The Last Dragonslayer by Jasper Fforde

dragonslayerI’m a fan of Fforde’s books for adults and somehow had missed out on his YA series. Thanks to a Hub blog post I found out about this one and immediately put it on hold. I was super impressed at how well Fforde was able to retain his trademark humor and skewering of corporations, but bring it to a YA appropriate level.
In this world there is some magic left, but it is highly regulated. Teenager Jennifer Strange is the acting manager, like an agent, for the company that employs the working sorcerors. Strange things have been happening, Big Magic is rumored to be coming. And Jennifer is revealed to be the Last Drangonslayer, with everyone seeing a prediction that she is going to kill the last dragon. It’s all very quick and funny and bizarre.

One of Our Thursdays is Missing by Jasper Fforde

The Jasper Fforde books are so quirky, weird, and confusing-you either love them or hate them, I suspect. I happen to love them-the puns, the wordplay, the zillions of literary references, the fascinating BookWorld he has created.  Honestly, though, I’ve read all his books but didn’t really remember at all what was going on in the series.  As I passed it along to my mom my words of advice for enjoying his books were “if you get confused just ride along with it and don’t try to understand too much-enjoy it paragraph by paragraph.”

I doubt I could even begin to describe this whole plot. Basically this novel takes place in the Book World with the written Thursday Next being the main character (the real life Thursday’s adventures having been made into a series.) This Thursday is not the original written one-that one was taken care of in the previous book (that we read)-and she is not as popular.  She tries to play Thursday as she is, which is not as sexy a character as the way the previous one was playing her-hence the drop in readership.    There are mysterious characters and notes and Thursday discovers that real life Thursday is missing and must solve the mystery.  It’s totally crazy and complex, but I really enjoyed it.

Shades of Grey by Jasper Fforde

fforde(First of all, I hate it that I efficiently wrote this on the airplane on Sunday and today is Wednesday and it’s the first chance I’ve had to efficiently copy and paste my write up here. Gah!)

 

(coming out in January 2010)

Jasper Fforde’s style is quirky and odd, funny, and richly literary.  Or, if not literary exactly, it assumes its readers are, well, readers.  I loved the Thursday Next books and the enjoyed the Nursery Crime ones as well, and so was delighted to get an advance reading copy of his newest venture, Shades of Grey.  This is apparently the first of three projected novels.  The style was very much like Thursday Next-kind of confusing and nonsensical and you just have to give yourself up to it and go along for the ride. And not try to figure anything out.  Like Thursday Next this is set in an alternate world with crazy societal rules and regulations.  Unlike Thursday Next it is a bit more sinister, a futuristic (but backward) dystopia.

Edward Russett is a Red.  In this world everything is ruled by color.  It forms the basis for a caste system which places greys at the worker bees who are good for nothings, and the reds, blues, and yellows as the highest ups.  A system of merits and demerits rules what people are allowed to do and also controls who might marry whom.  Edward doesn’t expect too much from his life except to hopefully marry Constance Oxblood, which would be a very beneficial match to both of their families.  But then he and his father get sent to East Carmine, which is a settlement near the Outer Fringes.  There Edward meets a Grey, Jane, who opens his eyes to the fact that their chroma-society might not be all it’s cracked up to be.

There are all kinds of weird and wonderful thnigs populating this world: swans that attack people and are feared as vicious beasts, giraffes roaming as freely as feral cats, giant trees that gobble up people like some sort of combination Whomper-Venus Flytrap.

I really enjoyed the wordplay in this, such as the fact that everyone’s surnames are a shade of the color family they are in (Oh and what color you are is determined by what color you can see. That’s right, a Red can see red but not really the other colors.)  The Greys don’t get different surnames other than Grey and some of the characters we meet are Jane, Zane, and Dorian, so that’s pretty funny.  This whole concept of colors being the foundation of the society and some being considered more valuable than others reminded me a bit of Gathering Blue, by Lois Lowry.  Another thing about this world is that when night falls everyone stays inside.  To venture into the inky darkness means you will likely succumb to Nightloss and be gone forever.  This terrifying darkness outside the town reminded me very much of City of Ember, by Jean DuPre.  Thinking about these comparisons, as well as other novels I’ve read, it seems that a tool of those in power in any dystopia is Fear.  Fear of the unknown, fear of real or imaginary (but told they are real) threats or creatures, these are the things that keep the masses in line and ignorant.

Overall, a great new venture for Fforde.

First Among Sequels by Jasper Fforde

I really love Jasper Fforde’s novels-both the Thursday Next ones, as well as the others he’s done. When The Eyre Affair first came out I was blown away by how clever and witty it was, by how much fun he had with language and literature. I think the series is waning a bit, but I was still totally caught up in this latest. fforde.jpgAnd, in fairness, while I definitely felt that midway through the book, at the end there were several surprises and tie-ins that made it all worthwhile and a good payoff for the consistent reader.

I think if I hadn’t read the others, though, I would have found this too confusing to get through. One of the fun things about his alternate time/world and the Bookverse, is that he gets to just make up stuff. Conduits to “story engines” and the like are a bit jargony, but it’s made up jargon so it makes it funny.
It is difficult to even give a synopsis of the book. I’ll just say that Thursdsay Next continues to be a literary detective, jumping in and out of novels, that many years have passed since the last installment, and that her world continues to play with the concept of linear time.

Fforde’s website is a delight to take a look at as well. He really has created a hugely detailed world in his books and the links are very funny and clever.