Jasper Fforde, The Fourth Bear

I didn't mean to read The Fourth Bear yet, in spite of the praise showered on it by one Nicole (as she remarked in her comments to my recent review of Fforde's The Big Over Easy). I've got stuff to do, after all, and just finished a big novel for the book club, so I didn't think I was in the market for another fat novel.

Fforde has this effect, though; I can't stop reading them once I start. And Nicole was right, The Fourth Bear is far superior - imho - to The Big Over Easy. It handles the metafiction more smoothly, and the characters are more nuanced - in part because detective Jack Spratt turns out to recognize after all that he's a nursery character. He's just hiding it (even from us in internal monologues, apparently, in the first book...).

If you've enjoyed bits of the other Fforde novels, read this one. You should read The Big Over Easy first as necessary background, but this book is seriously for you. If you haven't read it, and are worried about Eoin Colfer writing the upcoming Hitchhiker's volume, read this book - it's as if Douglas Adams wrote a mystery novel set partially inside fiction, and it'll relax you like nobody's business.

I mentioned in reviewing The Big Over Easy that said volume had great chapter epigraphs, mostly from fictional newspapers. Well, these ones are at least as good, as well as mostly from The Bumper Book of Berkshire Records (2004 edition), like this one:
Most Dangerous Baked Object. A hands-down win for the Gingerbreadman, incarcerated at St Cerebellum's secure hospital for the criminally deranged since 1984. Currently serving a four-hundred-year sentence for the murder and torture of his 104 known victims. His crimes easily outrank those of the second-most dangerous baked object, a fruitcake accidentally soaked in weed-killer rather than sherry by Mrs Austen of Pembridge, then served up to members of the Women's Federation during a talk about the remedial benefits of basket-weaving. The final death toll is reputed to have been sixty-two.
Plus I never thought I'd be able to link Jasper Fforde to my (ahem) scholarly research, but this one fits nicely into my eco reading. Delightful.

Comments

fiona-h said…
I liked The Fourth Bear too.

Right now I'm re-reading some Terry Pratchett (which , yes I know puts me in the nearsighted mouth-breather category... isn't that how Stephen Fry rudely described TP fans?). Try one if you want a laugh. Surely some of the characters' names will entice you: Solid Jackson, Sergeant Carrot, and - my second-favorite character - The Librarian (who only ever says "Ook").
richard said…
I won't get into Messr. Fry's spirited self-defence on the alleged allegation re Pratchett readers, but I've been meaning to get into Pratchett! My shelves are just so darned full, that's the problem. And where do you start with someone who's written, what, 400 novels?
Nicole said…
I'm so glad you enjoyed the book! When I first started reading your post, I was worried that you were going to say you hated it.

My favorite aspect of the novel was the metafictional references. It really set the book apart from Fforde's other works.

I've never read Pratchett. Sounds intriguing, though.
richard said…
No, I still haven't read Pratchett myself. I'm not a mouth-breather, and I'd like to stay that way :-)

You didn't have to worry: this book was juuuust right.

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