Literature: Thursday Next
Thursday Next lives in an Alternate History
. In her world, Time Travel
, cloning and genetic engineering are commonplace; resurrected dodos are the household pet of choice. The obscenely powerful Goliath Corporation,
which nearly singlehandedly reconstructed England after World War II,
now runs the country as a virtual police state. And literature, particularly classic literature, is very, very, very Serious Business
. Writers are revered with nearly spiritual devotion, controversial claims about books and authors can be criminal, and an entire police squad, the LiteraTecs, exist to keep the literary scene in order. Thursday works for just such a unit in Swindon, with her friend and colleague, the exceedingly polite Bowden Cable.
In an effort to rescue her Gadgeteer Genius
uncle Mycroft from international arch-criminal Acheron Hades,
a gleefully evil
individual with supernatural powers, Thursday discovers the Great Library, a sort of pocket dimension that exists within the pages of all works of literature, where all literary characters live. They're self-aware, acting out their roles when a person reads a book but chilling out and living their own lives as soon as they close it. The Great Library is governed by the Council of Genres and kept in line by Jurisfiction, another
police force whose task it is to make sure the plot of every book stays the same every time someone reads it.
Such is the universe of Jasper Fforde
's meta-fictional masterpiece, the Thursday Next
series. The author hangs a lampshade
on everything and anything relating to classic literature, the tropes of police fiction and spy fiction, and even the relationship between a work of fiction and its audience. Heavy on wordplay and puns,
the series deals with the tireless heroine's adventures balancing her work as an agent of Jurisfiction in the Great Library and LiteraTec in the outside world, to say nothing of her responsibilities as a wife and mother. The books in order are:
- The Eyre Affair
- Lost in a Good Book
- The Well of Lost Plots
- Something Rotten
- First Among Sequels
- One of Our Thursdays is Missing
- The Woman Who Died a Lot
In addition, there is an Un Installment
known as The Great Samuel Pepys Fiasco
between the fourth and fifth/sixth books. The book doesn't exist (because of events in First Among Sequels
) but it's still listed in "other works by this author".
The books play with post modern
ideas, and toy with the fourth wall
, noting how things are written, or their own style. It plays up literary tropes, and their difference with the world. Fictional characters tend to be Genre Savvy
, but accepting of the issue. A lot of the action takes place in the Bookworld, where stories are assembled and regulated from behind the scenes, leading to various oddities.
Jasper Fforde has also written the Nursery Crime
series, which employs many of the same ideas and has a similar style. (The connection between the series is explained in great detail in The Well of Lost Plots
.) In this world, Genre Savvy
detectives try to deal with suspicious goings-on, often involving Nursery Rhyme
characters while trying to be both efficient and
readable. This is a world where it's customary for Da Chief
to suspend a detective
at least once a case, and detectives gain credibility for having novel cars, lost loves and drinking habits.
This series contains examples of:
- Action Mom: Thursday, in the later books.
- Adaptation Decay: Meta-examples abound, with the film version of Thursday's exploits bombing and her in-universe book adaptations flanderising her one way or the other.
- All Stories Are Real Somewhere: A variant, in that characters from fiction are well aware that they're fictional.
- Ambiguously Human: The fictional characters, notably Yorrick Kaine.
- Amnesia Loop: In First Among Sequels with Thursday in regards to Jenny. (This spreads to the rest of the family in The Woman Who Died a Lot.
- Androids and Detectives: Written!Thursday and Sprockett in Missing.
- Answers to the Name of God: A variation:
Mycroft: May God forgive me!
Acheron: I forgive you, it's the closest you'll get!
- Anvil on Head: The Eyre Affair pays homage to the anvil tradition in the subplot involving the Minotaur who has been tagged with a slapstick marker.
- Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: The twenty-second subbasement of the Well of Lost Plots is described as "a haven for cutthroats, bounty hunters, murderers, thieves, cheats, shape-shifters, scene-stealers, brigands, and plagiarists.
- although in-universe, given the nature of the Well, plagiarism is at least as bad as theft. And cheating.
- Also, Acheron Hades enjoys slow murder, torture, and flower arranging.
- Invoked in this exchange between Thursday and Landen in The Eyre Affair:
Landen: How was your first day?
Thursday: Kidnappings, vampires, shot dead a suspect, lost a witness to a gunman, Goliath tried to have me killed, puncture on the car. Usual shit.
Landen: A puncture? Really?
Thursday: Not really. I made that bit up.
- Audience Participation: In-universe, the audience at the performance of Richard III behaves very much like ours at Rocky Horror.
is the winter of our discontent!? Richard III: Now
is the winter of our discontent [audience cheers]
made glorious summer by this son of York [audience don sunglasses]
- Backdoor Pilot: The Well Of Lost Plots spends a lot of time in the novel that is eventually turned into The Big Over Easy, the first book of Fforde's second series (and actually his first novel).
- Badass Family: The Nexts and they have to be considering that the Hades family also qualifies.
- Badass Normal: Thursday.
- Berserk Button: Do not call Acheron Hades "mad".
- Bigger on the Inside: The Jurisfiction travelbook Thursday is given contains recesses far deeper than the book can actually contain.
- Black Market Produce: Characters from the BookWorld want things from the Outland (the real world), and those things include foodstuffs. In response to requests and along with other non-food items, Thursday brings back a jar of Marmite, Moggilicious cat food (for The Cat Formerly Known as Cheshire), and Mintolas (for Marianne Dashwood, who describes them as, "A bit like like Munchies but minty").
- In the Outland itself, partly due to the tight borders England has with the Socialist Republic of Wales and partly due to an exorbitant tax to pay for the Crimean War, cheese has become expensive enough for a black market for the stuff to become profitable, under the Cheese Mafia. Then again, considering the cheeses you can get...
