Author: Jasper Fforde
The third in a series:
The Thursday next series must be read in order. If you have not read the first two books yet, don't read this one. However, if you are planning on reading the first book, be warned: it is an excellent book; you will want to read the series; the series is not of uniform quality. Now, I don't want to scare you off from reading this series, because the first book is excellent. The second book is also excellent. The third book, in my opinion, jumps the shark.
Jasper Fforde writes good nonsense. The first and second books are set (primarily) in an alternate world where books take the place of television as the national leisure activity of choice. Thursday Next works in LiteraTec, the literary division of the police force. They watch for forgeries and foil book thieves, and are kept quite busy. Fforde constantly throws in random interesting facts about Thursday's world. We suddenly learn that vampires are real here, or that Neanderthals have been cloned from remains found in a bog and now fill service industry jobs. These feature for a chapter or two and then fade into the background. The book isn't about these things, they're just part of life in Thursday's world.
As the series progresses Fforde becomes more and more obsessed with one specific aspect of his universe: characters can travel into books and interact with the characters, affect the plot, and bring objects and people back. This is quite silly, but used to good effect in the first two books. (in the third Thursday moves entirely into the Bookworld, living in the Grand Library and joining Jurisfiction, the interbook police force; this is perhaps a bit much).
Now, vampires and cloned dodos may be a bit odd, but they've got nothing on the Library. All logic breaks down here. Book characters can leave their novels, sometimes affecting the plot and sometimes not. They can only interact with visitors between chapters -- otherwise the visitors would be read by the general public. But there seems to be an infinite amount of time between chapters, and again at the end of the book (yet they still go on strike for more vacation time). Established books can't be traveled into unless they've been explored through a back door from another book -- but book people can travel freely between the books that are currently being written. No doubt Fforde could come up with a Unified Theory of Bookworld to explain why things work the way they do, but he never bothered. Things just happen because they help the plot, never because they make sense.
On the other hand, one of the great things about Fforde's books are the literary references. No doubt that's why he moved into the Bookworld; literary references galore, and quite amusing ones at that. If you enjoy the twisting of plots and the revisiting of familiar (and unfamiliar) characters, this book might even be an improvement on the first two.
I will mention one more annoyance I had with this book. The second book ended with major cliffhangers. By the end of the third book, not one had been resolved, and new subplots had been added. That's just bad planning.
Overall, I have to say that I enjoyed this book, and enjoyed it quite a bit. Unfortunately, you do have to suspend a lot more belief than for most stories, but the characters are engaging, there's a lot of fun and interesting stuff going on, and there is indeed a an action-adventure/mystery story in there somewhere... after 150 pages of exploring the library and meeting dozens of new characters. All in all, a mixed bag, but you will know as soon as you finish Lost in a Good Book if The Well of Lost Plots is right for you.
There is one more interesting point that must be mentioned. This book sets us up not only for the next Next novel, but also for the apparently unrelated The Big Over Easy, which is the first book in a completely different series. If, upon finishing this book, you feel all Thursday Next'd out, I recommend going straight to Over easy... no library, no Next, just a brand new detective in a brand new world.