The Woman Who Died a Lot Audiobook - Unabridged (Chapter 1, Part 1) by Jasper Fforde
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"Jasper Fforde's delightfully zany Thursday Next series shows no signs of slowing down with its seventh entry, The Woman Who Died a Lot.
Despite being semihappily semi-retired from SpecOps, Thursday accepts the head librarian position at the Swindon library. But soon threats from a supreme Deity, a mnemonomorph, and the nefarious Goliath corporation press Thursday back into active duty. "
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"The Woman Who Died A Lot: A Thursday Next Novel"
by Jasper Fforde
The real Thursday is back, but possibly not for long with the Goliath Corporation's illicit release of several Mark VII "Dayrunner" Thursday clones. She's no longer with SO-27 (Jurisfiction), which is now headed by younger Thursday wannabe Phoebe Smalls, but she has landed the plum job of Chief Librarian of the Swindon All-You-Can-Eat-at-Fatso's Drink Not Included Library. Deficit spending by the ChronoGuard has lead to the retroactive collapse of the Service before it began and Friday is out of a career. Meanwhile Tuesday struggles between mastering the high school social scene and saving Swindon from being destroyed by the Deity with her ninja based anti-smite device, funded of course by the government's stupidity surplus, if only she can accurately determine the elusive value of U(c), the Unentanglement Constant by the end of the week.
The chief villainess might in fact be Aornis Hades, now free of her never-was time loop, the world's most forgettable evil doer with a grudge against our heroine which even she can't forget. And the introduction of the artfully named Dark Reading Matter (ie: DRM - Digital Rights Management) provides a playful introduction to Fforde's next book.
The Welsh writer Jasper Fforde's wildly inventive books defy easy description — more accurately, they mercilessly mock the concept of easy description. Are they mysteries? Outrageous parodies of literary classics? Science fiction? Absurdist humor? Gleeful mashups of all the above?
Answer: Yes. Certainly. Sort of. Maybe.
The prolific Fforde (and is that a great name, or what?) has created several alternative worlds, set in the no man's land between highbrow literature and lowbrow baloney. There's nothing quite like them, although faint whiffs can be detected of Douglas Adams, Kurt Vonnegut and Fforde's avowed literary hero, Lewis Carroll.
To service these alternative worlds, the author has several series, including the Nursery Crimes books about cops who specialize in nursery rhymes. These characters investigate a variety of misdeeds (the suspicious death of Humpty Dumpty, stolen porridge, etc.).
But Fforde's best-known books are those starring literary detective Thursday Next. On Thursday's turf, two regions called BookWorld and RealWorld, time and history are surprisingly elastic, as is the porous border between fiction and "real life."
It seems that fiction exists, but with a twist. It requires a huge, jury-rigged, complex storytelling technology, and all of the characters are actors. As soon as a RealWorld reader stops perusing a given book, BookWorld actors can relax and go about their own lives.
But books are vulnerable, and sometimes BookWorld actors go rogue, with disastrous results as plots change radically. That's when Thursday steps in. Working for a shadowy agency called SpecOps, she jumps between the "real" world and BookWorld to make things right.
But in "The Woman Who Died A Lot" (Viking, 384 pages, 26.95), Thursday is no longer a daredevil enforcer. Recovering from a serious injury sustained in her previous adventure, she's been assigned to work in the All-You-Can-Eat-at-Fatso's Drink Not Included Library in her hometown of Swindon.
It's mostly a dull and demeaning gig, though not without surprises and risks. For one thing, a scarily efficient rival has Thursday's old job, and our girl wants it back. Then there's the dangerously low National Stupidity Surplus (don't ask), and the evil empire known as the Goliath Corporation, which has its own nefarious plans to create Thursday clones. Not to mention the Pagerunners who have jumped from BookWorld to RealWorld.
Thursday has other problems, too: a daughter who doesn't exist (well, not quite) and a malfunctioning Anti-Smite Shield, meant to protect towns from a really pissed-off God, who is threatening to send down lightning bolts and worse.
The Bookworld's leading enforcement officer, Thursday Next, has been forced into a semiretirement following an assassination attempt, returning home to Swindon and her family to recuperate.
