Authors We Love: Jasper Fforde
Whenever anyone asks me to describe Jasper Fforde’s books, the first word I choose is ‘quirky’. After all, Thursday Next’s pet is a cloned Dodo named Pickwick, and her father and son time travel. And that’s only scratching the surface of the quirkiness. I think this quirkiness is what makes Fforde special as a writer; there’s nothing quite like him in the fiction universe.
I first came to Fforde through The Eyre Affair and Thursday Next. A book that quotes a made-up other book on the first page of the first chapter is almost always going to win me over, because it’s like the author wrote TWO books at the very same time. Fforde’s made-up book is called A Short History of the Special Operations Network, and from that very first quote, he’s immersing you in Thursday Next’s world. And the world-building in the book blew me away; Thursday’s world seemed very real, because every detail was thoughtful and made sense, even if it didn’t LITERALLY make sense. Here are some things that happen in Thursday’s world: time-travel, the aforementioned cloned pets, cheese as contraband, footnote communication, crime-solving IN books and so on and so forth. Did I mention that Fforde has written SEVEN Thursday Next novels?
Then there are the Nursery Crime mysteries–only two, alas, and I think it will stay that way–which take place in the world of nursery rhyme characters. And Fforde’s two stand-alone novels, Shades of Grey and the brand-new Early Riser, which are possibly science fiction? But also just quirky. Lastly, Fforde has a series for juvenile readers, called the Chronicles of Kazam, and Fforde’s fabulous world-building happens in all of these books. Fforde is so dedicated to world-building that he’s extended Thursday’s world (and a bit of the other worlds) onto the internet, accessed through his own website. It’s astonishingly awesome, and I could happily spend hours poking around the various things Fforde (and his team? I presume he has a bit of help.) have dreamed up.
It’s almost impossible for librarians to figure out how to classify Fforde’s books. Are they science fiction? Time travel and the general invented-ness of the worlds in the books would certainly argue yes. Are they mysteries? Well, the Nursery Crime series is explicitly mystery, although in a very unorthodox setting. Thursday is nominally a detective in the Thursday Next series, although again, not in any real world sense of the word. The Chronicles of Kazam is possibly the easiest to classify, as it’s a fairly straight-up fantasy series, but for kids. In fact, here’s how unclassifiable Fforde’s The Eyre Affair is: in our library consortium, it is shelved in fiction, science-fiction and mystery at different libraries. And Fforde’s other series are equally as distributed. I’m not going to attempt to provide a right answer as to where they belong, but OLPL has them in the plain old fiction section, if you’re in the building and you’d like to read one.