It always takes me a while to get into a Thursday Next novel because the setting is so odd. It’s a world, well, a couple of different, overlapping worlds actually, in which the line between fiction and reality is much blurrier than it is in our mundane world. If you wish to know more about these, read the earlier Thursday Next books. Now, on with our review.
This book is set in Fforde’s alternate England. It is not as strange as the book world setting, but even here fiction affects reality in a very, well, real way. Opinion and belief can change what happens and even what exists. For example, in this book, belief that an asteroid will impact Earth and cause human extinction changes the probability that it will occur. The more people that think it will happen, the more likely it is that it really will. When children create imaginary friends, those friends actually have a separate existence. When people believe in a vengeful god, it reveals itself and begins smiting.
This happens in our world too, of course. Fiction can change reality here, but it does so far more subtly. In Fforde’s alternate version, the effects are direct, obvious, and calculable.
The unique settings of Fforde’s books especially appeal to me. It makes them different. It takes a little more mental gymnastics to bend my mind around a Thursday Next story than it does with most others, and a good mental stretch always feels great.
As with the previous Thursday Next novels, this one includes literary references, some of which I’m sure I missed. These are like special gifts to the bibliophiles who read his books, and from what I’ve seen in other reviews, they are duly appreciative.
As for the plot, well, it sort of has one. It’s about Thursday and what she does Next (sorry – lame pun). Actually, this book is more of a series of threads. There is the mystery of the alternate Thursdays (Not every other Thursday — fake Thursdays that sometimes replace her.) There is the underlying question of the Dark Reading Matter and what it is. There is the lingering mind worm that makes Thursday believe she has daughter she doesn’t actually have. There is the suspense surrounding a scheduled God smiting and the question of whether or not Thursday’s daughter can get the smite shield working in time. There is the thread about the evil Goliath Corporation and its intentions. And then there is the human story of Thursday getting old and feeble and her kids growing up and leading their own lives. I suspect the story takes this form because it is intended primarily as a way of setting up the next Next novel. It hangs together well enough on it’s own, though.
All in all, it’s an enjoyable read. If you are a Thursday Next fan, this one is a must. It ties up some loose ends, sets up some new characters, and foreshadows yet another odd setting — The Dark Reading Matter.