The Well of Lost Plots Jasper Fforde

The Well of Lost Plots

First Published 2003
361 Pages
Date Read
September 2003

Welcome to the third instalment in Jasper Fforde series following the life of literary detective Thursday Next. In this novel Thursday has left behind her normal home of a slightly askew Swindon and now lives within the pages of an unpublished third-rate detective novel called Caversham Heights. To get there she is taking part in a kind of exchange scheme, a service that allows fictional characters to experience life outside their normal environs.

But Thursday is doing this not because of a wish to experience life in Caversham heights but because of the attentions of both the Goliath Corporation and Aornis Hades, sister of the villain of book one. Thursday was happily married to Landen Parke-Laine and expecting their first child, and everything in her life is as perfect as she has known it. However the Goliath Coporation have arranged for an accident to happen to Landen, and having access to a corrupt memer of the Chronoguard they choose this accident to happen to Landen at the age of two. Thursday is alone in having memories of him. And now Aornis is playing with her mind and even her memories are fading - thankfully she has the help of her grandmother.

Whilst she is hiding in the book world, she is acting as a member of Jurisfiction a kind of police force within the world of fiction. Their role is to maintain the integrity of fictional realms. They track down and remove book jumpers, they fight against vyruses, and generally keeping the book world in good order.

And times are a-changing in the book world as fiction is preparing for the replacement for Book. Book is the operating system for fiction that has been used for centuries, with previous versions such as Scroll now widely out of use. However UltraWord is coming and soon people will be able to read novels using this fabulous new system.

Being a third title in a series you would think that Jasper Fforde would have run out of new original concepts and conceits in which to involve Tursday Next. But you would be wrong. In this he explores the mechanism (or operating system) which allows books to be read, and learn of the history of these operating systems. He ventures into The Well of Lost Plots where Thursday has taken refuge in the backstory of an unpublished (and seemingly unpublishable) novel letting us know of the fate that awaits of the characters inhabiting these third rate stories as elements of them are ripped out to be recycled elsewhere. Also we get the rather amusing interaction between these characters and Thursday as part of their attempt to increase the likelihood that their story will be picked up for publication or (at least) that they might find themselves transferred to another book.

We are also treated to generics. Generics are the unnamed background characters that feature in novels. Thursday acquires two of these and begins helping them develop their own characters.

Jurisfiction too is a stunningly original concept in stories. That there might be a behind-the-scenes organisation ensuring that the fictional characters in the books you read behave themselves and don't go off-plot is wonderfully surreal. Especially as they have the power to reduce a misbehaving character to their constituent prose and cast them back into the Text Sea from where all books are created.

This is a book that is far too clever for its own good. But that is not actually a negative point against it. For a book that is this amazingly intricate and has some totally mindblowing concepts this is a very readable book.

When I started this book I simply did not see how the author could continue the momentum and interest of the first two books in the series. I felt that things might start to get a little stale, but it's not the case. This defies easy categorisation or easy description, but it is simply brilliant. Read these books!