The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde
Fantasy Book Review Book of the Month, November 2012
There is another 1985, where London’s criminal gangs have moved into the lucrative literary market, and Thursday Next is on the trail of a new crime wave’s Mr Big. Acheron Hades has been kidnapping characters from works of fiction and holding them ransom. Jane Eyre is gone. Missing. Thursday sets out to find a way into the book to repair the damage. But solving crimes against literature isn’t easy when you also have to find time to halt the Crimean War, persuade the man you love to marry you , and figure out who really wrote Shakespeare’s plays.
Mad as pants. Yes truly, The Eyre Affair is mad a pants in the best, terrifically possible way. Having be dropped right smack into the action of The Woman Who Died a Lot (which was released earlier this year by Hodder and Stoughton) and being convinced that the Thursday Next series was a series that I really wanted to read, Lee offered me this book to review and I am pleased, well more than pleased. Meeting Thursday from the beginning is worth your time. Let me rephrase it, it is compulsory!
The Eyre Affair takes place in an alternate version of 1985 England, where the Crimean war still continues between Russia and England, and where Wales has declared independence. But there is more to the world that just the two above mentioned events. Technology has taken quite a leap forward in means of getting you kits to do somehow cloning and sequencing and bringing back extinct animals “plock plock”. The creation of this alternate world was grand but not over the top, every piece fit into the puzzle and gave a fascinating sense.
And then there is Thursday Next, Crimean war veteran turned literary detective. And take the term “literary”, literally. These detectives specialize in crimes concerning books, be it from stolen works to copyright infringement. It is on Thursday the story focuses and she is also used as the point-of-view for storytelling. After her job to look for a stolen text goes wrong, Thursday in convinced by her future self to take a job in Swindon, travelling across time and space is again not a strange occurrence! From that point on everything happens in and around Swindon. And we also get to meet up with some of the other characters, one being the uncle of Thursday, Mycroft Next. Mycroft, the professor of the family has designed some pretty cool stuff. Bookworms, who lead to some quirky dialogue phrasings but he also creates the Prose Portal, which allows travel into books! Magnificent. This is just great stuff. I wanted to get to know more of this after reading The Woman Who Died a Lot, and I got a glimpse of it. There was just a clever way of showing the traveling into the book by Hades and Thursday, but also kidnapping the characters out of the books and the following scenes. Jane Eyre’s dialogue with Hades was pretty awesome.
There are two other additions in the storyline of The Eyre Affair which I reckon (although I know it from The Woman Who Died a Lot) that we will see more often. For starters the ChronoGuard. This is a SpecOps division 12 (the literary detectives of Thursday are SpecOps-27, in total there are 34, each specializes in a different branch). Thursday’s father is part of the ChronoGuard which travel back and forth in time crimes. It was also a pretty cool start of the book itself:
“My father had a face that could stop a clock. I don’t mean that he was ugly or anything; it was a phrase that the ChronoGuard used to describe someone who had the power to reduce time to an ultra-slow trickle”.
And luckily we see him popping into place a few times, saving the day but also showing a funny paragraph when time freezes! As a second there is the (evil/nefarious?) Goliath Cooperation, who as a weapons producer want to have the best weapons to finally end the Crimean War. In order to achieve their goals they need to travel into the books. But their motivations remain a bit illusive, and they, by all means do not shy away from using some violence. This is definitely a organization that Thursday will have to keep a close eye on for what she did with one of their agents Jack Schitt.
Then there is the plot line In the Eyre Affair, Thursday is trying to save literary disaster, because if you change the original works, every other copy will have the changes as well… And the bad guy is taking lead characters as hostage and demanding ransom. As you see the construction of the plot line of the book it just fall to notice that there is actually quite a thriller element hidden into it. Although there is humorous tone to the book these elements do not go unnoticed and the subtle integration was neatly put together.
The Eyre Affair shows a great combination of humour thriller, sci-fi, detective and fantasy, in my opinion this book really takes the fantasy fiction genre further. I know I am going to repeat myself but this book is how Thursday would have said it “mad as pants”. It combines some great elements that truly make this book comes to life in more than one dimension. Combining funny and witty dialogues but also numerous literary ideas with the bookworms and names of several of the characters make this a terrific read and should be compulsory for everyone. You won’t regret this.
Jasper de Joode, 10/10
It takes a while to get used to the alternate England that the characters live in, with the ongoing Crimean War and talk of airships giving an air of times long past, mixed together with futuristic energy beam weapons, splicing technology that has allowed people to keep pet dodos, and machines that can allow people to walk in and out of novels, but this makes it a fascinating portrait of what could have been.
Thursday Next works as a strong focus to the novel, set in first person like the titular Jane Eyre which becomes a main focus of the manhunt for the world’s third most wanted man – Acheron Hades. A detective focusing in the world of literature, which has a far greater influence in this alternate universe, she is also a past soldier and carries her scars from that conflict. I loved the character, though even after spending a book seeing the story unfurl from her point of view I still strangely would say she’s still a bit of a mystery. Time and the path of historical events are fluid in this novel, embodied by Thursday Next’s father who is on the run and has an unexplained purpose flitting backwards and forwards across the centuries.
If you love Jane Eyre I think you will get the most out of this book, though the twist in Jane Eyre will be spoiled for those who have yet to read it, but even despite this if you like slightly more unusual fiction in the vein of Tom Holt, this will appeal and it’s a great, rollicking ride.
Cat Fitzpatrick, 9/10
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