Man, meta stuff is fun. It’s one of the thing that I love about Jasper Fforde’s first two series (Thursday Next and the Nursery Crime Division). There are characters who are aware that they are characters, conversations about what plot device to use, the understanding that, in some cases, you just have to let the story play out to its inevitable conclusion. Those are the moments in The Fourth Bear that made me literally laugh out loud.
Other things that intrigue me about Jasper Fforde, and which I unashamedly have tried to do myself:
- Turning what, at first glance, might just be a running joke, into a plot device.
- Taking fairy tales and cultural memory stories, in this case Goldilocks, and completely altering the perspective of it without changing the actual story.
- The inside jokes for those who do know the literature, and the craft of writing, and the theories and interpretations of it.
It’s one of those books that gets funnier the more danger that the characters are in, without actually diminishing the danger – and then, in a subplot, he throws in things like this:
“…networks are everywhere. The road and rail systems, the postal service, the Internet, your friendships, family, electricity, water – everything on this planet is composed of networks…..because it is the way you are built – your bodies use networks to pass information; your veins and arteries are networks to nourish your bodies. Your mind is a complicated network of nerve impulses. It’s little wonder that networks dominate the planet – you have modeled your existence after the construction of your own minds.”
And it made me think, “….Wow. That’s true. We are a collection of networks. Networks areeverywhere. I’d never thought of it like that before.”
I especially appreciated the way that he included electricity and water in the list – we talk about them as grids so often that we – well, I – lose sight of the way that that’s just another network. It’s not linear (at least, not in the way that the aliens in The Fourth Bear are linear). I wonder if that’s one reason that we have such philosophical questions about time – we perceive time as linear, and that is imposed on our network, almost web-like, mentality and worldview. It could be one reason that time travel is such an intriguing concept for us – if we could travel back in time, it would make time more of a two-way (multi-way) network than it is now, and that would be more comfortable for us.
(Or maybe I’ve just been watching and listening to too much Doctor Who….)
The only thing that I’m not happy about, upon finishing The Fourth Bear? I have to wait a year for the next Jasper Fforde book. I may have to go through a rereading binge sometime soon.