- Blessed Are the Cheesemakers: There's cheese so strong it can be used as a weapon, and needs to be encased in lead.
- Blondes Are Evil: Aornis Hades and Cindy Stoker both have blond hair.
- Bluenose Bowdlerizer: A hated terrorist group in the BookWorld, responsible for the destruction of half of the writings of Chaucer. Then again, what they do is basically the equivalent of assault or murder.
- Book Safe: Thursday's Jurisfiction travelbook contains a few things in it to help out Jurisfiction agents.
- Book Within A Book: Obviously, but particularly notable in that the book in which Thursday lives in The Well Of Lost Plots, after much tinkering on her part in that story, was eventually published itself as The Big Over Easy.
- In First Among Sequels, it gets even more complex. The first four books exist within the context of the story, but as much Darker and Edgier versions of the "real" events (i.e. what happened in the books that exist in our world), while another book in the fictional series, The Great Samuel Pepys Fiasco, never existed in the real series. The events of the book resolve both discrepancies. The Great Samuel Pepys Fiasco is destroyed in the Bookworld, causing it to cease to exist in the (fictional) real world, and presumably in our world as well. Thursday 1-4, the protagonist of the Darker and Edgier in-story books, is killed when the book is destroyed, and the remaining books are remade to be closer to "real" events (i.e. the books we read in our world), starring Thursday5, the protagonist of The Great Samuel Pepys Fiasco. It doesn't get any simpler in One of Our Thursdays is Missing.
- Brainy Brunette: Thursday.
- Her daughter Tuesday could be too; although we don't know her hair color, she certainly has the 'brainy' part down.
- Call a Rabbit a "Smeerp": Several fictional elements are obvious counterparts to real-world ones - for example, in the sixth book, "getting hyphenated" is tantamount to getting drunk, and "metaphor" is a precious commodity akin to gold.
- CamelCase: So much of it that it's surprising it doesn't get lampshaded. There's the OutWorld & the BookWorld, SpecOps has the LiteraTecs and the ChronoGuard, and so on.
Incidentally, the huge amount of spellings with capital letters in the middle of words (and the Bookworms, too) relate to my appalling handwriting. As a child - and still now - I always mix large and small letters in my words. Laziness, I assure you. Betty Barnes, my remedial writing teacher, had no end of trouble trying to get me to write properly, all to no avail. Now I can put as maNy capiTals in woRds as I please -fuNny the waY things tUrn out, iSn't it?
- Catchphrase: A remarkably subtle and somewhat heartwarming version that's never pointed out in the text. When the top secret gathering of elite fictional agents in Bookworld breaks up, does the Bellman utter a bloodthirsty battle cry? No, he always warns his people—
- Character Development: Two blank "Generic" characters come to stay with Thursday in The Well of Lost Plots. By the end, they're both fully formed characters.
- Chekhov's Gun: A number of seemingly unimportant items thrown out early on in the book come back at crucial moments, such as:
- The Well Of Lost Plots: Thursday is given an unlicenced freeze-dried Plot Device labelled "Suddenly, a Shot Rang Out!" to file as evidence, but it's still in her pocket when she needs a distraction later. She breaks it open...suddenly a shot rings out!
- More like Chekhov's long range sniper rifle: in the first book, a minor villain is named Yorrick, in the fourth book, Hamlet is pulled from his namesake play and Yorrick is brought back as a main character. the obvious joke is made.
- For once with a literal gun, though also a Chekhov's Scene: In the first book, Thursday has a brief, odd experience with time travel where she sees herself in trouble. She hides a gun for herself to find when that scene finally plays out in Something Rotten.
- And a Chekhovs bullet in the first book. The silver bullet given to Thursday by Spike earlier on is in the end what kills Acheron Hades.
- The recipe for unscrambling an egg turns out to have crucial importance in First Among Sequels.
- The slapstick marker used for tracing "bookrunners" in Something Rotten.
- The Trans-Genre Taxi in First Among Sequels
- Child Prodigy: Tuesday had found a solution to Fermat's last theorem when she was nine.
- Clap Your Hands If You Believe: In The Woman Who Died a Lot, it's discovered that sufficient quantities of human belief can directly alter reality. Hence, when enough people become members of the Church of the Global Standard Deity, the Deity announces his presence and starts smiting the wicked. This also causes a nasty feedback loop regarding HR-6984, the asteroid capable of wiping out humanity. Professional statisticians calculate and publish the probability of HR-6894 striking the Earth, and as more people believe it's going to hit, the calculated probability rises, which causes more people to believe it's going to hit...
- Cliff Hanger: in First Among Sequels, where in the final chapter we find out that there was a serial killer loose in the Bookworld!
- Clockwork Creature: Delta-5 automata, such as Sprockett, in Missing — complete with Wind-Up Key, though apparently the new model Delta-6's are self-winding. This is apparently the cutting edge of Bookworld robots: perhaps Ridiculously Human Robots are quite literally confined to the Sci Fi Ghetto.
- Cobweb of Disuse: Thursday mentions the cobwebs at Satis House when she goes there to meet Miss Havisham.
- Coincidence Magnet: Thursday herself, who saves the day both in the real world and BookWorld several times, despite being just another LiteraTec and Jurisfiction agent, respectively. Interestingly, a villain has this as a consciously-controlled power, the ability to manipulate probability. Said villain attempts to kill Thursday numerous times with staggeringly unlikely coincidences.
- Corrupted Data: The Mispeling Vyrus. It's a virus in the BookWorld that causes things to misspell, turning a parrot into a carrot, the floor into flour and other unpleasant consequences. This sounds more amusing than dangerous until you realize it can turn your bones into boons, your nose into a noose or your hands into hats, depending on the severity of the infection. In short, if your body is infected, you are most likely going to die unless you get help really quickly. It can only be contained by dictionaries.
