Sara's Reviews > Something Rotten

Something Rotten by Jasper Fforde
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Oct 20, 2014

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bookshelves: fantasy
Read from February 21 to March 01, 2010 , read count: 1

** spoiler alert ** Okay. What I loved about this book: Anything involving Granny Next, because I think that whole bit was pulled off masterfully, with just the right amount of telegraphing what was happening in advance. I knew what was going on long before the end, and in fact suspected even before beginning this volume, but didn't feel like I was being hit over the head with it unnecessarily. The big reveal had the feel of the inevitable, not the predictable. Thumbs up. Likewise, the ending, well-done. It struck just the right note and wound up serving as a wonderful reflection of other events from earlier in the series (I am addicted to symmetry in fiction), and really tied everything up very well. To the point, in fact, that I was confused about why there was another book still sitting on my "borrowed" shelf waiting to be read, until I caught wind that Something Rotten concludes the first tetrology, and First Among Sequels begins a new one.

That, though, has me wondering if I ought to stop here. Because I'll be honest, I have no real intention of keeping up with the series as new books are published. This seems like a convenient place to stop. (First Among Sequels currently appears on my "Currently Reading" list, but I haven't actually begun it yet.)

Don't get me wrong. These books have been a fun read, and I would hate to give the impression that I actively dislike them. I don't. I'm just not that impressed. The problems I've had with previous installments have only gotten worse here. I feel like a broken record. There's too much happening, and it feels to me like Fforde is trying too hard -- although I'll grant that at this point he's got to work within the world he's set up, so the "trying too hard" (I mean, come on. Cheese mafia?) is really something endemic to the series and not something that can be addressed very well in later volumes.

As for plot... In this book, Fforde is trying to do so very much that I couldn't really even tell you what the A plot is supposed to be. There are too many sub-plots woven together, they all get tangled up, things wind up having to be resolved far, far too easily just in order to get them wrapped up, and it's really kind of hard to tell what's significant and what's not. (Even the Hamlet storyline from which the title comes happens mostly off-screen, as it were, which I found very odd.) It would help if there were some sort of definable main antagonist, but there's really not one of those either. There are individuals who cause trouble for Thursday, and of course there's always Goliath, but none of them have a big enough and immediate enough role in the overall story to really drive it. There are good ideas here, but there's too much clutter.

Also, memo to Fforde: The whole "I feel like we're in a novel" thing is tired and overdone in fiction where the whole premise doesn't involve this concept of fictional characters being aware of their being read. Here? It's corny and distracting and unnecessary, and if you were going to do it I really don't think that was the place to do it.

The Eyre Affair started out relatively strong -- not perfect by any means, but really compelling and generally well-done despite its flaws. I kind of feel like things have gone downhill since then. Each volume has something (or somethings, plural) it excels at, but then the quality continuously drops off in other areas and the excellent parts are never quite enough to counteract the not-so-excellent bits. I like the concept, and I have very much enjoyed the Bookworld interactions that allow us a different angle on certain characters from classic fiction. I want to like this series as a whole more than I do, but... Ultimately, it's just falling a bit flat for me.
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02/24/2010 page 127
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