Jasper Fforde is another author whose books I can read over and over, but they are hard to describe. Fforde has said himself he isn’t really sure how to describe his work, and that was a stumbling block to publishing, where every book has to fit in some neat little genre. Fforde’s books are delightfully inventive mixtures of mystery, fantasy, time travel, and wonderful word play. As an English major, I love finding all the literary references.
Fforde’s first published books feature investigator Thursday Next, who discovers she has the ability to read herself into books and jump from one book to another. In her first adventure, The Eyre Affair, Thursday has to rescue Jane Eyre, who has been kidnapped from her book. Thursday finds herself in the Book World, where all the fictional characters are real, and is paired with Miss Haversham of Great Expectations to solve the crime. This isn’t the typical crazed left at the altar Miss Haversham, however, but a feisty senor with a love for fast cars. There are six books in this series following Thursday’s investigations in and out of Book World.
My favorite series is the Nursery Crime Division, featuring investigators Jack Spratt and Mary Mary. Their first case involves the murder of Humpty Dumpty and is titled The Big Over Easy. If you know your nursery rhymes and your noir, you get this reference. There are aliens in this book, too, and an extremely evil Gingerbread Man.
The second nursery crime book is titled The Fourth Bear, and Fforde has another in the works about the tortoise and the hare titled The Great Race.
Fforde’s Shades of Grey is set in a future world where your social standing depends on what color you can see. Eddie Russett, who can see red, is about in the middle of this color-dependent society, and trying to move up. But when he meets Jane Grey, who is on the bottom, she shows him how the strict color codes keeping his world at peace also keep people from learning the truth about What Happened Before. Fforde has two more books planned in this series. I want to tell him to hurry up!
I had the opportunity to hear Fforde speak at a bookstore in Raleigh. A former actor, he is just as entertaining a speaker as he is a writer. Check out his website, too, which is full of photos, games, and contests: http://www.jasperfforde.com.