- Crossover: An incredibly subtle one— Thursday talks to Tempe Brennan about an attempt on her life during a reading of "Grave Secrets", a few books later in her own series (Bones to Ashes) Tempe reads an unnamed Jasper Fforde novel in an airport.
- Cultural Translation: Most of the obscurely British cultural references are changed or explained in the American version, but Landen's name wasn't caught. "Landen Parke-Laine" was supposed to be a Meaningful Name, but Americans don't get that it's a Monopoly reference, as the U.S. version of the game calls that space Park Place.
- Cyanide Pill/Self-Destruct Mechanism: Dr. Mueller, one of Hades' colleagues, dies by bursting into flame just after blabbing the location of their hideout. It's speculated that Hades put some sort of device in Mueller that he could trigger if Mueller decides to betray Hades.
- In The Woman Who Died A Lot, Goliath has an implant in their employees' brains, which gives them an anurysm if they try to blow the whistle on any of the many things Goliath is up to.
- Day of the Week Name: Thursday, her mother Wednesday, and her children Tuesday and Friday.
- Department of Redundancy Department: In ''One of Our Thursdays is Missing'.
"...crimes against humanity, murder, theft, illegal possession of a firearm, the discharge of a weapon in a public place, murder, impersonating a SpecOps officer, cheese smuggling, assorted motoring offenses and murder."
- Drama-Preserving Handicap: There are laws enforcing this throughout Bookworld: otherwise a visit to the right genre could supply one with the necessary technology, sorcery, or rampaging Mongol horde to resolve virtually any problem.
- DNA technology exists in the BookWorld - of course it does, people have written about it - but it's legally prohibited anywhere outside of the Forensic Drama genre, because it would ruin the mystery in any other genre.
- Drives Like Crazy: Miss Havisham and Mr. Toad.
- Duet Bonding: Thursday and Landen.
- Early Installment Weirdness: The Eyre Affair sees Thursday enter Jane Eyre, but it's not until the second book that Thursday enters the BookWorld and things really kick off.
- Encyclopedia Exposita: The Jurisfiction Guide to the Great Library by the Unitary Authority of Warrington (formely know as Cheshire) Cat.
- Even Bad Men Love Their Mamas: Acheron is making a list of demands in The Eyre Affair and, in a fit of generosity, allows each of his evil minions to add an item to the list. Mr. Delamere demands the government rename a motorway service station after his mother, Leigh Delamere. Ironically, this is the only demand that ends up being granted.
- Evil Twin: Pops up now and then, especially in a world where any real-life person who has a book written about him is either demonized or whitewashed. Includes Thursday1-4.
- Extranormal Institute: Jurisfiction.
- The Faceless: The Great Panjandrum has no appearance of its own, as everyone viewing it sees what they expect to see (usually, something that looks very much like themselves).
- Family Theme Naming: Nearly everyone in the Next family is named after the days of the week. The one exception is Jenny, because she doesn't actually exist.
- Fanwork Ban: Subverted! In book six Thursday visits the island of fanfiction, and is surprised to find it a lively place that's one big party - because it's a celebration of their source material. While the locations and character are described as flat, this is stated to be a side-effect of being copied, with varying degrees of severity depending on the quality of the writer. Plus it tangentially references Thursday and the Doctor fighting Daleks.
- (As for Thursday Next fanfiction, Fforde has said that he doesn't mind, but would rather people spent the time inventing their own creations.)
- Felony Misdemeanor: Hades's little brother tries to follow in his footsteps. He does things like calling to make appointments to look at people's used cars, and never showing up.
- Played with by Hades and his henchman Mr. Delamare, who is required to perform one wicked act a day.
Acheron: Have you done your evil act for the day?
Delamere: Yes sir, Mr. Hades. I drove seventy-three miles an hour.
Delamere: Through the mall, sir.
- When Mr. Delamare was given the opportunity to have the English government give into any demand he makes, he has a motorway service station named after his mother.
- Flat Character:
- The Generics, unformed characters who need to undergo Character Development to flesh them out into characters. How much development depends on their role; it's easier to train a spear carrier than a protagonist.
- In the sixth book, the written Thursday visits Fanfiction, where all the characters are of various degrees of flatness, from being three-dimensional to cardboard cut-outs, having been written by other authors who don't know the character as deeply. (Not that Fforde exempts himself here: Thursday realises this explains some of the character in her series.)
- Footnote Fever: The footnoterphone is an invention specific to the Bookworld, in which you speak into one end, and the person at the other replies in footnotes at the bottom of the page.
- For the Evulz: Acheron states (in a quotation that appears twice in The Eyre Affair) that evil done for self-advancement, revenge, or love are all very well and good, but what's precious is evil done for its own sake.
- Furry Fandom: May be indicated by the fact that Commander Bradshaw is married to an intelligent anthropomorphic gorilla. (Although, supposedly, this fact would have escaped everyone who actually read Bradshaw's books.)
- Genre-Busting: So very, very much.
- Gilligan Cut: At the end of chapter twenty-five of The Eyre Affair, Victor states that there is no way on God's own Earth that Thursday and Bowden are going to get him to pose as an Earthcrosser (a sort of meteoroid version of stormchasers). Guess what he's doing at the beginning of chapter twenty-six?
- Gold Digger: Levied at Daisy Mutlar, Landen's erstwhile fiancee. It actually saves Thursday from Goliath as she yells it out to the Mutlar family, and she escapes in the chaos.
- Gratuitous English: Subverted in story when a series of seemingly random English words on Japanese T-shirts turn out to be part of a code message.
- Great Big Library of Everything: The great Library has every book that has ever been written or ever will be. It is however inplied that this only counts for English language books and that other language libraries are the same for their literary output.
