Book Review: Something Rotten by Jasper Fforde

Posted January 17, 2018 by Kathy Davie in Book Reviews / 2 Comments

Book Review: Something Rotten by Jasper Fforde

I received this book for free from the library in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Something Rotten by Jasper Fforde
Genres: Arcanepunk Fantasy
Published by Viking on July 31, 2004
Pages: 389
Format: Hardcover
Source: the library

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Also by this author: The Well of Lost Plots, The Big Over Easy, The Fourth Bear

Fourth in the Thursday Next arcanepunk fantasy series and revolving around a book operative and her search for her husband. Oh, and saving the world. It’s 1988 and set in Swindon, Wessex, England.

In 2005, Something Rotten was nominated for the Dilys Award.

My Take

It’s not fair. I wanna go journeying around inside books… And I wonder if we could get some Narrative Assumption out here. Be darned handy when you don’t want to go shopping or brush your hair.

There are conflicts up the wazoo with a million beats. Well, there must be a million, there’s so much action goin’ on! You won’t be bored, that’s for sure. The amazing thing is that while most of the assorted conflicts are heading off in a variety of directions, they actually come back together at the end. Including a few I had never expected!

I do adore Fforde’s Thursday Next. It’s a whole ‘nother look at books…and the “truth” of what goes on in the book world. And you thought you knew… I’ll confess that I had no idea how wild and woolly those characters can be. But I can understand getting bored doing the same thing day after day.

Then there’s Fforde’s explanations…er, I mean, Fforde’s use of first person protagonist point-of-view to explain how much work the reader does, as “they clothe the author’s description with the memory of their own experiences”. It does make sense that this would make every book unique for each reader. And unique each time the reader reads the book! On the other end of it, Hamlet makes a good point about what a lousy book the real world would make, lol. And then Thursday freaks out about all the people reading her and Land…until she realizes she’s not in BookWorld anymore. Uh-huh

We do get an up-close-and-personal with what makes Hamlet tick. Teachers should check this out to see how they could incorporate this into studying Hamlet. It would certainly make the kids think. Unfortunately, there’s been a hostile takeover in Hamlet, so…the story may not be there anymore.

Friday is a crack-up with his Lorem Ipsum chatter. So is the new face of Goliath. Oh, brother. Goliath is consistent in their hypocrisy. I gotta give ’em that. As for those character names, omigod, way too funny. When you get down to the characters, sound some of them out. You will C-R-A-C-K up. There’s something to be said for using names to describe a character *more laughter*

Oh lord, the politics in this are even crazier than the storyline. What’s worse? They sound like our own politicians!! The politicians, okay, Kaine, is shoving the Danes under the bus and no one knows why…until the end, anyway.

It was coming. Yep, performance-enhancing drugs for novelists. And Melanie gives us the backstory on how she met Trafford.

Theme-wise…oh, lordy. We’re talkin’ “wazoo” again. What with Thursday’s will to survive and her intention to knock back the greedy Goliath, the role religion plays in this — lolololol, the wacky technology, and the blessings of family and friends, there is plenty to go around.

The culture that Fforde created for those neanderthals. Too funny. Actually the whole concept of Thursday Next, SpecOps, and Jurisfiction is an amazing set of cultures. I sure wouldn’t have thought books could be so busy outside their own stories.

The Story

Thursday Next is about to be arrested for her part in that international cheese-smuggling scandal AND for being absent without leave! Luckily, her stickler of a boss has finally had it.

That’s the easy part of Thursday’s life. With Hamlet in Outland, the lesser characters in Hamlet have staged a takeover, and the play is becoming The Merry Wives of Elsinore. Thursday badly needs a Shakespeare! On another front, Yorrick Kaine is trying to take over the government…the country…the world! And if Thursday wants Landen back, she’ll have to confront the newly religious Goliath.

Then there’s that unlikely Seventh Revealment. If the Mallets don’t win…it’ll be Armageddon. And who will babysit her son while Thursday saves the world?

The Characters

Thursday “Doofus” Next is the Bellman of Jurisfiction, but will end up as the SO-14 Danish Book Seizure Liaison Officer. Friday is her two-year-old son whose father is the eradicated Landen Parke-Laine (his mother is Houson). Poley is Friday’s stuffed polar bear. Pickwick “Pickers” is her cloned dodo; the naughty Alan is Pickwick’s son.

Lady Emma Hamilton is in the spare room; Mumshe does a very nice Battenberg cake — thinks her husband is having it off with Emma! Otto Bismarck, the Prussian Chancellor, is in the attic, and Mum seems to be considering an affair. Dad is a time-traveler, but no longer with ChronoGuard. Mrs. Beatty is the next-door neighbor.

