Tag Archives: Thursday Next

Bizzaro Book Review: Carpathia by Matt Forbeck

[You will notice that this review is a little…different. An explanation will follow.]

The cowbow regarded the fleeing vampire through the lenses of his infrared binoculars. “He’s taking the bait,” the cowboy said.

The five foot tall black-skinned velocirapter at his side clicked his serpentine tounge against the roof of his mouth. “Of course he’s taking the bait.” The response came, not from the raptor’s mouth, but from a pair of speakers set into a metal collar that hung around his neck. “He’s C-grade, barely a background character. Frankly I’m surprised he was able to manage this kind of job at all.”

“Don’t count your chickens before they’re hatched,” the cowboy replied. “We haven’t got this one in the bag yet. Maybe he is just a C-grade, but if he was able to pull this off he might be more trouble than we’re expecting.”

The cowboy mounted his horse, and he and the velociraptor followed the receding footsteps through the desert sands. There wasn’t much in this world. It was just a fragment of a story that had been floating aimlessly through the Well of Lost Plots. The desert around them was full of bones, but up ahead there was a plane of waving grass, and right on the border between the two, sat a small farmhouse. Overhead the moon filled a full third of the sky shining a perfect pale glow over the landscape.

“I wish writers would take the time to learn a little about geography,” the velocirapter said. “Why on earth would there be a prairie right next to a desert like this?”
“You’re from Speculative Fiction,” the cowboy pointed out. “They get a lot weirder stuff than that in there.”

“Yes, but there’s a reason for it in SpecFic. That’s the whole point. Even if you’ve got a world where light works differently than it does in the Real World, the writer is using it to make a point about science or possibly to create a metaphor for the problems of society. This…this is just lazy writing.”

The cowboy grunted.

Ahead of them the vampire fled into the farmhouse.

“And you were worried he wouldn’t take the bait,” the velocirapter said. “Typical.”
“Hey, I just don’t want to screw this up okay? I’m not really itching to go back to Grammasite detail any time soon.”

They approached the farmhouse, careful to stay out of the line of site of the front windows. The cowboy dismounted and drew his revolver. The raptor clicked his teeth together and an electric whine emanated from the lasers mounted on his collar. The two nodded briefly at each other and then charged into the room, weapons at the ready.

They found the vampire, leaning against the far wall, examining his fingernails by the light of an oil lamp that burned on the table. “I thought you’d never get here,” he said casually.

“Abraham Holmwood. You’re under arrest, by the authority of Jurisfiction for the crimes of impersonating a A-grade character, collusion to polute the general quality of fiction, and the attempted murder of the A-grade character, Dale Chase.”

The fugitive vampire raised an eyebrow and smiled. “Sorry to burst your bubble, but Dale went into the water. He didn’t come out. And unless he learned to breath underwater very quickly, I expect you’re going to have to drop the “attempted” from those charges.”

“You seem awfully calm for a man who could be facing textual disintigration,” the velociraptor said.

“Don’t panic,” replied the vampire. “That’s my motto.”

“Actually, that’s the motto of the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy,” the raptor replied. “You’ve got nothing of your own Abe. Everything borrowed or stolen. You face, your mannerisms, even your name. Did you think you were being clever? A character in a vampire story calling himself Abraham? Professor Van Helsing would not approve.”

“We covered that,” the vampire replied angrily, his cool demeanor cracking for the first time. “We made sure the dialogue-”

“Oh, yes that line about how your parents knew Bram Stoker?” the raptor replied. “Not to mention the worn-out idea that somehow Dracula was a nonfiction account of Real World events? Suspension of disbelief only goes so far, Abe. Even in a story about vampires feeding on the survivors of the Titanic.”

“Hey, you wanna give it a rest?” the cowboy said. “We’re here to bring him in, not pick apart his mistakes.”

“No I do not want to ‘give it a rest’,” the raptor replied, the tone from his voice box growing more angry. “His actions weren’t just criminal, they were offensive. The very idea that readers would overlook his odious manner, his superficial charm, the unbelievable way in which his friends continued to trust him even after he had proven himself to be nothing more than a selfish lout time and time again-”

“They didn’t know how good they had it,” Abe interjected. “I’m better off without them.”

The cowboy shrugged. “Apparently they felt the same way about you. Quin and Lucy gave themselves up, made a plea deal, turned loads of evidence on you. I hear that with good behavior they’ll be back on the pages in six months. Maybe if you don’t make this any harder we can make this go easy for you too.”

