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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

     

Something Rotten

by
Jasper Fforde


general information | review summaries | our review | links | about the author

To purchase Something Rotten



Title: Something Rotten
Author: Jasper Fforde
Genre: Novel
Written: 2004
Length: 383 pages
Availability: Something Rotten - US
Something Rotten - UK
Something Rotten - Canada
Something Rotten - India
Sauvez Hamlet ! - France
Es ist was faul - Deutschland
C'è del marcio - Italia
Algo huele a podrido - España
  • Something Rotten is the fourth Thursday Next novel

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Our Assessment:

B+ : most enjoyable

See our review for fuller assessment.




Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
Entertainment Weekly B 6/8/2004 Gregory Kirschling
The Independent A 5/8/2004 Christina Hardyment
The NY Times . 5/8/2004 Janet Maslin
People B+ 23/8/2004 Joe Heim
Time . 2/8/2004 Lev Grossman
The Washington Post B- 15/8/2004 Elizabeth Hand


  Review Consensus:

  No real consensus, but generally fairly enthusiastic

  From the Reviews:
  • "Fforde has churned this quartet of books out at a clip -- the first, The Eyre Affair, hit in 2002 -- and the essential one-jokeness of the premise is starting to show. But he compensates with enough furious daft invention to sate his cult fan base." - Gregory Kirschling, Entertainment Weekly

  • "Something Rotten is, arguably, Fforde's best book yet. It shows him firmly in the authorial saddle, whipping in his glorious but unruly horde of characters to create a well-balanced story that stands in its own right, and has a definite plot." - Christina Hardyment, The Independent

  • "The pileup of all these ingredients, not to mention the hedgehog Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle from the Beatrix Potter books and cameo appearances by certain Alice in Wonderland characters, make Something Rotten more than clever: they make it clever and a half. Mr. Fforde's penchant for plotting knows no bounds, nor does his taste for awful puns (...) and his occasional silly streak. (...) It's hard to forgive some of this. But it's easy to be delighted by a writer who loves books so madly" - Janet Maslin, The New York Times

  • " Something Rotten requires not just suspending disbelief but destroying it (.....) Fforde's Britishisms and flights of fancy may prove burdensome to some (...) But sticking with this oddball novel is rewarding, and readers who share Fforde's love of literature and surreal sense of humor will enjoy this free fall through absurdity." - Joe Heim, People

  • "This is what the British call silliness, and people generally find it either dismal or delightful. If you're in the latter camp, prepare to be delighted by Jasper Fforde's Something Rotten (.....) Fun, but Fforde's cheerfulness is relentless." - Lev Grossman, Time

  • "Reading Something Rotten is somewhat akin to sitting through a 24-hour Monty Python marathon: After a while, even the most diehard fan may find herself yawning and wishing for -- well, something completely different. (...) I'll admit to having a taste for this kind of stuff. But the humor in Something Rotten is often scattershot, and the pacing is glacial. (...) Still, I laughed out loud five times and snickered 31: not a bad rate." - Elizabeth Hand, The Washington Post

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       Something Rotten is the fourth instalment of Thursday Next's adventures, and author Jasper Fforde continues the series with the same verve and cleverness that made the three preceding volumes so enjoyable.
       At the beginning of the novel Thursday is still living in the world of books: as head of Jurisfiction she's in charge of keeping order there -- never an easy task, especially with a rampaging slapstick Minotaur hiding out somewhere. She's getting fed up, though, and decides to quit and return to the real world, with her now two-year-old son, Friday, and her dodos in tow. Here, too, things aren't going ideally. This real world, readers will recall (or newcomers to the series will soon learn), isn't quite the one we're familiar with. Wales is an independent socialist republic, England dominated by the Goliath Corporation, and books are considered very, very important. From Thursday's father's unusual appearances -- he's "a time-traveling knight errant", as described in the dramatis personae -- to the presence of the odd fictional (and non-fictional) character (Hamlet, Lady Emma Hamilton, and Bismarck are guests and visitors in the Next household when Thursday shows up) to Thursday's eradicated husband, Landen Parke-Laine (who only Thursday remembers), this is an extremely odd mix of characters.
       Goliath now seek to make amends -- and transform the company into a religion ! -- but that doesn't smell quite right. Prophets also keep appearing, notably one from the 13th century who had predicted the unlikely victory of the Swindon Mallets in the WCL SuperHoop-88 (the big croquet championship, in 1988) -- the consequences of which are such that basically the future of the world depends on it. But the powers that be do everything they can to ensure Swindon can't win, with Thursday naturally finding herself in the middle of things (she comes to manage the club as players flee right and left).
       There's also a strong anti-Danish campaign going on, the central platform of the Chancellor of England, Yorrick Kaine, who wants to become dictator. Kaine is one of Thursday's big enemies, a very minor fictional character who has established himself in the real world. One way of getting rid of him would be to find the book he first appeared in, but that proves very difficult. And he has quite a few tricks up his sleeves to consolidate power -- with only Thursday, pretty much, standing in his way.
       From adventures in the netherworld between life and death to the final showdown at the croquet match, there's quite a bit of action here -- though noticeably less that is strictly literary-related than in the previous books. But there are also some adventures in book-land, and Hamlet's presence (and some Shakespearean problems that threaten his drama) make for the usual literary inventions too. Thurday is also plagued by assassins and a stalker, and has all sorts of problems to deal with, not the least of which is arranging proper child-care.
       From highs -- the possibility of being reunited with husband Landen -- to lows -- death, and death -- Thursday deals with everything, and is her usual capable self.
       The different threads come together quite nicely, including in some unexpected ways, and there's little that is too wildly outrageous. (One of the remarkable things about the series is that most everything in these books is, of course, entirely outrageous -- but Fforde's presentation and explanation makes everything from book-travel to time-travel seem perfectly reasonable.) The book moves along quickly and enjoyably, with clever invention interspersed throughout and the unwieldy cast of characters deftly juggled (and it's in the little details -- Hamlet's interaction with a dodo, for example -- that Fforde excels).
       Impressive, too, the often dead-pan tone in describing this England, 1988, from "Evade the Question Time, the nation's premier topical talk show" to the chapter-epigraphs which often consist of excerpts from the local periodicals providing some (hilarious) insight into what is going on in the country.
       The world of Thursday Next is one one eagerly returns to, and Something Rotten is like an episode of a great TV show one tunes into every week, with the same sort of mix of the familiar and the new. If there's any problem with the book, it's that it fits too comfortably in that role. Something Rotten is probably not the first book a reader would want to turn to in the series, but Fforde has written it so that it can stand on its own -- but without really giving it the legs to stand truly independently. It is very much part of a series, and though it is part of a very good series it does lean a bit much on what had been introduced previously: there's not quite the same enthusiasm about the consequences of time-travel or some of the inventions or dealing with the world of fiction..
       Admirably, Fforde does allow for great change: the next Next novel will be set in quite a different England (already sketched out here), and some of what occurs and is revealed in Something Rotten will clearly have consequences in the next episodes.
       Something Rotten is a solid, entertaining, occasionally wonderful read. Fans of the series will not be disappointed -- though newcomers might want to begin at the beginning (i.e. enjoy The Eyre Affair first).

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Links:

Something Rotten: Reviews: Jasper Fforde: Other books by Jasper Fforde under review: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       Jasper Fforde lives in Wales.

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© 2004-2012 the complete review

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