Tag Archives: Jasper Fforde

The Big Over Easy

Author: Jasper Ffordethe big over easy

Nursery Crimes Series, vol. 1

My rating: 4.5 of 5

In a world where detective work is valued as much for its entertainment value as for the actual societal benefit of bringing criminals to justice, detective sergeant Mary Mary dreams of becoming Official Sidekick to a recognized, published detective. Instead, her transfer to the Reading branch lands her in what seems to be a career dead end, working under Detective Inspector Jack Spratt in the Nursery Crime Division. But things pick up a bit when the death of Humpty Dumpty–originally believed to be accident or suicide–is discovered to have been a murder. And not just any murder, but one steeped in schemes, plots, and old loves lost. This will be a case that will try DS Mary’s loyalty and skills to the max, but it might just be the case that will win her loyalty for her sometimes bumbling superior as well. And you never know, it might even get them published.

Yet again, in The Big Over Easy, Jasper Fforde has crafted a strange and unpredictable world . . . one oddly reminiscent of our own. I love it! It’s been ages since I’ve enjoyed a detective story as much as I did this one. As I said, the alternate universe he presents is unique, quirky, and interesting–full of mysteries and oddities at every turn–and yet is similar enough to reality to bring poignant perspectives on our own lives. I love the multitudinous (and sometimes subtle) allusions to nursery rhymes and fairy tales that are mixed throughout the story, as well as the tongue-in-cheek way they are used. The plot itself is solid and surprising, bringing in a number of unexpected elements . . . and also pleasantly intermixing the detectives’ own personal lives. The characters themselves are well written, although again, full of that quirky, tongue-in-cheek style–some more than others. Jack and Mary, at least, are more normal, credible individuals–and because of that, more full of real individuality and character, which is nice. I would definitely recommend The Big Over Easy to those who like detective stories (as long as it doesn’t have to be too particularly realistic) and to those who enjoy a good romp in fantasy–or in Fforde’s quirky worlds, at least. It was a very good story.

Advertisements

4 Comments

Filed under Book Review

The Eye of Zoltar

eye of zoltarAuthor: Jasper Fforde

The Chronicles of Kazam, vol. 3

My rating: 5 of 5

As usual, Jennifer Strange has her work cut out for her. As though being the under-age leader of a successful guild of magic-workers (all older than herself) weren’t enough, now she’s got a flesh-eating monster that they accidentally set loose on the town to catch. And one of her best workers managed to get herself held for ransom in the neighboring kingdom–a kingdom known for being intentionally dangerous. Oh, and she’s got a bratty princess to babysit, AND the most powerful wizard of the past few centuries (he’s lived that long) is threatening war against Kazam unless she finds a mystic jewel that may or may not exist! Time to declare a quest, for sure. Why is life never simple?

Ever since I first discovered Fforde’s Chronicles of Kazam, I have consistently been delighted beyond all possible expectations, and I must say that in The Eye of Zoltar he outdid himself. The combination of humor, quirk, and thrilling adventure is balanced perfectly, making this a quest tale with something for everyone. Added to that, you have all the fun and amusing details and satire that so characterize Fforde’s writing, and the Chronicles in particular. The characters as well  make this a tale to remember, and even the ones who start out being annoying rather grow on you. (And then you’ve got the characters who start out annoying, grow ever more annoying, and eventually get their just desserts to universal cheers.) Because (spoilers) a large portion of this volume takes place out of country, a number of the characters from the previous volumes don’t show up much–I really missed Tiger’s constant presence, for instance. And I will warn that this volume is kind of dark–not that the previous volumes were all sunshine and rainbows, but you know. . . . In spite of that, I think The Eye of Zoltar is an excellent fantasy, and I would highly recommend it. And hey, it comes with a promise of a follow-up volume which is bound to be more cheerful, right?

Leave a comment

Filed under Book Review

Shades of Grey

Author: Jasper Fforde

Eddie Russett sees red. Actually, that’s the only color he can see, placing him relatively low in the ranks of the colortocracy. Not that he questions his lot in life much . . . inquisitiveness is generally discouraged, just as living according to the Rules is, well, highly encouraged. When Eddie does start getting ideas that vary from the approved norm, he manages to get himself shipped to the outskirts of civilization on a chair census as punishment. What he finds there, and who he meets there, will change his view of the world he lives in radically–whether he’s ready to find out or not.

As I’ve stated before, I really enjoy Jasper Fforde’s writing quite a bit. Having said that, I must say that Shades of Grey is like nothing of his that I’ve ever read before. It evokes the idea of a modern 1984 or Brave New World, really. The story is full of allusions, commentary, and warnings about present-day issues, presented in the form of an engaging story. Eddie’s personality is interesting, and the world he lives in is strange and thought-provoking. Fforde unfolds his world captivatingly, throwing a mass of presumptions at the reader in the beginning, then gradually unfolding the mystery as he goes–it’s rather maddening at times, but at the same time, it works. Shades of Grey made me angry, horrified, and teary in a good way, and it made my brain think along some very atypical paths–I would recommend this for those who enjoy thought-provoking stories and who aren’t turned off by some sociopolitical commentary.

2 Comments

Filed under Book Review

The Eyre Affair

Author: Jasper Fforde

Thursday Next Series, vol. 1

Between her time on the police force in Swindon, her service in the war in Crimea, and more recently her job in Spec-Ops 27–the literary detectives–Thursday Next has seen her share of action and unusual happenings. Regardless, current events might be too much even for this cool, collected operative. When the theft of priceless original manuscripts–with no sign of the crime save a bit of rippled glass on the case–seems to tie in to the manhunt for an extremely dangerous criminal–dangerous in ways almost no one even knows–Thursday naturally gets dragged into the mess. And it’s a good thing for the literary world that she does; she might be one of the only people out there with the combination of experience and nerve to be able to pull off the save necessary to preserve the great books of the world.

