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Lost in a Good Book

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Lost in a Good Book

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Author: Jasper Fforde
Publisher: Penguin Books, 2004
Hodder & Stoughton, 2002
Series: Thursday Next: Book 2
Book Type: Novel
Genre: Fantasy
Sub-Genre Tags: Alternate/Parallel Universe
Light/Humorous SF
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Synopsis

If Thursday thought she could avoid the spotlight after her heroic escapades in the pages of Jane Eyre, she was sorely mistaken. The unforgettable literary detective whom Michiko Kakutani of The New York Times calls "part Bridget Jones, part Nancy Drew and part Dirty Harry" had another think coming. The love of her life has been eradicated by Goliath, everyone's favorite corrupt multinational. To rescue him Thursday must retrieve a supposedly vanquished enemy from the pages of "The Raven." But Poe is off-limits to even the most seasoned literary interloper. Enter a professional: the man-hating Miss Havisham from Dickens's Great Expectations. As her new apprentice, Thursday keeps her motives secret as she learns the ropes of Jurisfiction, where she moonlights as a Prose Resource Operative inside books. As if jumping into the likes of Kafka, Austen, and Beatrix Potter's Tale of the Flopsy Bunnies weren't enough, Thursday finds herself the target of a series of potentially lethal coincidences, the authenticator of a newly discovered play by the Bard himself, and the only one who can prevent an unidentifiable pink sludge from engulfing all life on Earth.

The inventive, exuberant, and totally original literary fun that began with The Eyre Affair continues with Fforde's magnificent new adventure, the second installment in what is sure to become a classic series of literary fantasy.


Excerpt

1.

The Adrian Lush Show

Sample viewing figures for major TV networks in England, September 1985

NETWORKTOAD
The Adrian Lush Show (Wednesday) (Chat show) 16,428,316
The Adrian Lush Show (Monday) (Chat show) 16,034,921
Bonzo the Wonder Hound (Canine thriller) 15,975,462

MOLETV
Name That Fruit! (Answer questions for cash prizes) 15,320,340
65 Walrus Street (Soap opera; Episode 3,352) 14,315,902
Dangerously Dysfunctional People Argue Live on TV (Chat show) 11,065,611

OWLVISION
Will Marlowe or Kit Shakespeare? (Literary quiz show) 13,591,203
One More Chance to See! (Reverse extinction show) 2,321,820

GOLIATH CABLE CHANNEL (1 TO 32)
Whose Lie Is It Anyway? (Corporate comedy quiz show) 428
Cots to Coffins: Goliath. All you'll ever need. (Docuganda) 9 (disputed)

NEANDERTHAL CABLE NETWORK 4
Powertool Club Live (Routers and power planers edition) 9,032
Jackanory Gold (Jane Eyre edition) 7,219

Warwick Fridge,
The Ratings War

I DIDN'T ASK to be a celebrity. I never wanted to appear on The Adrian Lush Show. And let's get one thing straight right now-the world would have to be hurtling toward imminent destruction before I'd agree to anything as dopey as The Thursday Next Workout Video.

The publicity surrounding the successful rebookment of Jane Eyre was fun to begin with but rapidly grew wearisome. I happily posed for photocalls, agreed to newspaper interviews, hesitantly appeared on Desert Island Smells and was thankfully excused the embarrassment of Celebrity Name That Fruit. The public, ever fascinated by celebrity, had wanted to know everything about me following my excursion within the pages of Jane Eyre, and since the Special Operations Network have a PR record on par with that of Vlad the Impaler, the Top Brass thought it would be a good wheeze to use me to boost their flagging popularity. I dutifully toured all points of the globe doing signings, library openings, talks and interviews. The same questions, the same SpecOps-approved answers. Supermarket openings, literary dinners, offers of book deals. I even met the actress Lola Vavoom, who said that she would simply adore to play me if there was a film. It was tiring, but more than that-it was dull. For the first time in my career at the Literary Detectives I actually missed authenticating Milton.

I'd taken a week's leave as soon my tour ended so Landen and I could devote some time to married life. I moved all my stuff to his house, rearranged his furniture, added my books to his and introduced my dodo, Pickwick, to his new home. Landen and I ceremoniously partitioned the bedroom closet space, decided to share the sock drawer, then had an argument over who was to sleep on the wall side of the bed. We had long and wonderfully pointless conversations about nothing in particular, walked Pickwick in the park, went out to dinner, stayed in for dinner, stared at each other a lot and slept in late every morning. It was wonderful.

On the fourth day of my leave, just between lunch with Landen's mum and Pickwick's notable first fight with the neighbor's cat, I got a call from Cordelia Flakk. She was the senior SpecOps PR agent here in Swindon and she told me that Adrian Lush wanted me on his show. I wasn't mad keen on the idea-or the show. But there was an upside. The Adrian Lush Show went out live, and Flakk assured me that this would be a "no holds barred" interview, something that held a great deal of appeal. Despite my many appearances, the true story about Jane Eyre was yet to be told-and I had been wanting to drop the Goliath Corporation in it for quite a while. Flakk's assurance that this would finally be the end of the press junket clinched my decision. Adrian Lush it would be.

I traveled up to the NetworkToad studios a few days later on my own; Landen had a deadline looming and needed to get his head down. But I wasn't alone for long. As soon as I stepped into the large entrance lobby a milk-curdling shade of green strode purposefully towards me.

