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Thursday, August 13, 2009

The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde

Genre: Science Fiction

Pages: 384

Copyright: 2004


In Jasper Fforde's Great Britain, circa 1985, time travel is routine, cloning is a reality (dodos are the resurrected pet of choice), and literature is taken very, very seriously. England is a virtual police state where an aunt can get lost (literally) in a Wordsworth poem and forging Byronic verse is a punishable offense. All this is business as usual for Thursday Next, renowned Special Operative in literary detection. But when someone begins kidnapping characters from works of literature and plucks Jane Eyre from the pages of Brontë's novel, Thursday is faced with the challenge of her career. Fforde's ingenious fantasy - enhanced by a Web site that re-creates the world of the novel - unites intrigue with English literature in a delightfully witty mix.

England, 1985. Thursday Next, our heroine, lives in a world similar to ours, it's more or less a parallel reality where history seems to have shifted a bit, though some things do remain the same. The Crimean War has been going on for more than a hundred and thirty years, peace doesn't seem possible and England is intent on eradicating the Russians with a new plasma gun; cloning has become a normal procedure and through it, scientists have been able to bring back the dodo, which has become the pet of choice, meaning that extinction is a word of the past; time-travelling is also normal, so much so that there's need for a Special Operations task force, the Chronoguard, that tries to make sure there are no changes made to history; finally, literature and art have become increasingly important, there are battles between the various cultural movements, people change their name and attire to copy their favourite authors and another Special Operations task force, the Literatecs, take care of forgeries, duplicates, unauthorized sales and performances, and everything else pertaining to books.

Thursday is a Literatec, and when the original manuscript of Martin Chuzzlewit by Charles Dickens gets stolen, she's one of the agents that is called to walk the scene, seeing as she was responsible for installing the security system in the first place. Her job may be on the line and no one seems to know how the manuscript was taken out of its protective dome, there are no fingerprints, the dome is intact, the security cameras didn't record anyone going near and the robbery was performed in record time, it took the thief less than five minutes to get the manuscript out. They may not know how or even why, but they already have a suspect, only someone like Acheron Hades would be able to accomplish such a feat, and Thursday is the only one who can identify him.

But Hades is not your common criminal and his intentions are not quite clear. That is, until Thursday's aunt and uncle are kidnapped along with the Prose Portal, a device that allows you to enter your favourite book, and a man's body is found inside a car's trunk, later identified as Mr Quaverley, a minor character from Dickens' book, by a professor who noticed a change in the story. Hades demands a ransom or he will continue on kidnapping characters from the original manuscript, therefore causing changes to the rest of the books, and not only Martin Chuzzlewit is in danger. Thursday has to find a way to stop him or Jane Eyre, her favourite book might be next!

The Eyre Affair is one of my favourite books! The author managed to create an intricate world where you find yourself noticing small things that are almost like our own but at the same time they're slightly different. And don't think you'll get every reference at first as you're probably just trying to figure out how it all works and getting your head around the time-travelling and book-travelling stuff. I noticed so much more this second time around and was able to enjoy the author's cleverness with little details only because the world felt so familiar. There are so many things to love about this book, the cute dodos in all the different versions, Thursday's father stopping time at all the wrong moments, being able to enter books and talk to characters, the villain who is so evil the only thing's missing is a cape and a thin moustache, Mycroft's weird inventions and I could go on and on and on!

If you like books and a bit of science fiction and humour, you'll love The Eyre Affair, though I've noticed this is a book that causes strong emotions, you'll either love it or hate it, but please do try it, you can hold me accountable either way! ;-) Now with the story fresh in my mind, I'll continue the journey on to Lost in a Good Book, the second in the series.


Lexie said...

I love love love the Thursday Next books and the whole concept of them. Who wouldn't want to take a vacation inside their favorite book? Sure as heck beats going to Bermuda if I can go back inside a Jane Austen novel!

PopinFresh said...

Great review, I'm glad you enjoyed the book. The entire series is fantastic.

~ Popin

J.T. said...

I recently read a review of this book (though I can't remember where). I had no idea that this is what it was about. Now, between the 2 reviews I have read, I really want to read it!

Marg said...

I love this series, and always wait very eagerly for the next Jasper Fforde book. I think that JF would be a very entertaining man to have a conversation with!

Anonymous said...

Have you noticed he has a new book coming out, Marg? From what I've seen it promises to be another entertaining read.

Marg said...

Comes out in December I believe! I am very much looking forward to it and interested to see what he comes up with given that it isn't part of the Thursday Next series, or the Nursery Crime series either!

Sharon said...

Sounds like a book that is right up my alley!