- Great White Hunter / Mighty Whitey : Commander Trafford Bradshaw is a safari adventurer from a series of boys' adventure novels. Since nobody reads such politically incorrect stuff any longer, he has lots of free time for his hobby (director of the BookWorld's law enforcement.)
- Green Aesop: The Short Now, caused by convenience in working with natural resources over responsible planning, depleting them, all the while claiming that there is not enough proof that the problem may be man made instead of natural - let's just say it bears some resemblance to political topics of the day.
- Grey Goo: Well, pink goo anyway. The world was supposed to end because of an accident by nanomachines converting all organic matter into artificially flavored strawberry pudding.
- Grilling the Newbie: Thursday gets grilled by many characters in the unpublished book Caversham Heights (where she's hiding out from Goliath and Lavosier during her advancing pregnancy) when they find out she's an Outlander. Some of them don't believe she is an Outlander when she admits not knowing things (like "the purpose of alphabet soup"), so she has them leave off their speech descriptors and successfully identifies several speakers in order.
- Groin Attack: Thursday's parents both want grandchildren: Thursday's (nameless) father has a very direct conversation with Landen as soon as he congratulates the two on their engagement.
Colonel Next, Thursday's Father: How are you, my boy? Have you had a vasectomy?
Landen: Well, no.
Col. Next: How about a heavy tackle playing rugby?
Col. Next: Kick from a horse in the nether regions?
Col. Next: What about a cricket ball in the goolies?
- Half-Human Hybrid: Explicitly averted in BookWorld, no less.
- Happily Married: Thursday and Landen, eventually.
- Hide Your Children: Jenny, for good reason. She doesn't actually exist, but Aornis made Thursday think she does, and Thursday only remembers this once in a while, for a short time. In the seventh book, Aornis begins to move the Mindworm around so that Thursday, Landen and Tuesday all have periods of imagining her. Eventually, the whole family believes her to be real, and a memory is implanted in all their minds of her death.
- Hilarity Sues: The rules of international croquet are so vague and full of loopholes that as well as a team of players, each teams fields a team of lawyers (complete with substitutes) who constantly try to bend the rules their way.
- Houseboat Hero: Well, House-Seaplane Hero, in The Well Of Lost Plots.
- Hunter of His Own Kind: "Spike" Stoker hunts vampires (and werewolves, being part of SO-17, "Suckers and Biters"). Although a vampire himself, he suppresses most of his symptoms through medication.
- I Can't Believe It's Not Heroin: Once the government slapped 14,000% tax levies on cheese sales, cheese smuggling became widespread - almost immediately followed by cheese addicts and the development of ever more powerful cheeses to keep them hooked.
- Immune to Bullets: Acheron Hades, apparently.
- Innocent Swearing: Two-year-old Friday Next in Something Rotten learns naughty words (notably "bum", "bubbies", "arse" and "pikestaff" rendered in an Old English font) from St. Zvlkx. Thursday speaks as if she isn't certain what he said the first time he uses them, but the second time she tells her son, "If those are rude Old English words, St. Zvlkx is in a lot of trouble—and so are you, my little fellow."
- Insistent Terminology: Acheron Hades isn't mad, he's just "differently moraled".
- In Spite of a Nail: When Landen gets removed from the timeline, the only detectable change beyond his absence is the literal wallpaper and curtains.
- I Should Write a Book About This: Played with. By First Among Sequels, Thursday's suffering the consequences of having written about it - or rather, the consequences of green-lighting somebody else to ghostwrite them.
- It Gets Easier: Most of the literary characters are extremely blasé about dying or undergoing the many indignities that the narratives puts them through. The drowned girl (who has been dying on and off for about 200 years) from the Wreck of Hesperus's only complaint was that people keep trying to save her, which just makes it harder for her to die.
- Sometimes, characters do snap under the strain and it is Thursday's job to catch them before they do too much damage and replace them with a body double.
- It Will Never Catch On: Extreme example - while the Next-verse contains things we would consider impossible, such as the Gravitube through the centre of the Earth, but when Thursday is introduced to the idea of mass aeroplane transit and moon landings, she considers that impossible.
- Kangaroo Court: Thursday was put on trial for changing the plot of Jane Eyre, which occured in Kafka's The Trial and the trial of the Knave of Hearts from Alice in Wonderland. Also subverted in that she managed to out-Kafka the judge and prosecution (having read the book beforehand) and got the prosecutor arrested instead.
- Lampshade Hanging: Plenty throughout, but especially:
- In Well of Lost Plots, a character is responsible for clearing up narrative mistakes or "bloopholes". One example he gives is an author writing, "the daffodils bloomed in Summer", a mistake Fforde makes in The Eyre Affair. He then says that he is working on a method of covering which involves saying, "Hi, I'm a hole, try not to think about it," both invoking the MST3K Mantra, and hanging a Lampshade on Lampshade Hanging itself. It really doesn't get more meta than that.
- Sometimes there's a scene where Thursday, looking for some department in the BookWorld, opens the wrong door and finds two people acting out an old joke (or something like that.) When it happens in First Among Sequels she says to herself "I keep doing that. They should label these doors better."
- Laser-Guided Amnesia: One of the powers of mnemonomorphs like Aornis Hades, she can also plant memories and set up specific mental blocks so that the victim can't recall certain information, even when they are reminded of it.
- There's also a gag with Mycroft's memory erasure device, with Thursday believing that Mycroft hadn't completed it when he already did, and presumably activating it on Thursday.
- The Law of Conservation of Detail: Double Subverted in Something Rotten, when a runaway steamroller almost kills Hamlet and Thursday while they're in the OutWorld. Thursday points that, unlike in books, sometimes things like that have no meaning and certainly will not turn out to be vitally important at the end of the story. Then it turns out - at the end of the story - it was an assassination attempt by the Minotaur.
