Saturday, October 08, 2011

The Well of Lost Plots

This third book in the Thursday Next series introduces many of the characters and themes from Fforde's nursery crimes series. In this novel, the protagonist is in "hiding" in the book world, as her husband has been "eradicated" in the external world. In the book world, she participates in a character exchange program (where she meets up with the nursery crimes characters.) She also completes her training for a book-world police force (under the apprenticeship of Great Expectations Miss Havesham.) In the process, she manages to defeat the mind manipulations of Hades's sister and regain the memories of her eradicated husband. She also helps to defeat the "new" improved book version, which, among other deficiencies uses "robo-written" stock characters and has a "three-read" limit. Hmm. This seems to be a not so subtle hit on the evils of digital rights management and the deficiencies of widespread information availability. With so much information readily available today, it is easy to go directly to what you know you like. Unfortunately, this also means you miss out on many instances of serendipity where you discover something different than you were seeking. The digital rights controls (and even digital encoding mechanisms) also make it more difficult for you to share. (If you and I both read English, I could let you borrow my book. However, even if Amazon permits it, I couldn't let you borrow my kindle book unless you had a device that could read it.) DRM makes it even worse, restricting the sharing that could be done. The result is that you get stuck in the narrow realm that you are familiar. Writers are encouraged to churn out content similar to what has sold. I've read multiple works by authors that I found to be "good". They weren't great, but were decent, and it was easily possible to get all their works. The ease of getting at it actually made it more difficult to discover others that were possibly better. Back to the story, this novel further blurs the line between "real" and "fiction". Characters jump around novels and move from novels to real life. The characters in novels have personalities and lives outside the novel. and sometimes want to change things. There are also "misspelling" viruses, word storms and punctuation thieves. All provide plenty of action for the literary police force. And then there are auctions of characters from torched manuscripts, generic characters, and real people hanging out in the fictional world. It all makes for plenty of fun.

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