"Thursday, darling!" cried Cordelia, beads rattling. "So glad you could make it!" The SpecOps dress code stated that our apparel should be "dignified," but in Cordelia's case they had obviously stretched a point. She looked about as far from a serving officer as one could get. Looks, in her case, were highly deceptive. She was SpecOps all the way from her high heels to the pink-and-yellow scarf tied in her hair.

She air-kissed me affectionately. "How's married life treating you?"

"Very well."

"Excellent, my dear, I wish you and ... er ..."

"Landen?"

"Yes; I wish you and Landen both the best. Love what you've done with your hair!"

"My hair? I haven't done anything with my hair!"

"Exactly!" replied Flakk quickly. "It's so incredibly you. What do you think of the outfit?"

"One's attention is drawn straight to it," I replied ambiguously.

"This is 1985," she explained. "Bright colors are the future. See this top? Half price in the sales. I'll let you loose in my wardrobe one day."

"I think I've got some pink socks of my own somewhere."

She smiled.

"It's a start, my dear. Listen, you've been a shining star about all this publicity work; I'm very grateful-and so is SpecOps."

"Grateful enough to post me somewhere other than the Literary Detectives?" I asked hopefully.

"Well," murmured Cordelia reflectively, "first things first. As soon as you've done the Lush interview your transfer application will be aggressively considered, you have my word on that."

I sighed. "Aggressively considered" had the ring of "definitely perhaps" about it and wasn't as promising as I could have wished. Despite the successes at work, I still wanted to move up within the Network. Cordelia, reading my disappointment, took my arm in a friendly gesture and steered me towards the waiting area.

"Coffee?"

"Thanks."

"Spot of bother in Auckland?"

"Brontë Federation offshoot caused a bit of trouble," I explained. "They didn't like the new ending of Jane Eyre."

"There'll always be a few malcontents," observed Flakk with a smile. "Milk?"

"Just a tad."

"Oh," she said, staring at the milk jug, "this milk's off. No matter. Listen," she said quietly,

"I'd love to stay and watch, but some SpecOps-17 clot in Penzance staked a Goth by mistake; it's going to be PR hell on earth down there."

SO-17 were the Vampire and Werewolf Disposal Operation. Despite a new three-point confirmation procedure, a jumpy cadet with a sharpened stake could still spell big trouble.

"Everything is all absolutely hunky-dory here. I've spoken to Adrian Lush and the others so there won't be any embarrassments."

"No holds barred, eh?" I grimaced, but Flakk was unapologetic.

"Needs must, Thursday. SpecOps requires your support in these difficult times. President Formby himself has called for an inquiry into whether SpecOps are value-for-money-or even necessary at all."

"Okay," I agreed, quite against my better judgment, "but this is the very last interview, yes?"

"Of course!" agreed Flakk hastily, then added in an overdramatic manner: "Oh my goodness is that the time? I have to catch the airship to Barnstaple in an hour. This is Adie; she'll be looking after you and ... and-" here Cordelia leaned just a little bit closer-"remember you're SpecOps, darling!"

She air-kissed me again, glanced at her watch and took to her heels in a cloud of expensive scent.

"How could I forget?" I muttered as a bouncy girl clutching a clipboard appeared from where she had been waiting respectfully out of earshot.

"Hi!" squeaked the girl. "I'm Adie. I'm so pleased to meet you!"

She grasped my hand and told me repeatedly what a fantastic honor it was.

"I don't want to bug you or anything," she asked shyly, "but was Edward Rochester really drop-dead-gorgeous-to-die-for?"

"Not handsome," I answered as I watched Flakk slink off down the corridor, "but certainly attractive. Tall, deep voice and glowering looks, if you know the type."

Adie turned a deep shade of pink.

"Gosh!"

I was taken into makeup, where I was puffed and primped, talked at mercilessly and made to sign copies of the FeMole I had appeared in. I was very relieved when Adie came to rescue me thirty minutes later. She announced into her wireless that we were "walking" and then, after leading me down a corridor and through some swing doors, asked:

"What's it like working in SpecOps? Do you chase bad guys, clamber around on the outside of airships, defuse bombs with three seconds to go, that sort of stuff?"

"I wish I did," I replied good-humoredly, "but in truth it's 70% form filling, 27% mind-numbing tedium and 2% sheer terror."

"And the remaining 1%?"

I smiled. "That's what keeps us going."

We walked the seemingly endless corridors, past large grinning photographs of Adrian Lush and assorted other NetworkToad celebrities.

"You'll like Adrian," she told me happily, "and he'll like you. Just don't try to be funnier than him; it doesn't suit the format of the show."

"What does that mean?"

She shrugged.

"I don't know. I'm meant to tell all his guests that."

"Even the comedians?"

"Especially the comedians."

I assured her being funny was furthest from my mind, and pretty soon she directed me onto the studio floor. Feeling unusually nervous and wishing that Landen was with me, I walked across the familiar front-room set of The Adrian Lush Show. But Mr. Lush was nowhere to be seen-and neither were the "Live Studio Audience" a Lush show usually boasted. Instead, a small group of officials were waiting-the "others" Flakk had told me about. My heart fell when I saw who they were.

"Ah, there you are, Next!" boomed Commander Braxton Hicks with forced bonhomie. "You're looking well, healthy, and, er, vigorous." He was my divisional chief back at Swindon, and despite being head of the Literary Detectives, was not that good with words.

"What are you doing here, sir?" I asked him, straining not to show my disappointment.

"Cordelia told me the Lush inter...

Copyright © 2002 by Jasper Fforde


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