- Thursday notes that the nice thing about living in BookWorld is that the little annoyances in real life is generally avoided, the car never needs refueling and the toilet paper never runs out. But there is also a profound lack of breakfast, wallpaper and smells.
- LEGO Genetics: In an effort to perfect cloning extinct animals, some genes are spliced in from other animals. This leads to dodos with flamingo-like features.
- Lighthouse Point: Where Thursday faces off against a psychic enemy, except that it is in her mind.
- Like Reality Unless Noted: Averted, indeed almost inverted. Every time geopolitics is mentioned, for instance, it sounds radically different to that of our world (Russia is Tsarist, one of the two biggest superpowers is based in Africa, Wales has left the United Kingdom - no word on Scotland) and things like Britain being invaded and occupied by the Nazis during WW2 are casually mentioned out of hand.
- Literary Agent Hypothesis: The entire setup of the series seems to suggest this, especially the article in Well of Lost Plots that casually mentions that characters fool the author into believing that he or she is writing the story, whereas in reality their role is minimal. Chapters often open with quotes from Thursday and others, written long after the fact. Although it's also subverted - in First Among Sequels, Thursday needs to visit her previous books, so she goes to the sixth floor of the great library, where all the "F" authors are stored...
- Mad Scientist / Bungling Inventor: Thursday's Uncle Mycroft comes up with countless ingenious, insane and downright impossible contraptions, many running on Nonsensoleum such as a doorway into fictional worlds, a brain screensaver, an early warning sarcasm detector, and - keep an eye on this one - a recipe for making unscrambled eggs.
- Magic Librarian: The Cheshire Cat. Well, the Cat formerly known as Cheshire but is now Unitary Authority of Warrington.
- Malaproper: Mrs. Malaprop herself (or rather one of many that exist) appears in One Of Our Thursdays Is Missing as Book!Thursday's housekeeper.
- Maid Corps: There are thousands of Mrs. Danverses in the BookWorld, having come from multiplying generics sent into Rebecca. The Danverclones are used by the Council of Genres as a freestanding army.
- Meaningful Name: Also a Punny Name: Acheron Hades' cohort, Felix Tabularasa. Tabularasa means "blank slate", which is what he does to all future Felixes - wipe their personality and put in the original Felix's. As well as Felix's face.
- Medium Awareness: The characters in novels act as if they are actors in a film, most of them only maintain character when the book is being read and the camera is on them, so to speak. They tend to speak period-appropriate English even in their own time, however.
- Mega Corp.: The Goliath Corporation, which pretty much owns Britain.
- Mentor Occupational Hazard: Miss Havisham
- Metafictional devices: Because so much of the plot revolves around dealing with events inside books and with fictional characters, nearly all devices get used to some extent, especially Trapped in TV Land, Refugee from TV Land, and Medium Awareness.
- Mind Control: Thursday experiences the effects of this at least twice, during the televised debate where Kaine appears and at Goliathopolis with its CEO, John Henry Goliath. Both times she is overcome with an overwhelming desire to fervently agree with Kaine and Goliath.
- Mind-Control Device: The Ovinator, whose real function Mycroft and Thursday wonder about.
- Misaimed Fandom: An in-universe meta-example, with the author of the Emperor Zhark books having written them as a parody of the science fiction genre but now has a dedicated and unwanted fandom. He plans to kill off Zhark in the last book to spite them, but doesn't reckon on Zhark himself showing up from the BookWorld to give him a talking to.
- Moral Dilemma: A ship on the sea of Oral Tradition is devoted to reenacting the various dilemmas that crop up in philosophy classes one after another to the end of time.
- Names to Run Away From Really Fast: The Eyre Affair's villain, Acheron Hades, and his siblings (all of whom are also named after mythological ellish rivers - Styx, Phlegethon and so on).
- Nice Job Fixing It, Villain: Aornis Hades plotted Thurday's death by having Thursday commit suicide or have the world be consumed by a flood of nanobots converting all organic matter into dream pudding. Instead, Thurdsay's father brings it back billions of years in the past, turning it into the primordial ooze from where life evolves.
- No Name Given: Thursday's father. Also Granny Next, for good reason: she ultimately turns out to be a time-travelled Thursday.
- In the case of Colonel Next (Thursday's father), the name isn't just never mentioned, he literally has no first name. It's never explained why, but it's a fair guess that it's because the ChronoGuard tried to erase him from existence.
- Noodle Incident: Books are extremely malleable and any unexpected stress will cause the plotline to change. And once a change establishes itself, it will cause every copy of that book across all of time and space to change along with it and we will never know what the original story was about. For example, Titus Andronicus used to be a romance until the characters therein got bored, and the oeuvre of Thomas Hardy was composed of raunchy comedies until smugglers made off with all the jokes.
- Once A Book: Thursday will have to help Spike Stoker out with a magical or supernatural mission, usually completely unrelated to the rest of the story - in fact Fforde once described the Spike segments as 'a breather' in the pell-mell plot. The exception being in the first book - at the end, Thursday discovers that silver can hurt her Nigh Invulnerable foe, and remembers that she still has an anti-werewolf silver bullet in her pocket from the Spike mission. In the sixth book, Spike appears briefly, but there is no mission, and in the seventh he's only mentioned by Thursday's psychiatrist. And it's only a brief flashback in Well.
- One Steve Limit: The Echolocators are responsible for weeding out accidental repetition from texts, they are also on the lookout of identically named characters. Apparently, they once wiped out an entire Hemingway novel because all seven of the books characters share the same name.
- Only a Flesh Wound: Averted. In The Eyre Affair, Thursday is shot in her gun arm. She notes to the tribunal that she knew she couldn't aim with that arm anymore, and has only seconds before she loses enough blood to make her incapable of aiming entirely, despite moving the gun to her good arm.
- Our Slogan Is Terrible: The advertisments at the back of the books for holidays in the People's Socialist Republic of Wales boast the slogan "Not always raining".
