Book Review: Jasper Fforde’s The Well of Lost Plots

Posted October 24, 2017 by Kathy Davie in Book Reviews

I received this book for free from the library in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Book Review: Jasper Fforde’s The Well of Lost Plots

The Well of Lost Plots


by

Jasper Fforde


arcanepunk fantasy, crime mystery in Paperback edition that was published by Penguin on August 3, 2004 and has 388 pages.

Explore it on Goodreads or Amazon.
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Other books by this author which I have reviewed include One of Our Thursdays is Missing, The Big Over Easy, The Fourth Bear, Something Rotten

Third in the Thursday Next arcanepunk fantasy/crime mystery series and revolving around an agent for Jurisfiction.

In 2004, The Well of Lost Plots won the Bollinger Everyman Wodehouse Prize for Comic Fiction.

You absolutely, positively MUST start at the beginning of the series or you will be so incredibly lost. I think it’s the Cheshire Cat’s doing.

My Take

When I say this will entertain you literally, I actually mean it will crack up those of you into books.

“The beauty of the system is that authors never suspect a thing — they think they do all the work.”

How can you not love a book world, where you can ignore the “mundanities that we conduct in the real world [that] get in the way of narrative flow”? Yeah…that everyday stuff that usually doesn’t show up in a book unless it’s necessary to the scene. You know, your car doesn’t run out of gas, vacuum cleaner bags are always the right size, there are always light bulbs in the closet. Some characters have no idea what breakfast looks like! I imagine one where the laundry is always done, the house is clean, and someone cooks all those meals and cleans up afterwards. Yeah…BookWorld.

The series conflict is our Thursday on the run from the Goliath Corporation. In The Well of Lost Plots, with Landon erased, she wants the pregnancy to go smoothly, and I gotta tell ya, it’s definitely surreal interacting with book characters from the inside. I never knew how well each one knew their own foibles. Huh.

They’re just as, sort of, human as the rest of us. Hoping to keep their jobs, wondering about the world outside their own, struggling with the desire for love or power or the role an author has written them into all mixed in with Thursday’s own particular problems with passing the Jurisfiction text (and surviving her latest marriage *eek*), holding up her end as a substitute character, counseling her very own pair of Generics roommates on romance and life — not to mention sarcasm and subtext *ROFLMAO*, and struggling not to forget…who was that I was supposed to remember??

More conflicts include the characters within Caversham Heights bemoaning their likely fate of being broken up. And they have the oddest questions to ask about RealWorld. Lucky for them that Thursday is well-read and well-up on what it takes to become popular. As a book, that is. Then there’s the characters in Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights and the terrifying events in Shadow the Sheepdog!

A most useful minor conflict is the strike by nursery rhyme characters which will lead to to da-da-dahhhhNursery Crimes, another pip. It was actually Randolph and Lola’s plans that gave Thursday the idea.

Oh, no!! At last, at last we discover why the Brits use a “u” in favor, neighbor, harbor, and the like. Hmph, since when do they get first choice??! For even more brilliance, read what Fforde has to say about the history of book operating systems. It’s simply too, too funny. Then when Fforde goes on to explain how UltraWord™ improves reading, well…it certainly sounds, um, interesting.

Thursday is the pivot around which it all revolves, so it makes sense that Fforde uses first-person protagonist point-of-view. But don’t let that prevent you from enjoying the authentic-sounding dialogue between Benedict and Beatrice, lol.

I won’t deny that Fforde’s Thursday Next series takes an engaged mind to read, and it is so full of humor that how can you not read it!??

The Story

Thursday needs a place to hole up, and where better than to use the Character Exchange Program and hide out in Caversham Heights, which almost nobody reads. It’s perfect. No one will ever find her.

But there’s a double agent in Jurisfiction with a traitorous agenda that could destroy BookWorld.

The Characters

Literary Detective Thursday Next is SpecOps-27 in Swindon and pregnant with Landon’s child. (They got married two months ago.) Pickwick is her dodo. Granny Next is 108, and she has led quite the, um, remarkable life. She was a man once. For twenty-four hours. Thought it was pretty weird.

May 1973, Crimean War
Thursday was a corporal in the Third Wessex Tank Light Armored Brigade under Major Phelps. Anton Next had been Thursday’s brother, killed in the Crimean War in 1973. Landon Parke-Laine had been an officer. Sergeant Tozer survived the Charge.

