Something Rotten by Jasper Fforde

Something Rotten by Jasper Fforde

Reviewed by L.D.Y.

Hardcover (available in trade), 389 pages, 2004

Rating: 9/10

Reason for Reading: I love Fforde, and if reading his Thursday Next stories is as close as I can come to living inside a book, I will be one content bookworm.

Synopsis: Thursday Next is a woman with the rather strange capability of being able to jump into books and interact with the characters, but after living in a peaceful book for a few years in order to give birth to her now-toddler son Friday, she decides it’s time to rejoin the real world. Her husband, Landen, has been eradicated and officially never existed anywhere but in Thursday’s mind, and she’s decided it’s time to go up against the Goliath Corporation to demand he be allowed back into existence. She’s also got to stop the book-burning Yorrick Kaine from becoming dictator to ensure the world doesn’t come to an end, and her time-traveling father tells her the only way to prevent this is…for her town to win a croquet tournament. Don’t ask. Just prepare yourself for a wild ride.

Why you should read this book: You’ll be in literary-heaven if you’re a bibliophile with a fondness for clever word play and tongue-in-cheek comedy. Thursday is a spirited character that doesn’t take crap from anyone and will do anything to protect her family and her beloved books. And could life be any more fun than jumping into books and bringing fictional characters to the real world with you? After watching Thursday’s adventures, it seems doubtful. Much more action-packed than the previous book in the series, Well of Lost Plots, Something Rotten successfully carries numerous plot threads without becoming convoluted before bringing the story to a satisfying ending. A must if you love books and want a serious dose of fun. It sounds a bit nutty in summarized form, but somehow, it totally works.

Why you should avoid this book: As with Fforde’s other books, you’ll get the most enjoyment out of them if you’ve read a wide variety of books, largely classics, in your life (or have at least picked up the gist of them over the years). A small complaint: doesn’t it seem a bit off that in such a literary-themed novel, the outcome of the world rests on a sports game?

Opening paragraph:

The Minotaur had been causing trouble far in excess of his literary importance – first by escaping from the fantasy-genre prison book Sword of the Zenobians, then by leading us on a merry chase across most of fiction and thwarting all attempts to recapture him. The mythological half-man, half-bull son of Queen Pasiphaë of Crete had been sighted within Riders of the Purple Sage only a month after his escape. We were still keen on taking him alive at this point, so we had darted him with a small dose of slapstick. Theoretically, we needed only to track outbursts of custard-pie-in-the-face routines and walking-into-lamppost gags within fiction to lead us to the cannibalistic man-beast. It was an experimental idea and, sadly, also a dismal failure. Aside from Lafeu’s celebrated mention of custard in All’s Well That Ends Well and the ludicrous four-wheeled-chaise sequence in Pickwick Papers, little was noticed. The slapstick either hadn’t been strong enough or had been diluted by the BookWorld’s natural disinclination to visual jokes.

Fabulous quotes:

‘You see?’ I said to Hamlet as we walked away.
‘This is exactly what I mean. A lot happens in the real world for no good reason. If this were fiction, this little incident would have relevance thirty or so chapters from now; as it is it means nothing – after all, not every incident in life has a meaning.’
‘Tell that to the scholars who study me,’ Hamlet snorted disdainfully, then thought for a moment before adding, ‘If the real world were a book, it would never find a publisher. Overlong, detailed to the point of distraction – and ultimately, without a major resolution.’

‘Cut the waffle,’ said Spike. ‘What’s going on?’
Parks’s shoulders slumped, and he took off his dark glasses. ‘We’ve lost the President.’
My heart missed a beat. This was bad news. Really bad news. The way I saw it, the President wasn’t due to die until next Monday, after Kaine and Goliath had been neutered. Formby’s going missing or dying early allowed Kaine to gain power and start World War III a week before he was meant to – and that was certainly not in the game plan.

Also recommended: Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett; Ella Minnow Pea by Mark Dunn; Wonder Boys by Michael Chabon; The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman.

Also by this author: The Eyre Affair; Lost in a Good Book; The Well of Lost Plots; First Among Sequels; The Big Over Easy; The Fourth Bear.

Author’s website:

Fun tidbit: Could you hack it as a Spec-Ops 27 agent (literary cop)? Find out here. Heck, block off a few hours and spend them at Fforde’s website, because it’s definitely one of the best book-themed sites out there.

© Lisa Yanaky 2003-2007

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