Something Rotten by Jasper Fforde
Something Rotten is the fourth book in Jasper Fforde’s Thursday Next series, and although more books have been written, feels like the conclusion of this chapter of Thursday’s story. Multiple storylines are rounded off in this book, which is just as funny and madcap as the others.
Unlike The Well of Lost Plots which took place almost entirely in the BookWorld, Something Rotten returns Thursday to the ‘real’ world. Thursday, her two year old son Friday and Hamlet, travel back to reality, and Thursday renews her efforts to have her husband Landen uneradicated, as well as to bring down the sinister far right fictional politician Yorrick Kaine. Thursday also has to cope with a lab illegally cloning William Shakespeares, the return of a 13th century prophet and the need to win of the SuperHoop for Swindon, the national croquet championships.
As much as I like the BookWorld, I think Thursday works better within the constraints of the ‘real world.’ Since this world is almost as bizarre as the BookWorld, this isn’t saying much, but overall I was very happy to return here after The Well of Lost Plots. By this point there’s a well established lore to this setting, with Fforde’s parallel Swindon beginning to form into a comic location to rival Pratchett’s Ankh-Morepork.
Something Rotten is structurally similar to the first two novels, in that they contain a vast number of plot lines which all pop up and vanish seemingly randomly, before converging towards the end. Something Rotten could probably have done with a little more structure; the first novel, The Eyre Affair, is still the most tight. Still ,the manic energy which Fforde keeps running through the entire novel makes it hard not to completely absorb this book in a matter of days. In some ways, Something Rotten feels like an ending to Thursday’s story, and Fforde shows himself a dab hand at more emotional scenes, rather than just mad cap comedy. One scene towards the end was actually very moving, showing a depth which had hitherto not revealed itself.
This novel is every bit as funny as the rest, although I missed the footnotes, which are largely absent from this release. Terry Pratchett knows the comic value of a good footnote, and it’s a shame to see this element missing in this novel. I find it genuinely very hard to pin point exactly what it is that makes Fforde’s writing so infectiously readable; it’s never taken me longer than a couple of days to finish a Thursday Next book.
Alongside familiar characters such as Thursday, her family and her colleagues at SpecOps and Jurisfiction, which are as likeable as ever, there are a bunch of entertaining new characters to join the fun. The addition of Hamlet, constantly dithering and angsty, is a hilarious nod to any of us who at times have felt that the Danish prince could have used a good kick up the backside. A few familiar characters really come into their own here too, such as Thursday’s brother Joffy, and Emperor Zhark from the BookWorld. Yorrick Kaine, although he played a role in the last couple of books, rises at last to main villain status, and does admirably there.
Something Rotten is another highly enjoyable release from Jasper Fforde. Although the structure could do with a bit of tightening up, this is far from a deal breaker. Alongside the laughs, and there are plenty, is a lot of heart, and I can’t wait to see more of Thursday Next. First though I’m going to give the spin offs a look; it’s safe to say that I’m far from done with Jasper Fforde.