Jasper Fforde is one of my favorite authors. This is the start of his Thursday Next series of mystery/fantasy/sci-fi/romance/genre hopping books that I was inspired to re-read after finding another Fforde fan in my book club (thanks Ashley!). It’s a great read if you can keep up.
The Eyre Affair takes place in an alternate history 1985 England. The Crimean War has been going on for about 130 years between England and Imperial Russia. Books and literature are hugely popular. Popular to the point that theories about the true author of Shakespeare inspire gangs and riots. Fans of authors change their names so often that people are required to have an I.D. number tattooed when they become a new John Milton. The regular police are augmented with 32 different Special Operations branches. Each level deals with a specialty ranging from Art crimes (SpecOps-24) to Werewolf and Vampire Disposal (Biters and Suckers, SpecOps-17) to cheese crimes (SpecOps-31) to Temporal Stability (The Chronoguard, SpecOps-12).
Enter Thursday Next, Literatec (Literary Detectives, SpecOps-27). Born on a Thursday, Crimean War veteran, former police and now London LiteraTec, handling the Shakespeare desk. She is called up to SpecOps-5(Search & Containment) to identify the evil Acheron Hades, a former professor of hers and current #1 most wanted criminal. He has several supernatural powers including not showing up on film, the ability to hear his name when spoken within a hundred yards, mental manipulation and the ability to shake of anti-personal rounds at point-blank. Things go south, her teammates end up dead, Acheron is presumed dead burnt to a crisp and the only thing that saved Thursday is the bullet stopping copy of Jane Eyre in her breast pocket. After recovery and SO-1 (SpecOps Internal Affairs) investigation and recovery where she gets a weird message from a familiar woman in an unfamiliar car with an unfamiliar man driving through her hospital room Thursday decides to leave the prestigious London Shakespeare Literatec for a field agent at the lowly Swindon SpecOps department. Thursday hasn’t been back to Swindon, her hometown for 10 years.
First thing she finds the strange car from her vision. She meets her new boss and partner, and her former fiancé Landon Park-Lane at the hotel that she’s been put up in. Things ended badly between Thursday and Landon, and now they’re both wondering where the other stands after her return.
Got all that? That’s like the first third of the book. There are also the occasional interruptions by Thursday’s time hopping Chronoguard father, her crazy/smart inventor uncle Mycroft who has bridged reality and fiction, the reappearance of Acheron, the kidnapping of a minor Dickensian character, the Socialist People’s Republic of Wales, plasma rifles, time holes, Jane Eyre, the Crimean War and a wedding(or two).
It seems that Jasper Fforde took every genre that he could find, drop them in a blender and made a coherent story that jumps between hard-boiled mystery, action thriller, romance, science fiction, and fantasy. He reads like a mix of Douglas Adams, Terry Pratchett, with some Monty Python, and a dash of mystery/thriller to go with the absurdity. Overall, still one of my favorite authors.
Next week, trying to get to Cool Tools by Kevin Kelly, and Nothing to Envy about North Korea.