The Very Irreverent Joffy Next is Thursday’s brother and a minister in the Global Standard Deity religion. He’s also the head of the Idolatry Friends of St. Zvlkx. Miles is his life partner. Uncle Mycroft and Aunt Polly Next are brilliant inventors currently at the Fourteenth Annual Mad Scientists’ Conference. Their sons, Wilbur and Orville, are not living up to their parents’ intelligence.

Goliath Twilight Homes is…
…an old folks’ home where Granny Next is living. She has a preference for blue gingham and insists she can’t die until she’s read the ten most boring books.

Jurisfiction is…
…a policing agency inside BookWorld with Prose Resource Operatives working to maintain the continuity of the narrative in every book ever written. Its head is the Bellman. The Sword of the Zenobians is an unpublished work used as a prison.

Commander Trafford Bradshaw is retired as the lead character of the Commander Bradshaw novels — no one’s read them since 1963. Now he’s a most welcome Jurisfiction agent. Melanie Bradshaw, a mountain gorilla, is his wife; she gets along very well with Friday. Emperor Zhark is from his own series (written by Handley Paige) and is a Jurisfiction agent as well. He tends to go over the top. Part of it, Thursday thinks, is due to his mother, Empress Zharkeena. Mrs. Tiggy-winkle is a hedgehog who is one of three people in charge. The Red Queen will only police anything before 1867. Vernham Deane is a busy cad. The Cat Formerly Known as Cheshire, an überlibrarian, is in charge of the Great Library (only his mother can call him Archibald). The Gryphon is an excellent lawyer and working on Thursday’s appeal. Mock Turtle is his number two.

BookWorld is…
…the world within books and is ruled by the Council of Genres, which is made up of a representative from every genre, and they decide the conventions of storytelling. The Well, located beneath the Great Library where all published fiction is stored, is where books are constructed. Daphne Farquitt has written over 500 really awful romances, including At Long Last Lust.

Swindon, Wessex, England, is…

…Thursday’s home town. Prince Hamlet of Denmark is visiting the Outland as part of an appeasement process, as Jurisfiction is hoping he’ll sign on to police Elizabethan drama. While visiting Thursday, he’ll be known as Cousin Eddie. Ophelia is his girlfriend. St. Zvlkx is Swindon’s very own saint from the thirteenth century and his Revealments are quite popular. Lady Volescamper is the mayor’s wife. Mrs. Barnet is the chief hairstylist (and gossip) at Mum’s hairdresser’s.

SpecOps (Special Operations Network) in…
…Swindon was where Thursday’s old job was. They police areas too specialized for the regular police. The golf-mad Commander Braxton Hicks was her unhappy, by-the-books boss over at SO-27, the Literary Detectives. Victor Analogy is another old boss. Bowden Cable is Thursday’s old partner. Joe Martlet was killed by the Cheese Mafia.

Bartholomew “Stiggs” Stiggins, a neanderthal, is head of SO-13, the cloning police. Felicity is his life partner. All the neanderthals in Swindon live in a village known as the Nation. Since neanderthals were legally reengineered by Goliath, that corporation technically owns him and his fellows. Whew, wait’ll you read the explanation about the why of the neanderthal experiment. Mr. Richard Dixon, a first year student at Chipping Sodbury College for Politicians, appreciates the training the ‘thals can give him.

Major Dragg is with SO-14 (Danish Book Seizure) and assigned to help Thursday track down that pernicious Danish literature. Spike Stoker is an operative at SO-17, the Vampire and Werewolf Disposal Operations, and a friend of Thursday’s. Colonel Flanker is with SO-1, Internal Affairs. Officer Jodrell is one of his agents. SO-12 is ChronoGuard, charged with maintaining the integrity of the Standard History Eventline. Malcolm is one of its agents. Mr. Rumplunkett is the head pathologist. SO-6 is national security, and they protect the president and other high-falutin’ politicians. Colonel Parks is head of Presidential Security with Dowding as second-in-command.

Millon de Floss is Thursday’s authorized stalker, and he is a conspiracy theorist. Adam Gnusense, a Grade-3, is Millon’s stalker.

The Swindon Mallets are…
…the town’s croquet team with Roger Kapok as captain. Aubrey Jambe is hoop defense, Alan “Biffo” Mandible plays midfield, “Smudger” Blarney is a forward hoop, Laura de Rematte was their top defender, “Snake” Spillikin is a forward striker, George, and Johnno Swift. Penelope Hrah joins the team as the midhoop wingman. The neanderthals who agree to play include Stiggs as a racquet taker, Grunk is on defense, Dorf is peg defense, and Zim is a striker. Gray Ferguson had been their manager. Runcorn & Twizitt is their legal team. Alf Widdershaine is Thursday’s record-holding old croquet coach.