- Painting the Fourth Wall: Used extensively. Characters can communicate between different novels, or from novels to the real world, using footnotes. There is a mispeling vyrus which affects not only the characters butt the narrow teeth tax its health.note Fonts are treated as languages. And so on.
The trip back downriver was uneventful and over in only twelve words.
- The most elaborate use of this comes when Emperor Zhark drops in on Thursday in the Outworld, which she describes in a paragraph about ninety words long, ending in a chapter break. The next chapter is titled "Emperor Zhark" and during their discussion, Zhark says he's negotiated a new contract in the BookWorld that means he has to get two chapter-ending appearances per book, at least eighty words of description for his first appearance and one chapter bearing his name. When he leaves, he's fulfilled all those conditions in the book you're reading, except the second chapter-ending appearance. Then he pops back in for a recipe, ending the chapter again.
- Also when Thursday and Landen get together after some break, they're ready for sex, but:
'Wait', I cried out.
'I can't concentrate with all these people-'
Landen looked round the empty bedroom. 'What people?'
'Those people,' I repeated, waving a hand in the general direction of everywhere, 'the ones reading us.'
- In One Of Our Thursdays Is Missing, the fictional Thursday talks to a man on the bus about what they'd like to experience in the Outworld, and thinks that she didn't mention the most important thing: a sense of unscripted free will, as even when she's not in her books, she feels that someone is always watching her and reading her thoughts.
- Piano Drop: This happens to Cindy Stoker near the end of Something Rotten.
- Planet of Steves: Many people have changed their names to those of famous classical writers, leading to them having a number subscript indicating which, for example, Francis Bacon or Christopher Marlowe they are. No main characters have this sort of name, but it's still part of the setting.
- Poke the Poodle: Styx Hades is evil like his brother Acheron. Unfortunately, his idea of evil is making false offers to people who have cars for sale.
- Pointless Civic Project: The incredibly expensive, country-spanning Anti-Smite Shield commissioned by the British government. However, it actually did serve a function: using up surplus government stupidity with one massive, incredibly stupid project. And then a couple of books later, God starts smiting cities, at which point the only pointless aspect of the Shield becomes that it doesn't work.
- Power Perversion Potential: In One of our Thursdays is Missing, Professor Plum mentions that when it was still allowed, many Book Worlders visited the Real World for the sex.
- Prophetic Name / Punny Name / Red Shirt: In Lost in a Good Book, Thursday is "protected" by pairs of government agents with names like Kannon and Phodder, Deadman and Walken, etc... they don't last long.
- Subverted in that the last of these pairs (Slaughter and Lamb) turns out to be so inept that the Big Bad is willing to ignore them so long as they don't make any progress in the investigation. Thursday in fact suggests this to them, telling them that they don't stand a chance; it's subtly hinted that she may be doing so because of their names.
- A more meta-example: Thursday's Uncle Mycroft is clearly named after Sherlock Holmes' even more intelligent brother Mycroft... then, later in the series, Uncle Mycroft goes into hiding in the Bookworld in a Sherlock Holmes story and becomes Mycroft Holmes.
- There is Thursday's husband, Landen Parke-Laine, his parents Billden Parke-Laine and Houson Parke-Laine (Park Lane is the second most expensive property on UK Monopoly.
- Punctuation Shaker: What happens if you upset the Book Worms.
Mycroft: Please! You're Upsetting The Wor'ms! They're Starting to hy-phe-nate!
- Punny Name: Apart from established fictional characters, it's doubtful there's anyone out there who doesn't have one, and he's a Public Domain Character. The Squire of the High Potternews, the villainous Jack Schitt (with half-brother Brik Schitt-Hause and wife Anne Wirthlass-Schitt) and Landen Parke-Laine (with parents Houson and Billden) seem top offenders.
- Though Jack Schitt is a pseudonym given to him by Thursday, as it turns out in One of Our Thursdays Is Missing.
- Oswald Mandias.
- Reality Is Unrealistic: After The Eyre Affair, Thursday's look becomes the in thing "How can I not have the Thursday Next look? I am Thursday Next!" (So says Thursday after being featured in a pop magazine and inspiring a new fashion trend.)
- Redemption Equals Death: Cindy Stoker in Something Rotten literally takes Thursday's place crossing the Styx, saying that Thursday is a better person than she will ever be, and more deserving of a second chance. In First Among Sequels Evil Thursday uses her final moments to help Thursday to safety, knowing that she herself cannot escape.
- Renowned Selective Mentor: Miss Havisham trains Thursday for Jurisfiction in Lost in a Good Book. She's specifically described by Mrs. Dashwood as being highly selective, and she herself says as much, warning Thursday that she could easily lose the privilege of studying with her.
- Ret Gone: Thursday's husband Landen gets temporarily eradicated - not just killed but written out of history - plus the nonexistent relatives of the attendees at Eradications Anonymous meetings.
- Thursday's father was eradicated, but managed to still exist because of his ChronoGuard skills. However, he no longer has/never had a first name.
- And in the fifth book, time travel itself becomes retgone, because it never will be discovered.
- Ridiculously Average Guy: The generics, the characters in every story that have no personality whatsoever. Every character starts like this.
- Ripple-Effect-Proof Memory: Thursday remembers Landen after he is eradicated, and is still pregnant by him. It's a sign that Friday is going to be big in the ChronoGuard.
- Rubber-Band History: An interesting variant - though it isn't set in our world, thanks to Time Travel, it will be once the ChronoGuard sort out all the errors.
- Running Gag: In the first part of Something Rotten, Thursday has just come back from her two-year stint in the bookworld, and when she talks to someone she knows, they'd always ask her if she was in prison. When Thursday lampshades this by asking Stiggins why people assumed she was in prison (after Stiggins asked her, again, if she was), he replies that he, at least, expected her to be either incarcerated or dead.
