The Well of Lost Plots by Jasper Fforde
Hodder & Stoughton (UK) PPBK: ISBN 0340825960 PubDate: 07/01/03
Review by John Berlyne
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There’s a big laugh in the opening paragraph of Jasper Fforde’s new Thursday Next novel that launches you into what you just know will be a hugely entertaining read. From the off, this one will tickle you one minute and have you marvelling at its genius the next – and I don’t use the word genius lightly – Fforde is doing something here that is seriously original and damn clever – he is an ingenious genius!
Following the events of Lost In A Good Book [ADD LINK TO REVIEW], Thursday has temporarily retired into The Well of Lost Plots. Pregnant by the eradicated husband that only she can remember, she now works for Jurisfiction, the agency that polices the world of fiction – and it does need a lot of policing; nursery rhyme characters are threatening strike action; Heathcliffe is throwing his weight around in Wuthering Heights; the minotaur is rampant; the mispeling vyrus keeps escaping; and Mr Toad and Miss Havisham insist on racing each other for the land speed record. But this is all in a day’s work for Thursday Next and as well as these matters she must also deal with two further threats – the first is personal to her and concerns the events of the previous novel, here carried over quite beautifully by Fforde. The second revolves around the introduction of Ultraword™ - a new system devised by the Council of Genres which dictates the way books are perceived by readers - otherwise known as Imagino Transference technologies. Earlier versions such as Book V1 introduced the page concept hundreds of years ago. V1.1 upgraded the system to include illustrations and was accompanied by PageNumber™ and SpineTitle™ technologies – etc. etc. Ultraword™ will move readers on to a whole new reading experience, but is it possible the system is flawed? Thursday must find out before the world of books is changed forever.
Though The Well Of Lost Plots concentrates less on the Nextian universe – i.e. the alternative Britain conjured by Fforde in The Eyre Affair and Lost In A Good Book, - and more on the abstract ideas of what fiction is and how it works, I think this is the best of his novels so far. This, of course, in no way denigrates the two previous novels, but this new one is really special.
The Well Of Lost Plots is peppered with ideas that are breathtakingly clever and Fforde, who has such fun with his concepts, fills this novel – and his previous ones for that matter – with so many glorious inventions that you’d be hard put not to love what he’s done here. He treats fiction as if it were a living, breathing entity and this imbues his own fiction with a believable, if completely madcap, life-force. The Well Of Lost Plots literally fizzes with eccentric imaginings and, as well as merely expounding these, Fforde is able to demonstrate them too. The ideas live in and via the text and the effect on the reader is that we can only marvel at this writer, who can play with such toys and yet never let them overwhelm his work. Within all this originality and invention lies the fact that Fforde totally understands the form in which he chooses to tell his stories. Being so at home, he is able to both satirise and idolise the form whilst at the same time create moments of great tenderness, humour and even horror. All of his novels are a tremendous achievement and The Well Of Lost Plots is a real belter! More than just highly recommended, Fforde’s work is classed as “Must Read”!