Friday, November 16, 2012

Review: The Woman Who Died A Lot (Friday Next #7) by Jasper Fforde

The Woman Who Died A Lot (Thursday Next, #7)The Woman Who Died A Lot by Jasper Fforde
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Near the 2/3rds point in this book, I realized that I was utterly confused about what was going on. Then I reasoned that the confusion was deliberate, that knowing what was going on was just as important as what was going to happen next. The narrative tension lay in seeking answers.

Thursday Next is recovering from an assassination attempt, which keeps her from reading herself into the BookWorld. But her native world has plenty to keep her busy. Between a scheduled smiting, the disbanding of the regulators of the timestream due to the impossibility of time travel ("Oh, NOW you tell us!" I imagine some ChronoGuard director saying), and taking on a head librarian job, Thursday's hands are full. On top of that, she's trying to track down Aornis, helping her daughter, Tuesday, lead a normal teenage life, and helping her son, Friday, deal with his new, mundane future.

The only BookWorld presence in this installment is the presence of a character she bought Landen, her husband, to help him with his book. He's called "the Wingco," and he's researching Dark Reading Matter, which is the BookWorld's version of an afterlife. He can talk to imaginary friends, which are a different kind of fictional person.

When confusing things start cropping up, it's not immediately apparent why that might be. There are synthetic Thursdays walking around, Thursday's painkiller addiction, and the mystery of Aornis Hades that could explain any of the events that don't add up. There are enough clues to figure out at least one of the subplots before Thursday does (and you're apt to, for reasons that will make sense when you read this), but the complexity of the plot keeps the ending up in the air until the last page. There's a lot going on in.

My favorite subplot is that of Thursday and Landen's relationship. They've been married for decades, and they still gross their children out with how lovey dovey they can get. It's easy to see why they're still in love. They get one another's humor, accept one another for who they are, and support one another to the best of their abilities. At one point, Thursday remarks that Landen's career as a writer likely didn't take off because he was supporting her, but she doesn't wallow in guilt over this, nor does Landen try to make her. It's a nice reversal of the woman giving up everything to support her man. And, considering everything she did in earlier books to win him and keep him, it's good to see that he's worth it. To borrow romance novel parlance, Landen is a beta male, and a lovable one, at that.

I didn't know what to expect, going into this book. I thought One of Our Thursdays Is Missing wrapped things up nicely, and I couldn't imagine what could be left. Sure, there was the Goliath corporation, and BookWorld, but I was afraid the story might get stale. This was anything but, and the next book is rather nicely set up by the end of this one, while the main conflict is resolved.

Jasper Fforde is the most creative writer I read. That can be a challenge, for some readers, but I love books that play with tropes and take things in completely unexpected directions. When a blurb says a book will "keep me guessing," this is what I expect, and never get.

If you're a fan, I think this is hit or miss. But it's certainly not the same old story.

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