- Said Bookism: Bookworlders are capable of forgetting who is currently speaking in a conversation if it goes without dialogue tags for too long. Thursday impresses a few of them by knowing who is talking without them.
- Senseless Sacrifice: Wirthlass-Schitt dies trying to save the Girl from "The Wreck of Hesperus", who found it rather irritating as the rescue was pointless (she can bring herself back to life after the end of the poem) and counterproductive (she would have been in even more trouble if she failed to die).
- Serious Business: Works of classic literature. To the extent that a world revolving around a children's card game makes perfect sense in comparison. (Fforde says in interviews that the people in the Thursday Next world have the same mass devotion for literature that people in our world have for sport.)
- Sport? Sport and religion combined, maybe. Bear in mind sports fans don't go door to door evangelising their favourite athletes. (Have you ever wondered how Shakespeare wrote all those wonderful plays?)
- Yet... in Well of Lost Plots the Bellman says that only 30% of the Outland reads fiction on a regular basis.
- Just to establish a baseline here, in one book a book sale is treated like a Black Friday sale in the modern US. Except instead of people getting trampled to death, there's actual gunfire. Thursday doesn't seem to think this is particularly abnormal for major books sales.
- They do play and watch one sport, however, with fan clubs and world cup tournaments and all. Namely croquet.
- Art is also Serious Business. The first book contains a riot over artistic styles and SpecOps-24 deals exclusively with art crime.
- Cheese is Serious Business as well, though it's occasionally justified when certain cheeses can knock out a human at ten feet, or even require evacuation if their rubbersealed metal containers come unsealed.
- She Who Must Not Be Seen/The Ghost: Jenny, Thursday's youngest daughter. The recurrent scenes that Thursday always shows up at precisely the wrong time and miss seeing her is played as a rather weak Running Gag, it was revealed that she is a mindworm left by Aornis Hades and does not actually exist. Her family knows this but pretends she exists and are ready with excuses when Thursday asks where Jenny was. This is to prevent Thursday from having a mental breakdown every time she realizes Jenny does not exist; Aornis created a mental block to prevent her from being able to recall this fact.
- Shout-Out: Frequently.
- In Lost in a Good Book, Spike has a powerful vacuum cleaner used to suck up ghosts. He also uses it for his household chores, and says that there's no bag, and therefore no loss of suction. He is quoting, almost word for word, the description of the Dyson line of vacuums, started by inventor James Dyson in the mid-80s. The vacuum in the book, which is set in the mid-80s, was invented by James in R&D.
- In The Woman Who Died A Lot, Tuesday Next's horrible classmate Gavin reads a porn magazine called Big & Bouncy, the same title Adrian Mole has hidden under his bed.
- To Shakespeare: Shakespeare is wildly popular in Thursday's world, and the book Something Rotten features his works more heavily, what with cases of Shakespeare clones and Thursday having to look after Hamlet after a hostile takeover of the play. The title itself is referencing the line "Something is rotten in the state of Denmark".
- Silver Bullet: Used against werewolves, naturally.
- Silver Has Mystic Powers: It's one of the few things that can actually hurt Acheron Hades.
- Someone to Remember Him By: Tuesday's defense, at one point
- So Proud of You: Thursday tells Landen's parents they would have been this; she also tells Friday that she is.
- Sorting Algorithm of Evil: Subverted in Lost in a Good Book, where a demon hunter has captured countless beings, all believing themselves to be the ultimate incarnation of Evil on earth.
- Later, we find that all of those beings are kept in jars in the same room and argue about who is the supremest Supreme Evil Being.
- Speak Now or Forever Hold Your Peace: As Landen is about to wed Daisy Mutlar, Thursday tries to go and stop the wedding. She doesn't go through with it, but she doesn't have to; courtesy of Edward Rochester, Mr. Briggs is sent to interrupt the wedding.
- Stable Time Loop: At least one is established in The Eyre Affair, in which Thursday's dad goes back in time and gives William Shakespeare, an out-of-work actor, the plays and poems he later claims to write himself. There are others.
- Take That: Fforde sometimes slips in a few of those. Like the subplot about a bellicose general convincing the other members of the Council of Genres to invade Racy Novel, a rogue genre member of the Axis of Unreadability, after presenting sketchy intelligence about its development of a dirty bomb of gratuitous sexual content.
- In the seventh book, Thursday tries to think of an example of a huge corporation that isn't trying to take over the world. She names Starbucks and Tesco before giving up.
- The ending of Well Of Lost Plots boils down to a An Aesop about the evils of heavy handed DRM on literature (which managed to predict the problem with Kindles and e-books about 4 years early)
- Tear Your Face Off: Acheron Hades took the face from his dying Mook Felix and applied it to a succession of abducted and brainwashed replacements. He later threatened to make Thursday the next Felix.
Thursday: We're in the middle of an isolated high-coincidental localized entropic field decreasement.
Wilbur: We're in a what?
Thursday: We're in a pseudoscientific technobabble.
- Theme Naming
- Thursday's mother is named Wednesday and two of her children (the only two that really exist) are called Friday and Tuesday.
- The Hades siblings are named after the rivers of Hell (Acheron, Styx, etc.)
- This Is Reality: Thursday repeatedly mentions this to Booklanders in the real world, though frequently events hint that her world isn't real either.
- Time Travel Tropes: Thursday's unnamed father is a rogue Chronoguard agent, causing parodoxes left right and centre, and changing time in whatever way seems suitable. Time Stands Still whenever he visits. Time in the Next series is obviously one big Timey-Wimey Ball. However, in the fifth book, the plot engineers it so that time travel won't be invented in the future and therefore people in the present won't have time machines sent to them from the future, essentially killing off any possibility of Time Travel in the future books.
