CBRIII Maneuver #29 – The Eyre Affair
Profile: Speculative Fiction, Series, Detective Novel
Summary: Edited from goodreads.com “Welcome to a surreal version of Great Britain, circa 1985, where 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, militant Baconians heckle performances of Hamlet, and forging Byronic verse is a punishable offense. All this is business as usual for Thursday Next, renowned Special Operative in literary detection, until someone begins kidnapping characters from works of literature. When Jane Eyre is plucked from the pages of Brontë’s novel, Thursday must track down the villain and enter the novel herself to avert a heinous act of literary homicide.”
After Action Report:
YOU SHOULD READ THIS BOOK. I don’t care if you end up not liking it or if you think I’m a crazy person. The Eyre Affair is worth the read. As a piece of fiction, it has some flaws and could certainly benefit from a stronger overall focus. But page for page, this is the most blisteringly original novels that isn’t in the deep end of the Sci-Fi pool. Jasper Fforde’s remarkable version of 1985’s England is worthy of note by itself, but it’s the whole package that makes The Eyre Affair an absolute must-read.
In a slightly darker version of England; still held in the grips of a century old Crimean War, the government created a series of offices to deal with unusual and extra-ordinary happenings. Ranging from the mundane to the cosmic, these Spec-Ops offices employ our protagonist, Thursday Next, a literary detective with Spec-Ops 27, the department in charge of policing anything having to do with literature. Did I mention that Shakespeare is practically a religion? Well so is every other classic author. When religion takes a back seat to literature, the shape of familiar things, such as the door to door evangelist, take on unexpected and delightful forms. Fforde’s world is chocked full of tiny little changes that amount to a beautifully engaging world that will delight any booklover.
The plot of the book gets a little lost in all this luscious detail. A sting operation goes very badly and Thursday is busted right out of the London offices and back to her hometown of Swindon. Things get strange from there and Thursday faces off with time travelers, vampires and demonic entities, all while trying to save her uncle from his own invention: The Prose Portal.
The real appeal of The Eyre Affair isn’t in the story being told. It is a somewhat lackluster detective novel with some decent twists. What should interest you is the delightful world that will appeal to any fan of literature. Fforde’s more-than-somewhat sideways world is filled with sharp wit, twisted humor and brilliant leaps of creativity. The story is rounded out with an excellent cast and one of the most brilliantly realized villains I’ve ever seen. The supporting cast is a little slow to develop and they seem to be somewhat impervious to the events around them, but we were here for Thursday anyway, so who cares?
It’s the sum total of the parts that make the book stand out in my mind. While individual components may be in need of some polish, anyone who loves books and can easily get lost in a good one will love this novel.