your ear one way or another if you’re not already on-board. Do I think that everyone who likes books should read The Eyre Affair? Yes. You’d be lost if you picked up The Woman Who Died A Lot because of its gorgeous Thomas Allen cover and thought “this looks fun!” – but for the long-time fan, it’s setting up what’ll hopefully be a smashing finale. Now, let’s just hope it doesn’t take too long for Jasper to write it (although judging by his current schedule… we may have a new President here in the States before we see that book on our shelves).