By now, I imagine some of you will know that I'm something of a Jasper Fforde fan. I liked the first four novels of the Thursday Next series, and loved the spin offs dealing with the activities of Reading's "Nursery Crime" division. It is with some sadness then that I have to agree with my mate Adam's assessment of this book as really not very good.
The basic plot is... actually, I suspect that may be the problem. As I understand it, the plot is that Thursday Next must save the bookworld from being turned into reality TV, prevent the time travelling Chronoguard from getting hold of the secret of time travel, and do something about falling reader rates at the same time. It seems a bit thin for 350+ pages, really.
In fact, there's plenty going on. There are some extra Thursdays wandering around, a couple of assasination attempts, some stuff about doing away with a national "stupidity surplus", some fairly random stuff about Thursday's children, jokes, arguments, and all sorts of other stuff that should be fairly good when nailed to a strong central idea.
The trouble is, there isn't one. Stuff turns up. Stuff happens. Quite a lot of it seems to come out of nowhere. There's a whole segment with a minor villainous henchman that doesn't come from anything in the book, but apparently sets up things in the next. In fact, if I try and put my finger on it, that's probably the problem. This book feels a lot like one of those in-between ones, tying up loose ends, introducing new bits, and not really concentrating on its own story. There are still some nice gags (and a surprisingly random guest appearance from Dr Temperance Brennan) but the whole thing feels like a patchwork cobbled together from bits Fforde thought "this is great, let's include it" about.