Monday, May 29, 2006

The Eyre Affair - Jasper Fforde

Jasper Fforde's wildly funny debut novel, The Eyre Affair exists in a sort of parallel universe in which the most common form of long distance transport is the airship, in which the Crimean War has been raging for over a century, in which Wales is a Socialist Republic, and in which re-engineered Dodos are common household pets. Thursday Next, Fforde's protagonist, is a tough, gun-toting LiteraTec (Literary Detective) who works for SpecOps (the Special Operations Network), the organisation that looks after policing duties that too specialised or too unusual for the regular police force. The Literary Detectives deal with all crimes relating to books: fake sequels, the theft of original manuscripts, unlicensed performances of plays, etc. One day, Thursday is seconded to SO-5 (the Special Operations department that handles Search and Containment). They are looking for a super-villain named Acheron Hades who "can lie in thought, deed, action and appearance" and has stolen the original manuscript of Martin Chuzzlewit and "extracted" a minor character from the story. He is threatening to remove Martin Chuzzlewit himself unless his demands are met. Since Thursday was taught by Hades in the days when he was merely a villain as well as an English lecturer, she is seconded to SO-5 to identify Hades (since he doesn't resolve on film or video). When Hades' extortion plans go wrong, he decides to steal the manuscript of the nation's favourite novel, Jane Eyre and kidnaps Jane from the narrative, leaving only a partly written text. It's up to Thursday to rescue Jane and stop Hades from carrying out his diabolical schemes.

You can learn more about Thursday Next online. There is a more detailed discussion of some aspects of the book over on the Scholar's Blog Spoiler Zone.

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