Monday, October 18, 2010

Something in the Eyre

As the Monty Python guys used to say, "And now for something completely different..."

I've always been fascinated by alternative history books - what would have happened if Lincoln hadn't been assassinated, or if Louis XVI had married someone other than Marie Antoinette? - but lately I've been reading alternative reality books by Jasper Fforde, a British author.  He has several different series running, but the one I like best stars a character named Thursday Next and starts with The Eyre Affair.

For those who haven't yet encountered Thursday, the best analogy I can give to the universe in which she lives is the movie Who Framed Roger Rabbit.  In the Fforde books, the part that Toontown plays in the Roger Rabbit movie is taken by the entire world of fictional literature.  Thursday works for SpecOps-27, the literary Detective division of the Special Operations Network, which polices works of fiction.  By "polices works of fiction," I mean making sure that books continue to stay as originally written despite attempts by their characters or outside forces to change their outcome.  In The Eyre Affair, Jane Eyre vanishes from her book and Thursday must attempt to find her and get the plot of the novel back on course.

The book is rife with puns and literary references, Thursday is a strong and engaging heroine, and the alternate universe Fforde has imagined is vivid and internally consistent, although it requires a considerable willing suspension of disbelief on the part of the reader.  If you are looking for a funny and highly unusual read, try The Eyre Affair and its sequels; the next one is due out in 2011, and I can hardly wait.

"We were developing a machine that used egg white, heat and sugar to synthesize methanol when a power surge caused an implosion. Owens was meringued. By the time we chipped him out the poor chap had expired." ~ Jasper Fforde (The Eyre Affair

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