A crime thriller, Caversham Heights is…
…where Thursday exchanges with Detective Sergeant Mary Jones, the foil to DCI Jack Spratt, the story’s detective. Mary reminds Thursday that the love interest between her character and DC Baker is UNrequited. Arnold is the loser Mary is trying to quell. TSI-1404912-A and TSI-1404912-C (and no, I haven’t a clue which is which) will be Thursday’s Generics roommates aboard Mary’s flying boat residence. Eventually ibb becomes Lola and obb becomes Randolph. Both are attending the Generic College for basic character training where Dr. Fnorp is one of their instructors. The Toad is the book’s newsletter. DCI Briggs is the boss; Officer Tibbit; Dr. Singh is the pathologist who has no idea what she’s doing; Unnamed Police Officers No. 1 and 2; Mickey Finn is an ex-boxer who dabbles in drugs on the side; Angel DeFablio is a crime boss; Sonny DeFablio is his nephew; and, Agatha Diesel is Spratt’s bit on the side. Stickly-Prickly and Slow-Solid are complaining about the Painted Jaguar.

Pssst, this book is so bad that it’s up for demolition.

The Great Library

All published fiction is stored here on its twenty-six floors — one for each letter of the alphabet. The Cat, Formerly Known as Cheshire, is the librarian in BookWorld. Mr. Wemmick’s Stores carry an almost unlimited inventory for Jurisfiction agents.

The Well of Lost Plots is…
…another twenty-six floors beneath the Great Library where books are constructed, honed, and polished. Not all of them make it. Think of it as something of a shopping mall-flea market with people selling bespoke plot devices (Alfred Garcia), backstories (Mr. Grnksghty), action sequences, etc. On the twenty-sixth floor, you’ll find the TextSea, which is filled with words — the DNA of story. Generics are characters created to populate future books; they’re simply a human canvas. Big Martin is a seriously scary cat, a Book Fiend who hates cashews. Llyster Starboard is a holesmith. Nathan Snudd is a plotsmith. The Slaughtered Lamb is a pub.

The Council of Genres is…
…the ruling council of BookWorld made up of a representative from every genre, and they decide the conventions of storytelling. Ultra World™ is the latest book operating system that is to be implemented. Senator Jobsworth is on the Council.

The Great Panjandrum is the architect of the Great Library and controls everything, but no one has ever seen him…or her. Mr. Price is a stonemason. Kenneth is one of the Solomons who sit in judgment. Ginger Hebblethwaite presented the award for the Most Implausible Premise in an SF Novel.

Text Grand Central monitors…
…books in the Great Library and passes any textual problems to Jurisfiction. Xavier Libris is the WordMaster in charge of UltraWord™. The storycode engine is how books are throughput to readers in the Outland. Dr. Howard runs the Meteorological Department, which tracks patterns in textual anomalies.

Jurisfiction is…
…the policing agency INSIDE the BookWorld. Miss (Estella) Havisham (of Great Expectations) is an agent, Thursday’s mentor, and a speed demon. The Bellman is the head of Jurisfiction which is headquartered at Norland Park (Sense and Sensibility). The TravelBook contains most of the tips and equipment needed to travel inside BookWorld. Most of its agents are characters within books and some are Outlanders, such as Harris Tweed. Mrs. Tiggy-winkle is an agent with children’s fiction, runs the Hedgepigs Society, and does the washing. Commander Trafford Bradshaw is the star of thirty-four adventure stories, but has been out of print since the 1930s. Since then he’s been the Bellman and has mapped his way into countless books. His wife, Melanie, is a gorilla. Emperor Zhark is an apprentice agent like Thursday. Vernham Deane is the resident cad and philanderer in Daphne Farquitt’s The Squire of High Potternews. Gully Foyle polices Science Fiction, Sir John Falstaff, King Pellinore, Ichabod Crane, Beatrice and Benedict of Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing, the Red Queen, and Lady Cavendish. And Godot, they’re always waiting for Godot. The army of Mrs. Danvers comes in handy when a lot of bodies are needed. Uriah Hope is a rogue who encounters a vyrus. More rogue agents include Orlick and Legree.