But Thursday's children have problems that demand she become a mother of invention: Friday's career struggles in the Chronoguard, where he is relegated to a might-have-been; Tuesday's trouble perfecting the Anti-Smote shield, needed in time to thwart an angry Deity's promise to wipe Swindon off the face of the earth; and the issue of Thursday's third child, Jenny, who doesn't exist except as a confusing and disturbing memory.
With Goliath attempting to replace Thursday at every opportunity with synthetic Thursdays, and a call from the Bookworld to hunt down Pagerunners who have jumped into the Realworld, Thursday's convalescence is going to be anything but restful as the week ahead promises to be one of the Next family's oddest.
Thursday Next is the main protagonist in a series of comic fantasy, alternate history novels by the British author Jasper Fforde. She was first introduced in Fforde's first published novel, The Eyre Affair, released on July 19, 2001 by Hodder & Stoughton. As of 2012, the series comprises seven books, in two series. The first series is made up of the novels The Eyre Affair, Lost in a Good Book, The Well of Lost Plots and Something Rotten. The second series is so far made up of First Among Sequels, One of Our Thursdays Is Missing and The Woman Who Died a Lot.
Thursday is the daughter of Wednesday Next and Colonel Next (whose first name has not yet been revealed), a former agent with Special Operations Network department 12 (SO-12), the Chronoguard. She has two brothers, Anton and Joffy. Anton, however, was killed in the Crimean War.
In her parallel universe, England is a republic, with George Formby as its first president, elected following the success of Operation Sea Lion (the mooted Nazi invasion of Great Britain), occupation, and liberation. There is no United Kingdom, and Wales is the independent "Socialist Republic of Wales". The Crimean War is still being waged in 1985, Russia still has a Czar, and the Whig Party still exists in the House of Commons.
Genetic engineering is far more advanced than in our own timeline, and so Thursday has a pet dodo, Pickwick. Re-engineered mammoths can cause damage to local gardens if in their path, and there is a Neanderthal rights movement, given the resurrection of this kindred branch of human evolution. Interestingly, the duck is extinct in this universe.
The Goliath Corporation is a megalithic company that appears to make many of the goods in this alternate world and also acts as a de facto shadow government, being able to take over important police investigations.
In the world of Thursday Next, literature is a much more popular medium than in our world, and Thursday is a member of SO-27, the Literary Detectives or LiteraTecs. Her work is centred on Swindon, where she, her husband, infant, and mother live. The importance that literature has in this alternate England is reflected in the fact that so many people want to change their name to that of famous authors that some must be numbered, by law- e.g. John Milton 432. 'WillSpeak' machines are often to be found in public places, such as railway stations- these contain a mannequin of a Shakespearian Character and will quote that character's most famous speeches upon payment.
In addition, the line between literature and reality becomes increasingly thin, allowing characters in the books and those in 'real life' to jump in and out of novels. This leads Thursday to change the ending of Jane Eyre; the joke being that the plot we know in our reality is the far superior change caused by Thursday. This also happens to other classic novels- Uriah Heep becomes the obsequious, and generally insincere character we know, due to an accident inside the book-world and Thursday's uncle Mycroft becomes Sherlock Holmes's brother.
Thursday also finds that the characters in novels are self aware, knowing they are in a book. They make comments stating they are not needed until page 'such and such,' rather like actors in a play, and thus have time to help Thursday.
The world of fiction has its own police force - Jurisfiction - to ensure that plots in books continue to run smoothly with each reading. Thursday ends up hiding in a book, and working for Jurisfiction. The book Caversham Heights is a detective novel featuring Detective Inspector Jack Spratt and his sergeant, Mary Mary, (listed as Mary Jones in WOLP) who swaps with Thursday. Spratt and Mary get their own Fforde series, The Nursery Crime Division books, and appear in The Big Over Easy and The Fourth Bear featuring crimes against characters in classic children's literature.
Thursday is in her mid-thirties at the start of the first book, and, by the end of it, had married Landen Parke-Laine. Thursday juggles her work in Swindon and the world of fiction, battling the machinations of the insidious Goliath Corporation, members of the Hades family and other evils at every turn.
Her biographer and stalker, "Millon de Floss", reveals more about her life at the beginnings of chapters in The Eyre Affair, Lost in a Good Book, The Well of Lost Plots and Something Rotten.
