I thought the first of Jasper Fforde’s Thursday Next novels, The Eyre Affair, was fantastic. Funny, literate, clever – a wonderful book, especially for voracious readers. One of the funniest books I’ve read, and I recommended it to others, bought it for them, and just generally enjoyed it. While the next three books in the series weren’t quite as magical, they were also a lot of fun.
By the time I reached the end of the fourth book, Something Rotten, though, I felt the joke had started to run thin. Not that there’s not a lot more material to be used – there is – it just seemed that Fforde’s particular approach to was losing its edge. Fforde may have felt the same, since the series paused for several years.
I think both he and I were right. First Among Sequels, while showing all the same cleverness and literary in-jokes as the earlier books, feels forced. It’s clever, but it’s just not as funny as it should be.
I felt somewhat the same about the first book of the Nursery Crime series – more clever than funny. I still think Fforde has a lot going for him; I expect to pick up the first books of some of his (many) other series. And I very strongly recommend the first Thursday Next quartet. This book, however, I think is best suited to true aficionados or to newcomers.