Akrid Snell and David “Pinky” Perkins are the detective pair in the Perkins and Snell series. Snell also works as a lawyer for Jurisfiction and is to represent Thursday on a charge of Fiction Infraction after events in The Eyre Affair, 1. Perkins is currently in charge of the grammasite research facility. Mathias, a large chestnut horse, a Houyhnhnm from Gulliver’s Travels, is assisting with the research. (Mathias’ partner and love is at Oxford studying political science.) The Minotaur is kind of a rescue after mischievous Generics took him out of a copy of Graves’ The Greek Myths.

The Gryphon will represent Miss Next instead. Matthew Hopkins is the prosecutor; the King (Rupert) and Queen of Hearts are the judges (oh woe, *she says laughing*). The White Rabbit appears to be the bailiff. Witnesses include Mrs. Fairfax, the housekeeper at Thornfield Hall in Jane Eyre as well as Grace Poole, Blanche Ingram, St. John Rivers, and Mr. Rochester. The jury?? includes Geoffrey the dormouse and Bill the lizard.

JurisTech (formally known as Jurisfiction Technological Division) does the R&D for gadgets deemed outside the laws of physics. Marianne Dashwood solicits contraband from Thursday. Professor Plum will examine the defective Eject-O-Hat; he’s marrying Miss Scarlet from records.

SpecOps is…
…the agency responsible for policing areas considered more specialized.

The ChronoGuard are…
…the elite of SpecOps. They time travel to ensure the books stay pristine. Lavoisier is a rogue agent working for Goliath. He eradicated Landon to blackmail Thursday in Lost in a Good Book, 2.

The Character Exchange Program is…
…a sort of vacation option for characters who get tired of doing the same thing day-in and day-out. It cuts down on the PageRunners, i.e., characters escaping from their books. Wyatt is the inbook exchange liaison officer.

Orals are…
…nursery rhyme characters who include Humpty-Dumpty, Bo-peep, Solomon Grundy, and so many more.

The characters in…
Wuthering Heights require rage counseling sessions, which are held between chapters. Shadow the Sheepdog by Enid Blyton is where Thursday takes her JurisFiction exam and touches her way into a nightmare. Mimi, a C-3 Generic who plays the maidservant in The Squire of High Potternews, has gone missing.

The Goliath Corporation…

…runs the world it seems. Jack Schitt is one of their nastier operatives.

The Hades family
Aornis Hades is Acheron’s little sister, a mnemonomorph skilled at memory modification. Her brother Acheron stopped participating in The Eyre Affair. Other siblings include Styx, Phlegethon, Cocytus, and Lethe. The entire family is evil to one extent or another with varying powers.

Yorrick Kaine is the head of a newspaper and publishing company, but he’s fictional and functioning in the Outland as a dangerous right-wing politician.

Bookjumping is the ability to jump from inside a book to the Outland, and back of course. Footnoterphones are the usual communication device between BookWorld people. Much like computers, the ability to read a book depends upon its operating system. Caversham Heights uses BOOK V7.2. There are some horror stories in here about past updates. Yep. Just look what SCROLL did to the Library of Alexandra. An Outlander is a real person from RealWorld, a.k.a., the Outland. BookWorld is the world within books. Holesmiths fill narrative holes.

Grammasites are a parasitic life-form that lives inside books and feeds on grammar; they’re properly known as Gerunds or Ingers; it includes Verbisoids which hate irregular verbs. Insider trading is slang for Internal Narrative Manipulation. Bookworms take words and expel alternate meanings, which means they are both beneficial and sometimes not. The mispeling vyrus is deadly.

Louis Zborowski built Chitty Chitty Bang Bang as well as the Higham Special. Lola Vavoom is an Outland actress. Darren was the seventeen-year-old Thursday’s unsuitable boyfriend.

If you got a kick out of the characters and enjoy Fforde’s humor, do be sure to read the credits at the end.

The Cover and Title

The cover is clever with a Jurisfiction badge creating a ripple effect on a background of blue water. The author’s name is at the top in a deep blue. The title is in script just below on the left in a neon green. Informational blurbs are in white and to the left and top of the badge. But it’s the gilt badge with its silver trim that I adore with the name of Thursday’s new department, her lovable dodo poking out from its center, and the Jurisfiction slogan with the series information directly below it at the bottom of the badge.

The title is where all fiction is created, in The Well of Lost Plots.