Her father, Colonel Next, is a rogue member of the ChronoGuard (SpecOps 12), a temporal policing agency, and officially does not exist, having been eradicated by his former bosses (using the simple but effective method of a timely knock on the door just before his conception; despite this, his children and grandchild still exist, likely due to Thursday's son Friday Next being the eventual head of the ChronoGuard, and/or the extensive powers of Colonel Next himself). The elder Next does, however, remain at large throughout the time-space continuum, and still frequently finds time to visit Thursday, usually by stopping time around her so they can talk without his being arrested by the ChronoGuard. Colonel Next's first name is unknown to everybody but him, a consequence of his eradication. Thursday has two brothers, Anton, who died in the Crimean War, and Joffy, who is a minister for the Global Standard Deity (GSD).
Thursday also has a pet dodo called Pickwick. Although dodos had been extinct for some time, in Fforde's fictional universe they have been reintroduced through cloning, a popular hobby. Pickwick was 12 in 1985, when The Eyre Affair is set, and has some unusual characteristics, including missing wings. She is a version 1.2 Dodo, and the DNA sequencing wasn't complete until the release of 1.7. Although initially Thursday Next believed Pickwick to be male, she later turned out to be female when she laid an egg. Her noise is represented as "plock plock" in the books.
Around Thursday Next a fictional world has been created, reflected in several websites of the fictional organisations.
The fifth Thursday Next novel was published in July 2007 entitled First Among Sequels (despite an announcement in The Fourth Bear, which listed its title as The War of the Words.)
The sixth Thursday Next novel is called One of our Thursdays is Missing, and was released in the UK on February 22, 2011.
The seventh Thursday Next novel, The Woman Who Died a Lot was released in the UK on 12 July 2012 and in the US on October 2, 2012.
The dedication in Jasper Fforde's The Woman Who Died a Lot:
"To all the librarians who have ever been, ever will be, are now, this book is respectfully dedicated."
And it features such choice quotes as:
Thursday Next: "Do people usually attack the chief librarian as he or she is driven in?"
Duffy: "I was alluding to an incident when someone fired two shots at our vehicle as we pulled off the Magic Roundabout. The vehicle was bulletproofed, but even so. 'Usually, ma'am. The 720 percent increase in library loans caused by the government New Book Duty has caused a three-day delay on library-book availability. When the citizens can't get the books they want, they often vent their fury at the person in charge."
"The SLS was the Special Library Service, the elite forces charged to protect the nation's literary heritage, either in libraries or in transit ... "
Thursday Next: "Do I have to talk to insane people?"
Duffy: "You're a librarian now. I'm afraid it's mandatory."
The Swindon All-You-Can-Eat-at-Fatso's Drink Not Included Library was a large, glassy and very angular building sixteen stories high, at the corner of Emlyn and Commercial. Libraries had always been a priority for the Commonsense Party along with training, educational standards, national exercise programs and preschool assistance for mothers, and the sleek and brightly colored building was only two years old.
I announced myself to the receptionist, who went into a frantic lather, dialed a number with shaky hands and announced "She's here!" breathlessly down the line. While we waited, she simply stared at me, transfixed.
"Nice building," I said by way of conversation.
"Yes it is isn't it? Gosh we love it here and we're so glad it's you finally we might be able to get something done around here especially sorting out the budget ha-ha-ha you'll speak to the council won't you I have a daughter I need to pay through school she has only one leg and can't--"
And she fainted clean away, having failed to take a breath.
"She does that a lot," said a voice behind me. "It's nothing to worry about."
I turned to see a slightly built man who had the upright manner of someone in the military and was perfectly presented in a neat pinstripe suit.
"Welcome to the Swindon All-You-Can-Eat-at-Fatso's Drink Not Included Library Service," he said. "I'm John Duffy, your personal assistant. Everyone calls me Duffy."
I knew him by sight and reputation, although we'd never met. He was a decorated ex-Special Library Services operative, invalided out after a riot gun had exploded in the Guildford Wicks Aircraft Supplies Try Us First Library. It was during a demonstration by Shakespeare followers, incensed that the town council had downgraded Will from "Poet Saint" to "Eternal Bard." The explosion sent a copy of "Love in the Time of Cholera" slamming into Duffy's face with such force that it blinded him in one eye and transferred the text of the book permanently into his cheek and forehead. It made him look a bit severe but at least gave him something to read while shaving.
"Your reputation precedes you," I said. "Glad to make your acquaintance."
He nodded politely. "May I show you around?"
