In this fifth book of the Thursday Next series by Jasper Fforde we find Thursday twisting through the parallel realities of Swindon and BookWorld. She must also cope with her son appearing in multiple planes of time, and apprenticing other versions of herself. It would be easy for Fforde to lose the reader, but he holds it all together and weaves another entertaining tale of Thursday’s life in literary law enforcement.
The story opens with the country having a surplus of stupidity and the ruling politicos trying to figure out what to with it. Thursday and Landon have three children, daughters Tuesday and Jenny, and son Friday, who doesn’t seem to be interested in anything. There’s a clue in this that I didn’t pick up while reading the story, but I won’t tell it here. Pickwick the dodo is still alive – and sort of well.
Ninety percent of Spec Ops is disbanded, so Thursday sets up the Acme Carpeting company as a cover for the ex-Spec Ops folks to keep working on the weird. Uncle Mycroft is a ghost with something essential to tell Thursday but has no idea what that is. There’s an exorbitant cheese tax that results in a black market, and yes, Thursday’s involved in it. You might think she’d be worried about the Cheese Enforcement Agency, but not our gal Thursday.
While the Prime Minister is determining how to reduce the surplus stupidity and promising to reduce idiocy emissions by seventy percent, her son Friday is being heavily recruited by the Chronoguard for dire reasons. Not the least of which is the “spontaneously accelerated inverse obliteration of all history.” To add one more dilemma for Thursday, the Goliath Corporation is sending probes into BookWorld. In a fit of moral responsibility, Thursday makes a deal with Goliath and gets stranded on the ship Moral Dilemma, which is adrift on the Hypothetical Ocean.
Wending through the story is the concurrent effort in both realities to create an interactive book experience to improve the Reader Rate. Will Thursday stop this from happening? What happens with the time of Now? How would you handle having to apprentice good or bad versions of yourself? So many questions, so many characters, so much fun!