Thursday Next, the heroine of my favorite series of books by Welsh author Jasper Fforde is back in First Among Sequels (2007), the fifth in the series. The story picks up 14 years after the end of Something’s Rotten and Spec-Op’s has been shut down by the bureaucracy so Thursday and her colleagues run it themselves with a carpet store as a front. Meanwhile, reading rates are dropping precipitously (something unusual in the literature-obsessed Nextian universe) and the BookWorld is ready to take on ill-advised measures to try to combat it. As usual, the world also faces an existence-ending catastrophe and Thursday’s teenage son Friday who should be in the ChronoGuard seems to think he can save the world by sleeping in. The biggest challenge of all are two new cadets she must train for Jurisfiction and they’re both herself, or fictional variations thereof. Thursday1-4 is a violent, sex-crazed action hero version of Thursday Next from a highly inaccurate fictional version of Thursday’s life. Reacting to the real Thursday’s complaints, but overcompensating, Thursday5 is more compassionate but also a dopey, New Age stereotype.
This book starts kind of slow, and since it seems to be trying to appeal to people who’ve never read a Thursday Next book it spends a lot of time recapping. But once it gets going, it goes to very clever, imaginative, and funny lengths. I particularly like where Thursday gets stuck in a moral dilemma. The book introduces a lot of loose ends and ends with a cliffhanger. This is supposed to be the start of the second four-book saga, so I expect it to lead to to good things.