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    Review of FIRST AMONG SEQUELS by Jasper Fforde (see his website)


    Viking, July 2007

    Thursday Next has settled down, had children (perhaps 2.7 children), and is working as a carpet installer--except she's really undercover, still working in Bookworld, trying to keep fiction on track. Unfortunately, the fantasy world of Thursday Next suffers from the same problems our own world does--rapidly declining reading. And the people of Bookworld are increasingly nervous. If readership falls low enough, characters will try desperately to escape into one of the few books that is being read--causing no end of problems. Meanwhile, Thursday's son, Friday, continues to refuse to have any part of his fated future--becoming chairman of the company that manages time. And time is fast ticking down--with the possibility of the end of the universe in the cards.

    Thursday is saddled with two cadets--both fictional versions of herself. One of these, Thursday5, is kind, organic, and insipid. She wouldn't last a minute in jurisfiction. The other, Thursday1-4, is tough, sexy, and amoral. She's also managed to offend everyone. Meanwhile, someone is attempting to kill the real Thursday and the ever-evil Goliath Corporation seems to have turned over a new leaf, opening their doors to Thursday and trying to help her.

    Author Jasper Fforde (see more reviews of novels by Fforde) continues his Thursday Next series with a book set years after the earlier books in the series with a fifty-something Thursday inflicted with a hairy and unshowering 16-year-old son, a math-genius daughter and then there's daughter Jenny--the one child not given a day-of-the-week name (but where is Jenny, anyway). As Thursday takes her cadets through the paces, we get to see more of the plumbing that keeps the world of fiction in operation. Technicians practice just-in-time delivery of the small number of pianos available for all of fiction, Jane Austen's novels are renovated, Jimminy Cricket and his stunt-cricket share slow moments while Pinochio's narrative slows and the puppet sleeps.

    In the second half of the novel, things pick up dramatically, with Thursday forced to confront herself, trapped on Moral Dilemma, uncovers the secret to Shrodinger's Saturday Night Fever, and learning the secret to Goliath's apparent rehabilitation. Despite some extremely funny moments, FIRST AMONG SEQUELS has a bit of a depressing feel to it--perhaps motivated by the very real decline in reading that we face in our own universe--and that is reflected in the fictional alternate universe of Thursday Next. The story seemed to take too long to get started and Fforde didn't integrate his weird world as well into the story. Perhaps the biggest problem, though, was the lack of a clear antagonist. Thursday Next is at her best as she confronts evil schemers attempting to take over the world of fiction--or to take over the real world from the world of fiction. Facing nothing worse than a partial version of herself, Next's problems just don't seem overwhelming.

    Any THURSDAY NEXT book is a cause for celebration and worth the read. FIRST AMONG SEQUELS doesn't quite reach the peaks reached by the earlier novels in this series, but it's still an enjoyable treat.

    Three Stars

    Reviewed 8/19/07

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