After reading First Among Sequels, I naturally had to go back to the beginning of the story to see what happened before. Honestly, The Eyre Affair was a bit of a letdown approaching it in that manner–the world, the characters, and Fforde’s own quirky writing style are so much more developed in First Among Sequels. It’s understandable, since The Eyre Affair was his first novel; naturally, he’s still figuring out his writing style. Approaching this book from a less biased perspective, it really is quite good. It takes your basic police/detective novel and gives it some extremely interesting spins–like adding in time-travel, Thursday’s uncle Monty’s weird inventions, murder of characters from within books, bringing dodos and Neanderthals back to earth through cloning, and experiencing a poem from the inside. Lots of literary fun–in a world where literature is apparently considered extremely important. Thursday herself is a strong character, even at this point in her story, and the balance of action and character development is well done. Really, the story reminds me of Elizabeth Peters’ earlier books–a good solid detective novel with strong characters and a nice touch of originality. While not his best novel, I would say The Eyre Affair is a must-read for any Jasper Fforde fan, and I would recommend it for those who enjoy a good detective novel as well.

2 Comments

Filed under Book Review

Thursday Next: First Among Sequels

Author: Jasper Fforde

Thursday Next Series, vol. 5

At first glance, Thursday Next appears to be your average working wife and mother of three. Once you go past the cover of her nice little job installing carpet (has she ever actually installed carpet?) however, you find a much different story. Ms. Next is actually a Jurisfiction agent, policing the world of books and making sure that stories run as they’re supposed to. Which is a lot more complicated than it sounds, since the Book World is an actual world . . . that operates with its own completely unique and confusing set of rules. And if just keeping Story in order weren’t enough, Thursday is tasked to train up her fictional other self Thursday5 for Jurisfiction work, keep the governing body of the Book World (the Council of Genres) from doing something stupid like going to war or re-writing the classics as a reality show, convince her teenage son Friday to join the Chrono Guard and figure out time travel before time ends . . . oh, and keep the whole Jurisfiction thing a secret from her husband. Wait, I think I forgot something. . . .

I enjoyed Thursday Next: First Among Sequels very much–it’s a book-lover’s book to be sure! Of course, Jasper Fforde is a wonderful author, period. Even though I accidentally jumped into the series in volume 5, it wasn’t too particularly difficult to jump into the flow and figure out what’s happening. And there is a lot happening! The story is a mix-up of detective/police novel, literary fantasy/sci-fi, time-travel paradox, and fun family story, and Fforde pulls off the mix brilliantly–somehow without being absurdly confusing. I’ve really never read anything like it. The literary allusions, grammar humor, and general bookishness are very endearing–and incredibly funny at times. Thursday herself is a wonderful character: smart, caring, tough, insightful, and surprising. You should read First Among Sequels; I really can’t see anyone who loves books regretting diving into this one.

1 Comment

Filed under Book Review

The Song of the Quarkbeast

song of the quarkbeastAuthor: Jasper Fforde

The Chronicles of Kazam, vol. 2

My rating: 5 of 5

Her dragonslaying days over, Jennifer Strange has returned to her primary job: managing all the magic workers at Kazam in the absence of the owner, the Great Zambini. Her life is full of typical days of handling high-maintenance have-beens and their egos–and the mountains of paperwork that come with each feat of magic, however minor, that they perform. That is, until Kazam’s rival magic-working company, iMagic, issues a royally-backed challenge . . . one that they will stop at nothing to win.

I very much enjoyed The Song of the Quarkbeast. The plot is solid and character driven, with lots of flavor–a good mix of fantasy, suspense, and mystery with a nice splash of romance, humor, and funkiness. I love the world with all of its quirky parodies of our own. And the characters . . . Jennifer, of course, is wonderful–competent, mature, stubborn, and mildly sarcastic. Lady Mawgon, who you have to love to hate . . . but who oddly grows on you. I think Tiger’s my favorite, though, impertinent brat that he is. In any case, read The Last Dragonslayer first, then read The Song of the Quarkbeast. It will be well worth your time.

Leave a comment

Filed under Book Review

The Last Dragonslayer

the last dragonslayerAuthor: Jasper Fforde

The Chronicles of Kazam, vol. 1

My rating: 5 of 5

(Almost) 16-year-old Jennifer Strange finds herself with her hands quite full after her boss, the (once) Great Zambini, disappears, leaving her in charge of a collection of finicky, easily-offended, pretentious, and slightly-shabby magic users of various sorts. Did I mention that she has no way out of this situation, since the disappeared Zambini is the only one who can sign off on her indenture papers? Fortunately her new assistant, Tiger, seems bright and level-headed enough to be a big help . . . a help much needed when work on the street arises that Jennifer Strange is fated to slay the last dragon in the Ununited Kingdoms–next Sunday!

I really enjoyed this quirky, rambling fantasy. The Last Dragonslayer feels something like “Garrison Keillor meets Diana Wynne Jones”–unusual but fun. The characters are an intriguing bunch: some not so likeable, many quite surprising. I particularly liked the Quarkbeast (Jennifer’s unusual pet) and Tiger (the new assistant). The plot elements in The Last Dragonslayer are off-beat, but crafted to make rather a classic sort of fantasy. The combination works very well. Check it out!

1 Comment

Filed under Book Review