In The Woman Who Died A Lot, the seventh volume of the ongoing series involving Thursday Next, author Jasper Fforde takes a break from the BookWorld to tell a story set firmly in his alternate universe town of Swindon.
Thursday, now four months into her forced retirement due to the events of the previous book, is still finding “real” life a bit of a problem. The assassination attempt has left her with scares that will never heal but she must also deal with certain family issues –one that include her son Friday’s lack of momentum in his life now that his career in the Chronoguard was relegated to a might-have-been. Then there is daughter Tuesday, who is having difficulty perfecting the Anti-Smote shield needed to thwart an angry Deity's promise to wipe Swindon off the face of the earth, and Jenny, who doesn't exist.
But with Thursday Next, even a job as Head Librarian at The Swindon All-You-Can-Eat-at-Fatso’s Drink Not Included Library, does not mean a smooth life, especially with budget problems and the leader of the SLS –Special Library Service- who wants to do early morning raids to retrieve overdo books.
Then Friday and his fellow workers at Chronoguard get Destiny Awareness Letters that now describe their future lives now that time travel no longer exists. All are pretty depressing, but for Friday, it’s even more so. He’ll murder someone by the end of the week, and has no idea whom Gavin Watkins is and why he’ll kill the man.
Meanwhile, Goliath Corporation is stepping up its attacks on Thursday by trying to replace her with a synthetic model, a Day Player. This, of course, brings her in contact with her nemesis at Goliath, Jack Schitt.
Then there’s the looming death of the planet from Asteroid HR-6984.
It’s always nice to read Fforde, who fills his world full of clever puns and funny wordplay. His comic genius –who will remind many of the late great Douglas Adams- is that he never quite takes the whole thing too seriously. Still, like all science fiction writers obsessed with techno-babble, Fforde lays a great deal of it around and it becomes a bit much, which is why if you’re new to Fforde, The Woman Who Died a Lot is not the best place to start. Even if you read some of the background on this series, it can be very confusing. The plot lines run sort of parallel and very rarely interact, which can be confusing.
The novel is not breezy and one to be completed in a one or two sit-downs. As a matter of fact, I recommend taking a bit of time with the book, and don’t be a bit shy that you have to go back every once in a while.
But I love this bizarre world that Fforde has created and look forward to each new novel.