Title: Something Rotten
Author: Jasper Fforde
Narrator: Emily Gray
Audiobook Length: 12 hours, 27 minutes
Synopsis (Courtesy of Powell’s Books):
“Detective Thursday Next has had her fill of her responsibilities as the Bellman in Jurisfiction, enough with Emperor Zhark’s pointlessly dramatic entrances, outbreaks of slapstick raging across pulp genres, and hacking her hair off to fill in for Joan of Arc. Packing up her son, Friday, Thursday returns to Swindon accompanied by none other than the dithering Danish prince Hamlet. Caring for both is more than a full-time job and Thursday decides it is definitely time to get her husband Landen back, if only to babysit. Luckily, those responsible for Landen’s eradication, The Goliath Corporation — formerly an oppressive multinational conglomerate, now an oppressive multinational religion — have pledged to right the wrong.
But returning to SpecOps isn’t a snap. When outlaw fictioneer Yorrick Kaine seeks to get himself elected dictator, he whips up a frenzy of anti-Danish sentiment and demands mass book burnings. The return of Swindon’s patron saint bearing divine prophecies could spell the end of the world within five years, possibly faster if the laughably terrible Swindon Mallets don’t win the Superhoop, the most important croquet tournament in the land. And if that’s not bad enough, The Merry Wives of Windsor is becoming entangled with Hamlet. Can Thursday find a Shakespeare clone to stop this hostile takeover? Can she prevent the world from plunging into war? Can she vanquish Kaine before he realizes his dream of absolute power? And, most important, will she ever find reliable child care?”
Thoughts: In Something Rotten, Jasper Fforde ties together all of the loose ends that remain outstanding from the previous novels to create a thrilling story that retains all of the humor and literary mentions that make the series so memorable. Flashing forward two years from the last time the reader sees Thursday, it does take more than a few pages for the reader to adjust to the jump in time. In fact, I had to double-check to make sure I did not skip a novel because I was so surprised to find out that Friday Next was two years old instead of a newborn or still in utero. Once the reader adjusts to the jump in time, the rest of the novel falls into place quite quickly.
There is so much to love in all of Mr. Fforde’s novels, but the reader gets the impression that he was truly on top of his game when writing Something Rotten. There is so that requires laughing out loud, from the caddish patron saint of Swindon to the Superhoop championship. Yet, Something Rotten is not without its more serious moments as well. There is a delicate balance between the humor and the drama, and Mr. Fforde walks this line with aplomb. In fact, the dramatic moments were more poignant and powerful because of the levity of the rest of the novel.
Emily Gray was not quite as bad a narrator as I remembered her to be. Her ability to vocalize Thursday’s wry wit makes the audio productions so worthwhile. Her biggest fault lies in her performance of the male voices in the novel. These remain a weak area for her, as each male character ends up sounding the same – somewhat dopey and unpolished. In a novel that builds its humor upon subtleties, her inability to vocalize male characters in a more erudite fashion is a disappointment and detraction from the overall story.
In spite of the weaknesses of the narrator’s performance, Something Rotten remains the strongest in the Thursday Next series to date. Thursday is on top of her game, trying to outwit Goliath and Yorrick Kaine, uneradicate her husband, and prevent the world from ending…again. Fforde excels at tongue-in-cheek humor, and the laughs are almost non-stop. The impression the reader gets is that Something Rotten was meant to be the last book in the series. If this is true, then it definitely would have ended on a high note. This is a true must-read for fans of the series.
Acknowledgements: I purchased this from Audible.