“NEVER!” the vampire screamed. His form started to shimmer and then he vanished into a grey mist. The cowboy and the raptor watched stoically as the mist settled to the ground and tried to seep down through the cracks in the floorboards to no avail. It wafted up to the window and then to the door, each time finding not even the smallest crack through which to escape. Abe re-materialized and screamed, “What did you DO?”
The cowboy reached into his back pocket and pulled out a caulk gun. “On loan from Do-It-Yourself Nonfiction,” he said grinning.

Abe lunged at the cowboy, but the buck and roar of the ranch hand’s revolver sent the vampire sprawling back against the wall.

“Is that the best you can do?” the vampire spat, climbing to his feet. “Don’t you know you can’t kill me with that thing?”

“Yes,” replied the velociraptor, “But if I recall either sunlight or wooden stakes should do the trick, yes?”

“The sun isn’t due to rise on this world for three hundred years,” Abe said mockingly. “And neither of you seem to be carrying stakes.”

“No,” said the raptor. “Neither of us is. However I believe Mr. Chase was carrying a few.”

The vampire’s already-pale face went whiter still. “He’s dead,” he said. “Dragged down by one of the vampires during the attack. I made sure of it.”

But behind him the door creaked open revealing a huge hulking black man, with sweat glistening on his muscles and a wooden stake in his hand.

“Technically of course you are correct,” the raptor explained as the A-grade character advanced on the cowering vampire. “However someone in the story caught wind of your plot and warned us. It gave us enough time to request the assistance of the remarkable Captain Nemo and his underwater boat. We managed to pick Mr. Chase up without anyone noticing.”

“No,” the vampire pleaded. “Its not fair. I beat you. I WON.”

Dale Chase snarled and brought the stake down hard into Abe’s chest. For a moment a look of pure terror crossed the vampire’s face. Then he dissolved, face and all, into a pile of dust.

For a long moment they were all silent. Finally Dale Chase asked, “What happens now?”

“We’ll have to patch things up as best we can,” the raptor said. “Unfortunately the damage done to Carpathia is fairly expansive. It might collapse the framework of the book if we tried to restore it to the way is was before.”

Chase kicked at the pile of dust, sending it billowing along the ground like a cloud. “So in the end he got what he wanted.”

“His character has been replaced ovbviously,” the raptor explained. “Hopefully we can get someone to do more justice to it than he did.”

“But I’m out,” Chase said.

“There’s plenty of other stories in the world,” the cowboy said, opening the door. “Who knows? Maybe you could do something with this one.” He gestured to the world around them with its strange geography and hulking moon.

“And if you’re looking for a change,” the raptor added, “We’d love to have you in Jurisfiction.”

One by one the characters vanished out of the story world and into the Great Library. And under a goliath moon, the passing wind picked up the pile of grey dust and swept it out into the desert sands.

[So…yeah. Here’s the deal. I don’t like to say negative things on my blog. I know negative reviews are big on the internet, but I generally don’t like bashing other people’s stuff. As an author I know how much it can hurt to have someone say they didn’t like your work, so I try hard not to be the kind of guy that just rails about how much he hates stuff. I’m not against saying something negative, but if I do I want to be able to contrast with something positive, or at the very least I want to say the negative things I have to say in a positive way.

That being said, I didn’t like this book. At all. I could have just left it at that and went on my merry way without saying anything, but the thing was I wanted to like this book. The concept seemed like it was right up my alley, the kind of book I almost certainly would review. So I came up with this compromise. I’ve been wanting to write some Thursday Next fanfiction for some time now, and this seemed like the perfect opportunity to air my grievances with this book (specifically that the Abe character was obnoxious and that the most awesome character in the book, Dale Chase, got killed off in a single chapter) in a creative and at least somewhat positive manner. If you’re not familiar with Fforde’s Thursday Next series, some of this might seem a little confusing, but I hope I’ve given enough basic information to give you an idea of how the Bookworld world is supposed to operate, and if what you’ve read here piques your interest even a little I highly recommend you check out the Thursday Next series for yourself.

In closing, if you’re Matt Forbeck and you’re reading this, no hard feelings man. Chuck Wendig respects you, which tells me you’re doing quite a number of somethings right, but Carpathia just wasn’t for me.]