They’ll be up against the Reading Whackers (they’ve signed ace player Bonecrusher McSneed to play forward hoop) in the SuperHoop 88. George “Rhino” McNasty ends up doing community service. Tim O’Fathens is the Whackers captain; the Duchess of Sheffield is a wingman. Their legal team is Wapcaplitt & Sfortz.

Wilson Lonsdale & Partners are England’s top sports agents.

Eradications Anonymous is…
…a self-help group for people with severe memory aberrations to which Mum belongs. Julie Aseizer had been a member but then her Ralph showed up.

The British government
President George Formby does not like Yorrick Kaine (he’s an escaped fictionaut hiding in the Outland and in league with the Goliath Corporation, shhh). And Kaine is currently the English Chancellor with a yen to be dictator. Colonel Fawsten Gayle is head of Kaine’s security. Ernst Stricknene is Kaine’s personal advisor. Robert Edsel is the Kainian minister of road safety *eye roll*. Redmond van de Poste, the Opposition leader, is the leader of the Commonsense Party and sponsored by the Toast Marketing Board; he’s taking over from the deceased Mrs. Fay Bentoss.

Evade the Question Time is…
…a topical talk show on ToadNews-Network hosted by Tudor Webastow of The Owl. Audience members include Miss Pupkin, Miss Ives, and Mr. Wedgwood. Another talk show is Swindon Breakfast with Toad with Warwick Fridge and Leigh Onzolent. Lydia Startright is an on-air reporter.

Goliath Corporation is…
…truly evil, even more evil than the usual multinational corporation and based on the Isle of Man. The town of Laxey has been renamed Goliathopolis. And now they’re switching to a faith-based corporate management system. Sister Bettina of Stroud is their corporate precog. Mr. Cheese and Mr. Chalk are corporate bullies. Brik Schitt-Hawse heads up the tech division and does something with Uncle Mycroft’s Ovinator! Mr. Toedee is the head of PR. Jack Schitt has been demoted far, far down the ladder from his former position as head of Goliath’s Advanced Weapons Division. Mr. Higgs is his assistant. Mr. Godfrey is the CEO’s personal assistant’s assistant. John Henry Goliath V is the CEO and great-great-grandson of Goliath’s founder. Mr. Jarvis is on the board and coming up with all sorts of reasons why buying Antarctica was a good deal.

Death at Double-X Ranch…
…is a pulp western that is set in 1878 and written in 1908. Howell is a drunk. Abel Baxter wants a gunfight with the sheriff. McNeil rode into town at the wrong time.

The Minotaur, a half-man, half-bull, escaped two years ago in The Well of Lost Plots, 3; he may be traveling under the alias, Norman Johnson.

The Outland is our world. Horatio Nelson seems to want to die. Samuel Pring had been a politician. A Glatisant is a fictional hell beast. The Windowmaker is an assassin. She’s also Cindy, a Sicilian librarian, who is married to Spike, and they have a year-old daughter, Betty. Her brother is a librarian for the CIA. Mr. Wentworth is a fan of Thursday’s. Other Hamlets include Piarno Keyes playing the character. Pete & Dave’s is a local reengineered-pet store. Dennis was the chimera at the mall. Mr. Tork Armada is the spokesman for OFGOD, the religious-institution-licensing authority, and he is not impressed with Goliath’s ratings. Daisy Mutlar was the woman Landen nearly married. A grammasite is a parasitic life-form that lives inside books. Dave Chesney is Spike’s old partner from SO-17. Mr. Martin Piffco tells the truth and is committed for it. I wonder how long we have before we’re committed for speaking against the government…or a politician… Rupert Smercc of Ipswich isn’t too pleased, either. Mr. Pascoe is the official spokesman for the Federated Agnostics. St. Septyk’s Hospital.

The Cover and Title

The background of the cover has a close-up swirl of cloud with watercolor shadows of deep blue fading into the white of the paper. In the bottom half is a hardcover book open to reveal a cut-out in which resides a piece of toast with too, too-clever holes that remind me of a skull. It is a cute way to announce the series information. Text-wise, there’s an info blurb at the very top using the same red as the book. Below that is the author’s name in a royal blue sans-serif font. The title, in a teal green script font, is between the author and the book.

The title refers to the political situation, where there is Something Rotten, but it is not in the state of Denmark.

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