New York: Viking, c2012.
Another entry into the classic Thursday Next series, this is absolutely enchanting. Thursday is recovering from an assassination attempt, and her SpecOps unit is in disarray. As the story opens, this unit is being re-formed and Thursday expects to get the head job. She does not. Instead, her former boss hands her an easier job: Chief Librarian of the Swindon All-You-Can-Eat at Fatso's Drink Not Included Library.
As a librarian myself, this was a great start: seeing Thursday take over this job that she knows little about, and meeting all her support staff -- kind of like civil servants to her PM -- was very entertaining. Fforde gets in a lot of nods to the library world (even the dedication is "to all the librarians who have ever been, ever will be, are now") But I have to say, my favourite moment is when her assistant Duffy explains the emergency 'red phone' to her:
"This is your desk," said Duffy.
In a bit of a daze, I sat down on a plush armchair and looked around. I was parked behind a desk that seemed like an acre of finely polished walnut. There was a large internal phone with a separate button for every library in Wessex, and next to this was an old-fashioned red telephone without a dial -- just a single button with NP etched onto it.
"That's the emergency hotline to Nancy at the World League of Librarians," explained Duffy. "She'll be on the first tube from Seattle if you call her. But make sure it's a real emergency," he added. "If Nancy is dragged all this way for nothing, you'll be in big trouble."
Anyone in the library world will recognize the reference to master librarian Nancy Pearl in this bit; I'm a fan and so found this amusing. The craziness inherent in any Thursday Next novel continues with synthetic Thursdays popping up trying to take her place, with domestic issues revolving around the presence of memory-altering villain Aornis, with trips to elaborate private libraries in search of new acquisitions and so on and so on. It's a never-ending ride when you're reading Jasper Fforde, and all of the literary references are augmented with library references in this one!
This one was vastly entertaining; if you've been reading this series you'll really enjoy it -- if you haven't read any of the earlier books you may be quite confused. If that's the case, start at the beginning and get ready to enjoy the literary trials and travels of Thursday Next.