"Thank you," I replied, gazing about at the magnificently bizarre building, an odd mix of randomly shaped modernism with large voids, oddly shaped glass panels, bright colors and soaring internal verticals. "It's quite something, isn't it?"
"Designed by Will Alsop just before he went sane," replied Duffy.
We walked into the main fiction lending room. It was light and airy, and there were racks and racks of books and very little computer space, which I liked the look of. The second floor was more of the same but was for nonfiction and general interest.
"This is where we relax," said Duffy as we toured the luxurious staff recreation room, complete with Ping-Pong table, a Zen meditation room for chilling out and a Michelin-starred chef to make lunch.
"Nice recreation room," I said with a nod. "The only thing missing is a string quartet."
"They're here on Monday mornings, to ease in the workweek. Let me show you to your office."
We took the elevator to the fourteenth floor and walked across the swirly patterned carpet to my office. The room was large and square in plan, with a ceiling that sloped down from the windows. Two sides of the office were glazed and were on the corner of the building, where they faced the glassy towers of Swindon's financial district and would thus afford me a spectacular view of the smiting, should it come to pass. Another wall was covered by a bookcase and three videoconferencing screens, in front of which were two sofas and a coffee table for more informal meetings. The final wall contained two doors. One led into Duffy's office and the assistants, the other to the waiting room. The office was large, modern, and very corporate. In an instant I didn't feel as if I belonged here. Dingy basements smelling of photocopier toner and old coffee suited me better.
"This is your desk," said Duffy.
In a bit of a daze, I sat down on a plush armchair and looked around. I was parked behind a desk that seemed like an acre of finely polished walnut. There was a large internal phone with a separate button for every library in Wessex, and next to this was an old-fashioned red telephone without a dial - just a single button with NP etched onto it.
"That's the emergency hotline to Nancy at the World League of Librarians," explained Duffy. "She'll be on the first tube from Seattle if you call her. But make sure it's a real emergency," he added. "If Nancy is dragged all this way for nothing, you'll be in big trouble."
"I'll remember that."
"Do you want a light day or a heavy day tomorrow?"
"Better make it a light one."
"Very well." He pressed the intercom button and leaned down to speak. "Geraldine, would you bring in the light schedule, please?"
"I'll tell you what I WILL do," I said as we waited for Geraldine.
"What's that?" said Duffy.
"I'm going to change the name of the library service. All that 'Fatso's All-You-Can-Eat' stuff is nonsense."
Duffy raised an eyebrow. "That's what the last chief librarian said. He didn't like Fatso's and told them he was going to do a compulsory sponsorship buyback."
"How did he get on?"
"The engine was still running when they found his car on the Lambourn Downs. His wallet and cell phone were on the passenger seat. Under the wiper there was a discount voucher from Fatso's for kids to eat free, but that might have been a coincidence. Of the chief librarian, no trace. I should forget that idea. If you want something controversial to do on your first week out, then announce biometric data for library cards. Identity theft is a big issue with people eager to take out more than six books at one time."
"How about we up it to seven?"
Duffy gave a polite cough. Clearly I had a lot to learn about libraries.
An assistant of not more than twenty and dressed in a bottle-green suit entered the room and walked nervously up to the desk.
"This is Geraldine," said Duffy. "The assistant's assistant to the assistant personal assistant of my own personal assistant's assistant."
"Hello, Chief Librarian," she said nervously. "Have you really killed seven people?"
"I tend to try to dwell on the people I've saved," I replied.
"Oh," she said, obviously intrigued by the notion of an ex-Literary Detective running the library service. "Of course."
"How many assistants do I have?" I asked, turning back to Duffy.
"Including me, three."
"Three? Given Geraldine's job title? How is that possible?"
"They have multiple jobs. Geraldine, apart from being the assistant's assistant to the assistant personal assistant of my own personal assistant's assistant, is also my own personal assistant's assistant's assistant."
"No," said Geraldine, "that's Lucy. I'm not only your assistant's assistant's subassistant but also the assistant to the assistant to your personal assistant's assistant."
"Wait," I said, thinking hard, "that must make you your own assistant."
"Yes. I had to fire myself yesterday. Luckily, I was also ABOVE the assistant who fired me, so I could reinstate myself. Will there be anything else, Chief Librarian?"
There wasn't, so she bobbed politely and withdrew.