What I Read April 2019

Only two books in April, which means I am back on my law school pace. I don’t expect things to get better from here. Maybe three books a month seems like the best I can hope for these days.

First Among Sequels

Jasper Fforde

I still really like Thursday Next. This is the first book of the sequel series, with Thursday now the mother of three children. After the last book, Something Rotten, brought many of the plotlines to a close, this one reshuffles things and deals out a new string of plotlines.

My favorite of the new plotlines is Thursday’s adventures in BookWorld with her two new apprentices. Those apprentices are fictional and they just so happen to be the two fictional versions of Thursday. The first is Thursday 1-4, books that occurred before Thursday had a say over how her adventures were written and, supposedly, the four books that represent the series so far. She is essentially an 80’s bad cop action movie star. The other is Thursday 5, the star of the fifth book in the series. But not this book, the lost fifth book, The Great Samuel Pepys Fiasco. This version of Thursday is vegan hippy push-over. That reception of her book caused the end of the series. In real Thursday’s mind, neither are cut out for the job, though for opposite reasons. All three grow and learn over the course of the adventure. That is just one thread of many that are going on over the course of the book. This is such a great series.

Downtiming the Night Side

Jack L Chalker

I feel like I should either have a lot to say about this book, or very little to say.  Jack Chalker is a science fiction writer whose work gets WEIRD.  This book is not exception. It is a time travel story.  Terrorists take over a time travel facility and travel back in time.  The protagonist is sent after them.  This books take on time travel works something like Quantum Leap, but if you stay in the past too long you get stuck in the past body.  The initial mission goes sideways, but the protagonist, Ron Moosic, is saved by a mysterious time traveler.  He is then wrapped up in a time war from the future.  Things continue to go badly for him, as his mind is being affected by all the other people he’s been.

The is some weird post-human stuff that goes on, with the future people having evolved to live in space with various differing adaptations.  Except they never actually appear in the book, people just tell other people about them.  Then there are people on the night side, which are people who can’t return to their time because history has changed and they no longer exist.  At the risk of spoiling everything [so stop now if you don’t want to know], Ron meets and falls in love with Dawn.  They have kids together.  But Ron grows old, so he and his friends plan to strand him in a new body long enough for it to become permanent, without him losing his mind to the new body.  They do so, and his new body turns out to be Dawn.  His friends pull him back to before Ron and Dawn met, and now Ron is on the other side of the relationship.  What I am saying is that this book is freaking weird.

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What I Read in August

I read what is basically my monthly average this month, four. Three of them are from the same series, Jacqueline Winspear’s Maisie Dobbs series of mysteries. While I did read three of them in a month, I’m not sure I really liked them all that much. They are easy reading on my Kindle at work, and I didn’t not like them, but I’m not going to be gushing about them like I did about Japser Fforde’s Thursday Next books for example. Also, I’m having a hard time separating some parts of each of the Maisie books since I read them so close together.

Maisie Dobbs

Jacqueline Winspear

This is the first Maisie Dobbs book and it reads like it. It is very much like a comic book origin story, with only a halfhearted attempt at a mystery. That being said, I did enjoy it quite a bit. Maisie is an interesting character, and this exploration of her was a good read. It just wasn’t the mystery I was expecting. It helps that I am a sucker for that time period. I love to read about Pre-WWII 20th century.

The novel moves back and forth from the life of young Maisie, from when she goes to work as a maid for the Comptons, to when she opens her own private investigators business. She is solving the mystery of what happens in a commune filled with WWI vets disfigured by the war. The emphasis is greatly on the life of young Maisie, with the mystery being little more than an afterthought. Maisie’s personal history is a good read, though the ultimate outcome is predictable. There isn’t a lot of investigation to be done as far as the case goes.

Birds of a Feather

Jacqueline Winspear

This one is about a runaway heiress which turns into a murder investigation, which also is heavily reliant on aftermath of WWI. This one is actually a mystery. The woman who Maisie is searching for, who may be a potential victim or the criminal herself, is not a very likable person neither for the reader nor Maisie. Maisie has to solve the mystery, though. This one is much more interesting as a mystery than the first book.

Pardonable Lies

Jacqueline Winspear

Another missing persons case, actually a few of them, where all the missing persons supposedly died during WWI. She is hired by a father to look for his son, the last request of his recently dead wife. She also agrees to look for the final resting place of the brother of one of her friends. She also has to deal with her own recollections of the war. I was a little less enthused with this one than the previous ones.

I read these three books really close together, so some of the details run together. I’m not quite sure one book ends and the other begins. But the overall they paint a consistent portrait of Maisie as a character. She is independent, to the point of fault. She is thankful for the help of her friends, but no longer wants to except that help. Maisie exists at a place between classes in a time when long held prejudices are eroding. She has to square her loving, dependable lower class father with the upper class education she has received. It makes for some compelling reading besides the mysteries, which were the real draw for me.

First Among Sequels

Jasper Fforde

The title here is not just a marginally amusing pun, it is also accurate. While this is the fifth Thursday Next book, it is definitely a break from the previous four. The last book, Something Rotten, effectively tied up most of the series loose ends. First Among Sequels picks things up 15 years later. The amusing wit has not changed one bit. It is still a lot of fun. However, it seems that the longer we spend in Thursday’s world, the more it loses its magic. Of course, the more time we spend in the world, the more we grow to know it and therefore formerly strange things become normal. That is not what I am feeling here. With the events in this book, Fforde has drained much of the weird out of his universe. It is not the strange becoming familiar, the strange is being syphoned right off the pages. Despite my misgivings, First Among Sequels is still a lot of fun. Plus, all the next Next book has to do is a small infusion of weird to right the ship.

The mystery this time involves a reinvigorated Goliath Corp conspiring with the council of genre’s to take over fiction, as well as the plot that goes right to the heart of the Chronoguard. It is much like the previous books in the series, with a very tongue in cheek look at the conventions of fiction mixed with a satisfying in its own right story. As long as Fforde can keep up the this love letter to literature, I will probably to continue to enjoy it. Thursday is an appealing character, and the addition of Thursday Next (fictional) to the cast is a good one.