The Well of Lost Plots

The Well of Lost Plots

Infobox Book |
name = The Well of Lost Plots

image_caption = New UK Paperback Cover
author = Jasper Fforde
cover_artist =
country = United Kingdom
language = English
series = Thursday Next
genre = Alternate history, Fantasy novel
publisher = Hodder and Stoughton
release_date = 2003
media_type = Print (Hardback & Paperback)
pages = 360 pp (HB)
isbn = ISBN 0340825960 (HB)
preceded_by = Lost in a Good Book
followed_by = Something Rotten

"The Well of Lost Plots" is the third book by Jasper Fforde and the continuation of the adventures of literary detective Thursday Next from "The Eyre Affair" and "Lost in a Good Book". Published in 2003, the book is set entirely within the jurisdiction of JurisFiction, the police force of fiction.

Plot summary

Apprentice JurisFiction agent and SpecOps-27 operative Thursday Next is taking a much-needed vacation inside "Caversham Heights", a never-published detective novel inside the Well of Lost Plots, while waiting for her child to be born (she's pregnant although her husband Landen was erased from existence by the ChronoGuard in the last book). As a cover, she must pretend to be the character she is replacing. In the book, she encounters two Generics, students of St Tabularasa's who have yet to be assigned to a book, and DCI Jack Spratt, a detective who partners with her in investigating a murder. Since Thursday is an "Outlander", a "real" person rather than a fictional character, Spratt hopes that she will help them appeal to the Council of Genres to prevent the disassembling of "Caversham Heights", a fate inevitable for books which languish unpublished in the 'real' world.

Using a houseboat on "Caversham Heights" as her base of operations, Thursday continues her apprenticeship with Miss Havisham from "Great Expectations". Not only is a fictional character — Yorrick Kaine, the "discoverer" of Shakespeare's lost play "Cardenio" in the last book — loose in Thursday's real world, a person from Thursday's world has entered the BookWorld and is conspiring with Kaine and Text Grand Central, the final arbitrators of plot, setting, and other story elements, to release BOOK version 9, code-named UltraWord. (For the reader's convenience, every book "you" have ever read would be considered a version 8.3 in the fictional world of Thursday Next.)

UltraWord is touted at a JurisFiction meeting as the greatest advance "since the invention of movable type" because it creates a thirty-two plot story system and allows the reader to control the story. Thursday is warned by the witches from "Macbeth" to not trust the thrice-read rule. Thursday becomes a full JurisFiction agent, and she accompanies Miss Havisham to the Outland to find out who's entered the BookWorld and used an escaped minotaur and a "mispeling vyrus" (sound it out phonetically) to cover his tracks.

Thursday slowly loses her memory of Landen, though Granny Next remains with her and keeps her from forgetting him completely. Aornis Hades, the villainess, who nearly covered the world in Dream Topping in Lost in a Good Book, is present in her memory as a mindworm. Aornis attempts to drive Thursday mad by calling forth what she thought was Thursday's worst memory, her brother's death in the Crimean War, but is defeated by Thursday's actual worst memory, a nightmarish monster from her childhood dreams. Miss Havisham is lost when the automobile she's driving is wrecked, detectives Snell and Perkins die from the vyrus. Thursday is given leave of absence to recover from her losses, when she assists with the local franchise of The Judgment of Solomon. There they learn that Harris Tweed, Kaine's partner, is masquerading as a JurisFiction agent to get UltraWord released in order to fix literature. At the 923rd Annual BookWorld awards, Thursday proves to the seven million fictional characters assembled that UltraWord will render literature merely a saleable commodity — the thrice-read rule renders an UltraWord book impossible to read by a fourth person after the volume has been read by three people, thus rendering libraries and secondhand bookstores useless. The quality of the writing is also substantively poorer; Thursday produces two skylarks, one from a non-UltraWord book that is described vividly and poetically, and the other from an UltraWord book that is described flat and literally.

Tweed and Kaine call for a vote before the audience can be convinced that Thursday's is the correct argument. In this unprecedented emergency, Thursday breaks open the "IN UNPRECEDENTED EMERGENCY, BREAK GLASS" in her JurisFiction operative TravelBook and pulls the handle. The Great Panjandrum, ruler of the BookWorld, appears. The Panjandrum calls for an immediate vote which goes against UltraWord and calls on Thursday to take the job of Bellman, the superintendent of JurisFiction. Text Grand Central is placed under a committee by the Council of Genres "to ensure TGC would be too inefficient and unimaginative to pose a threat". The two Generics, now calling themselves Randolph and Lola, Thursday, and her pet dodo Pickwick take R&R in "Caversham Heights", which was bought by the Council of Genres as a character sanctuary — a solution that appeals to the residents of the novel as well as the nursery rhyme characters who were going to go on strike. The story of the new "Caversham Heights" constitutes Fforde's fifth book, "The Big Over Easy".

The American edition of "The Well of Lost Plots" has an extra chapter documenting the weathering of a WordStorm during Thursday's tenure as Bellman.

The story continues in "Something Rotten".

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