- Lampshaded in the fifth book when Landen talks about the headaches involved in writing about time travel in science fiction, and gives the advice to future authors planning to: "Don't".
- In the seventh book however, time travel appears to be working and not working simultaneously.
- Timey-Wimey Ball: Both Thursday's father and her grandmother respond to her confusion over time travel paradoxes by saying "Oh, Thursday. Don't be so linear."
- Granny Next isn't Thursday's grandmother, she's a future version of Thursday from when Thursday is a granny, using what is basically a perception filter to keep Thursday from realizing it. Thursday's grandmothers are both dead, and she knows that.
- Thursday has seen her father's death, but continues to interact with him on different points of his timestream.
- Even though time travel turns out to never have been invented after all, and the Chronoguard and related paraphenalia Retcon themselves out of history when it becomes apparent that it never will be invented, many traces are still left behind. For example, a car buried in prehistoric strata, carrying in the glove box a newspaper from the day after its discovery, which announces the discovery of the car.
- Actually, with time travel never having been invented, just how did Granny Next wind up dying in front of her younger self? Fridge Logic much?
- Given the events at Kemble Timepark and the existence of the Manchild, time travel hasn't completely gone the way of the dodo ... or more accurately in this universe, it has.
- Also consider the way books are written/constructed and the relation between the Outworld and Bookworld. Who exactly is coming up with the narrative? (The first books were supposed to be Thursday's recollections, and the chapter-heading quotes would often be comments from her.)
- Trademark Favorite Food: Battenberg cake, as prepared by Thursday's mother, features prominently in one novel (Hamlet and Emperor Zhark both fall hard for it).
- Trapped in TV Land: Polly gets left inside a Wordsworth poem when the prose portal is shut down.
- Un Installment: The 'also in this series' page at the start of First Among Sequels mentions an unavailable book in between Something Rotten and itself, The Great Samuel Pepys Fiasco. The reason why this is the case is revealed towards the end of the book itself: Thursday destroys the book from under her Evil Counterpart.
- Also Chapter 13 is missing from each book. (And in the Nursery Crime series). It's listed in the contents with a chapter title and fake page reference, but the chapter itself isn't there.
- The Un-Reveal: Often justified thanks to Painting the Fourth Wall. For instance, in One Of Our Thursdays Is Missing, Written!Thursday is able to escape an inescapable death trap simply by later explaining in broad strokes how she escaped. Apparently, it was very clever.
- Unusual Euphemism: "Bashing the Bishop"
- A Villain Named Zrg: Emperor Zhark is the villain of his own pulpy sci-fi series, but in the metafictional main story, he's one of the good guys.
- Wanton Cruelty to the Common Comma: Mycroft's bookworms can sometimes randomly spew punctuation everywhere, including ampers&s.
- Weapons That Suck: Spike's special vacuum cleaner. Designed to suck up SEBs (Supreme Evil Beings), which Spike deals with on a near-weekly basis.
- We Can Rule Together: Harris Tweed offers Thursday a position at Grand Text Central if she helps him with his plot.
- Welcome to the Real World: At the end of Lost in a Good Book, Thursday is offered the chance to hide in an Alternate Universe which sounds suspiciously similar to ours, but she rejects the option.
- In the sixth book, The written Thursday leaves her book and enters the real world, where she then has to deal with the correct passage of time, gravity, a heartbeat and genuine tears
- White Sheep: Lethe Hades, according to First Among Sequels.
- Who You Gonna Call?: Spike Stoker!
- Winds of Destiny, Change: One of the superpowers of Aornis Hades is her ability to cause deadly coincidences.
- World of Weirdness: To name but one small example, at the beginning of Lost in a Good Book, a "Pampas Grass Vigilante Squad", which an SO-32 agent is charged to stop ("Pampas grass might well be an eyesore, but there's nothing illegal in it."), is mentioned, and this is by far a tame example.
- Considering that pampas grass is also an invasive weed, there might actually be something to that one...
- Writer on Board: Several parts of First Among Sequels. Jasper Fforde is well-known for being opposed to fanfiction, so FAS goes on a half-page detour explaining how The Lord of the Rings is being irreparably damaged by fanfiction writers.
- Which is pretty ironic considering the Thursday Next series is about fifty percent crossover fanfiction.
- Even more ironic because the character in question is talking about how more people reading the book damages it (the character's job is to perform maintanance on books as they suffer routine wear and tear from being read). That's right, don't write fan fiction, it causes more people to read the original work.
- The extra "wear" isn't from more readers, but the closer trawling for detail to better establish and collate the canon, which SF and Fantasy fans do more than other genres.
- But if you wear one out too much, you have to get a new copy, which authors should love.
- But the Book World people hate it because they have to devote a disporportionate amount of manpower to repairing one book.
- In the sixth book, we actually get to see the Fanfiction area of the Bookworld - and it's as clever as you'd think.
“Why is everyone so flat?” I asked.
“It’s a natural consequence of being borrowed from somewhere else,” explained the Thursday, who was, I noted, less than half an inch thick but apparently normal in every other way. “It doesn’t make us any less real or lacking in quality. But being written by someone who might not quite understand the subconscious nuance of the character leaves us in varying degrees of flatness.”
- Writers Suck / Take That, Us: Due to the way fiction is in this world, the least important person involved in storytelling is the author, the spark of inspiration is generated spontaneously by the universe itself, the BookWorld characters act out the story and maintain the infrastructure required to keep the story intact, while the reader supplies the imaginative potential required to power the whole system. The author is just a convenient pair of hands for typing the story out.
- Like most things in this universe, though, this isn't always entirely consistent. Characters occasionally speak of their authors as though they were directing their actions (or in Emperor Zhark's case, threatening his existence) and the problems caused by Hamlet's absence from his play could only be solved by Shakespeare himself (or his clone).