Bizzaro Book Review: One of Our Thursdays is Missing by Jasper Fforde

If you’re gonna call your book review the Bizzaro Book Review you’re pretty much obligated to mention the beautiful insanity that is Jasper Fforde at some point. And really, though I’m talking about his most recent book, One of Our Thursdays is Missing, to some extent this post will touch on his body of work as a whole.

Jasper Fforde makes his mark in fiction by being wholly and unashamedly weird. His flagship series, Thursday Next takes place in an alternate universe where people make their own pet dodos from from DNA kits, cheese is trafficked like a drug, and a woman named Thursday Next is able to travel into a world where books and their characters come to life.

It’s this last plot device that really drives the series out into the realm of the completely insane. Inside the Book World everything operates according to book logic. Scents are rare, (because almost no one ever uses scent in their descriptions), plot points such as ‘Just Then, a Shot Rang Out’ are bought and sold, and everything happens for a reason. Add in an ingenious and unflappable heroine and you’ve got a series that’s light years beyond anything else you might happen to be able to name in terms of sheer weirdness.

And though the weirdness of Jasper Fforde’s creations truly does speak to me, I think that occasionally he lets being weird get in the way of telling a great story. This at least was the case with his previous book Thursday Next: First Among Sequels which dragged on so slowly that I finally had to put it down after plowing through nearly eighty percent of the text.

And when the opening of One of Our Thursdays is Missing featured the complete remaking of Fforde’s iconic Book World for no discernible reason other than to be different I was afraid that this would be more of the same. Luckily this book got itself sorted out pretty quickly, and once the clockwork robot butler showed up, it was smooth sailing from then on.

As to the plot, it centers around the fictional Thursday Next, who is the Book World star of a series of books about the real Thursday Next whose exploits have garnered her some level fame. The fictional Thursday learns early on that the real Thursday has gone missing just before she was supposed to settle a nasty border dispute between the regions of Racy Novel and Women’s Lit.

Since the fictional Thursday looks and acts just like the real Thursday, she’s drawn into the search for the woman that inspired her character. And with the deadline looming and the real Thursday still very much in absence, the fictional Thursday begins to wonder if she might be unknowingly the real Thursday, a prospect that seems all the more tantalizing when she makes a trip out of the Book World and interacts with the real Thursday’s family.

You may need to take a break to scrape your brains off the wall at this point.

Bottom line, this book is wonderful, and in spite of all the weirdness in evidence, Jasper Fforde has really gotten back on track with compelling characters and a plot that keeps you on the edge of your seat till the very end.

If you haven’t heard of the series before, you may want to go back and read some of the previous books first. I recommend starting with Lost in a Good Book since the first book, The Eyre Affair, was written while Fforde was still honing his style and doesn’t represent the strength of the rest of the series.

But really it doesn’t matter. Dig into Jasper Fforde’s bizarre world, and I promise you’ll never look at “normal” books the same way again.

Jasper Fforde and the Art of Second Chances

Jasper Fforde is one cool dude. I mean really, he’s got serious creative balls. If you haven’t read any of his stuff he’s got a series about a woman named Thursday Next, who travels into the Book World where characters compare their levels of development, under-described scenes actually look bland and boring, and plot devices are sold to the highest bidder. He’s also the author of a couple of books about a fellow named Jack Spratt who’s a detective that solves “nursery crimes” and still another book in which the world of the far future has been divided into a “colortocracy” where social standing depends of which shade of the spectrum you can see. If you haven’t heard of him yet, you should definitely check him out. He’ll blow your mind.But here’s the thing. Before yesterday I had read almost every book he has ever written. Almost. The only one I had never finished was The Eyre Affair, the first book in his Thursday Next series and the first book Fforde ever wrote. If you’re the kind of person that keeps up with such things then you might know that The Eyre Affair is legendary for having been rejected 72 times before finally being picked up for publication. And now that I have finally finished it, I know why. To put it bluntly, it’s not that good. I won’t enumerate its faults in too much detail here, but suffice it to say that it is nowhere close to the quality of Fforde’s later work. And I’m fine with that. Because if some crazy agent hadn’t gotten some crazy publisher to take a chance on this substandard work, I doubt Fforde would have gone on to write the rest of his amazing books. He’s become a literary force to be reckoned with, and an inspiration to readers and writers alike, and along the way he’s taught us a valuable lesson. Give mediocrity a try every once in a while; it might just grow up to surprise you.