I love Jasper Fforde. I’ve loved him since the first time I picked up the first Thursday Next book, The Eyre Affair. His wordplay, his bizarre parallel world, his (and his characters’) obsession with the hidden lives of literary characters … honestly, what’s not to like?
At the end of the fourth Thursday Next book, Something Rotten, I felt Fforde had written a good conclusion to the Thursday stories and I was ready to move along with him to his next series, the Nursery Crime books. But it turns out Fforde wasn’t finished with his literary-detective heroine Thursday. In interviews he’s said that he viewed the first four books as a complete unit — Volume One of the Thursday Next saga — and with First Among Sequels, he’s now released the first in a new four-book series about the further adventures of Thursday.
Our heroine is now fifty-two years old, happily married to her true love Landen Park-Laine, who she rescued from retroactive non-existence in the first books. She is the mother of anywhere from two to three children, one of whom, her eldest son Friday, is having a difficult passage through adolescence. Officially, Thursday has given up literary sleuthing, but in reality she’s carrying on her adventures in the BookWorld undercover — her cover being a carpet-laying business.
If you already love Fforde, you may find (as Jason and I did) that this book is a little slow to start — Fforde has a lot of plot threads to set up, which he’s obviously going to weave into the next few stories. But it will eventually draw you in as securely as the others did, and you’ll be glad Thursday’s back for another round of adventures. If you’re new to Jasper Fforde, but you think the idea of a literary detective travelling into the world of books sounds intriguing — honestly, you’re better off to go right back to The Eyre Affair and start there, because you’ll be hopelessly confused if you jump in here.
In First Among Sequels, Thursday and her family and friends manage to solve many of the problems associated with time-travel, including the undiagnosed scourge that is causing (in her world, as in ours) the noxious spread of Reality TV. (In Thursday’s world, the poison has spread to books — Pride and Prejudice is rewritten as a “Reality Book” called The Bennets, where readers vote one member of the Bennett family out of the book each week till a winner is left). Other plot threads are left unresolved — such as the existence of a serial killer in the BookWorld (someone’s murdering characters who — you guessed it — appear in series. Sherlock Holmes appears to be the first victim). Readers can rest assured that there’ll be plenty of wacky literary mayhem left to ensue in the next three books.