I really, really like this book, until the very end. What the hell?! I have not yet read Jude the Obscure, which is on my list for next year, but I know it is renowned for its dissatisfying ending. I am willing to bet this book can give that one a run for its money.
Everything was going so well. It was a cleverly devised plot. It had a lot of interesting implications that probably would have never otherwise occurred to the reader. I was even willing to overlook the fleeting Wizard of Oz references, giving Fforde some latitude for a plot device that will appear in a later book.
First I was a little disappointed when the plausible scientific explanation for so many of the strange occurrences was passed by in favor of the fanciful "evil metal" explanation. Okay, whatever. But then it all went to hell in the last five pages.
Again, it's a book that's a victim of its series. If it was a one-off novel, there's no way it would have ended how it did. But there needed to be some unresolved conflict to draw the reader into the next book, so the last five pages quickly introduces a very irritating one.
I know, I can't have it both ways. I didn't like Thursday Next in First Among Sequels because there was no series-long dramatic element to see wrapped up, but then Shades of Grey has one and I hate it. But the series already had an element to carry through. And it was just horribly mean to take a girl as defensive as Jane, finally have her cast aside her reservations, and literally within a handful of pages screw her over for it.
Rating: the first 384 pages: six out of seven giant inflatable monkeys.
Rating: the last six pages: one out of seven giant inflatable monkeys.