I've lately been reading Jasper Fforde's Thursday Next series. The books are first-rate. I only call it a guilty pleasure because I don't typically read fantasy or science fiction. Nothing wrong with those genres, I just never got into them. Yet Fforde's stories are terrific, demonstrating a stunning grasp of classical literature, mixed in with more commercial material, a ribald sense of humor, precisely choreographed action scenes and clue-parceling and foreshadowing right up there with Dame Christie. Where else can you read about fighting your way through Wuthering Heights, or nearly being murdered by a sadistic master criminal in the pages of Jane Eyre, book jumping into Oliver Twist, partnering with the cunning and race car-driving Miss Havisham in her rotting wedding dress, riding the waves of time with the ChronoGuard or mixing it up with a minoraur on the run? Yet aside from the masterful plotting, the characters rule these stories. And Thursday Next is brilliantly conceived; a woman we all root for. Yet she's not alone. Aside from the fictional characters which Fforde brings to full-color life, we have the rest of the Next clan, Mom, Gran, Mycroft, brother Joffy, the nameless time-changing colonel dad, a whole host of fascinating SpecOps personnel and some of the most diabolical villains this side of Bram Stoker and Conan Doyle.
The books are addictive, pulse pounding and laugh-out-loud funny. The concept is totally from left field, and yet Fforde has the talent to make you buy every word of it. And as an added bonus, you get a crash course in the classics, free of charge.
Start with the first in the series, The Eyre Affair, then Lost in a Good Book, The Well of Lost Plots (in which Fforde creates a breathtakingly detailed world underneath the realm of books, both published and not), and then move on to the one I'm currently reading, Something Rotten. I've heard Fforde's work described as Harry Potter for adults. I would just describe them as wondeful reading.
Baldacci's most recent book is Simple Genius.
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