I’m having a bad run even if I did finish two novels this week.  Firstly,  Irmgard Keun’s The Artificial Silk Girl, which was disappointing to say the least, and I said a lot more here.  This morning I finished Jasper Fforde’s First Among Sequels.  My one word reaction forming this post’s title.

It’s a sequel Fforde should not have written, despite the pressure from the Thursday Next fandom.  It feels, dare I say this considering the overall premise of Fforde’s ultimate fantasy series, contrived.  Set 14 years after its predecessor, Something Rotten, this book has too many narrative strands, each requiring major amounts of exposition to sustain the internal rationale.  It’s mad and amusing in the usual Ffordian sense, but it descends rapidly into a wearying mania.   And it’s clumsy with Fforde committing two cardinal sins:

1) In novels 1 – 4, the plots of the classic novels being protected by Jurisfiction provided a central cohesion to the narrative.  In this, with one literary allusion after the other serving only to demonstrate Fforde’s inventiveness and cleverness, the joke soon wears thin.

2) That no-resolution-you’ll-have-to-buy-the-forthcoming-second-among-sequels cliffhanger of an ending is simply a cop-out.  Fforde perhaps as confused as this reader and needing a couple of years to work out what the hell he is going to do to sort out the shambles …..

As I said, this is exasperating from the man who wrote what is possibly my favourite chapter of all time – an episode guaranteed to lift me from the doldrums. Required reading particularly if you’ve ever wondered what would happen if the cast of Wuthering Heights began to attend anger management classes. Chapter 12 of The Well of Lost Plots is the work of genius.

Please, Jasper, switch off the autopilot next time round.