127 of 134 people found the following review helpful
Jasper Fforde has a rich imagination that moves in wacky directions, an off-the-wall sense of humor that never quits, and a deep knowledge and love of literature which give shape and substance to this hilarious "thing" he's created. Not really a mystery, sci-fi thriller, satire, or fluffy fantasy, this wild rumpus contains elements of all these but feels like a completely new genre. Fforde combines "real" people from the "historically challenged" world of his plot with characters from classic novels, adding dollops of word play, irony, literary humor, satire--and even a dodo bird--just for spice.
With "real" characters who can stop time or travel back and forth in it, hear their own names (the names here are really terrific!) from 1000 yards away, appear in duplicate before themselves to give advice, travel inside books, and change the outcome of history, the reader journeys through Fforde's looking glass into a different and far more literary universe than the one we know. Thursday Next, a SpecOp-27 in the Literary Detective Division of Special Operations, is looking for Acheron Hades, who has stolen the original manuscript of Martin Chuzzlewit and killed one of the characters in it, thereby changing the story forever. Thursday and the Literatecs are trying to prevent him from getting inside Jane Eyre and committing further murders.
If you have not read Jane Eyre recently, your pleasure in this book will be greatly enhanced if you look up a brief plot summary on-line before proceeding too far--the ending of Jane Eyre as we know it is different from the ending of Jane Eyre as Thursday Next knows it, and the differences themselves become a delightful part of this plot. Though some readers seem to feel that the book would benefit from a bit of pruning in order to strengthen its conclusion, that suggestion seems to me to be too much like Acheron Hades changing Martin Chuzzlewit or Jane Eyre--if you do that, something is irreparably lost--and this book is so much fun that I'd hate to lose even a single word! Mary Whipple
49 of 51 people found the following review helpful
on June 15, 2003
With the first page of this book, Fford caught my attention and held it fast until the last. I hated to see it end, but I was very happy to discover that it was only first in a series featuring Spec-Ops agent Thursday Next. Fford has created a blend of mystery, science fiction, and fantasy that is similar to Douglas Adams' Dirk Gently series. Fford's books even have the same irreverently sublime silliness, but with a decidedly literary bent.
The books are set in an alternate universe, one where England is the world greatest super power, but is held under the control of a shadowy mega-company called Goliath. The year is 1985, but it's unlike any 1985 you or I might remember. Technology is both far advanced and far behind. The Crimean War still drags on and the world's biggest superstars are authors. A special crime enforcement unit has been formed to deal with crimes that fall outside the usual boundaries of police jurisdiction. Thursday Next works for Spec-Ops 27, the Literary Division.
When the world's third most wanted criminal, Acheron Hades, finds a way to jump into the original manuscript of Dicken's MARTIN CHUZZLEWIT and assassinates Mr. Quaverley (a character you will only remember if you read the book before 1985), Thursday is assigned the case. It turns out that the assassination of Mr. Quaverley was only an example of what he was capable of, and when he jumps into JANE EYRE and kidnaps the title character, it's up to Thursday to save the beloved heroine...and the book.
I'll warn you now that you'll have to suspend belief while reading this book. It should be read as a fantasy first and foremost. It deals with time travel (Thursday's father is a Spec-Ops agent as well, but in the Chronoguard), cloned dodo's (Thursday's marshmallow loving pet Pickwick, version 1.2), and Shakespeare's Richard the Third is performed with audience participation ala Rocky Horror. If you can get past some of the more absurd qualities of the book, you're in for a true literary treat. Fford writes assuming his readers will get his numerous high lit in-jokes, and while I'm sure I missed a few, he provided me with many laugh out loud moments. While his world is bizarre and occasionally hard to swallow, it's also amazingly imaginative and fun, Fun, FUN! Thursday is a strong, complicated, and entirely likeable protagonist and I'm sure we have a lot to look forward to from her.
19 of 20 people found the following review helpful
on June 22, 2003
Some books are memorable because they're well-written. Some books are memorable because their plot leaves you breathless.
"The Eyre Affair" is neither of these. But it is indeed memorable on the strength of Jasper Fforde's original, witty version of an alternate world. It's a genre-bender to be sure. Because it involves time travel and alternate reality (the book takes place in a 1985 UK no one will recognize, only partially because England is at war with Russia), it's a SciFi/Fantasy novel. Kinda. But because Thursday Next, the protaganist, chases an ultra-baddy (Archeron Hades) to a final showdown, it's a Detective Thriller. Kinda. Also, because it's filled with witty in-jokes ranging from literary references to character names (yes, there's a character actually named "Jack Schitt"), it's humor. Kinda. Well, mostly.
While it delves into literary subject matter (works of Dickens, Bronte and Poe all play key parts in the story), it ain't literary. Fforde's prose is pretty lean and bare--too lean and bare, sometimes, but the charm of the story more than compensates.
You should certainly like this if you enjoy imaginative, experimental fiction. You will probably like this if you enjoy thrillers with a dash of humor, or the idea of "jumping into" classic works of literature such as "Jane Eyre" seems interesting. You probably will not like this if you're a hardcore SF fan: you don't get any nuts-and-bolts explanations of how this alternate universe works. And if you're looking for a complex antagonist, forget it; Archeron Hades, Thursday Next's nemesis, might as well go by the name Snidely Whiplash and twirl his handlebar mustache.
Still, the power of imagination conquers all in this book, and Thursday Next is someone most readers will enjoy getting to know.
99 of 119 people found the following review helpful
on March 19, 2006
I'm reasonably well read, I love mysteries, I know all of Monty Python by heart, Joss Whedon cracks me up, and I even though Bridget Jones' Diary was pretty good. According to the blurbs on the cover I should be just the target audience for this book.
And in fact it started out okay, with some interesting ideas. A society in which literature is as popular as soccer or cricket or football are here-- okay, that's pretty clever. I was interested to see what the author would come up with.
The first sign of trouble was the names. Film critic Roger Ebert has what he called the First Law of Funny Names: "...which teaches us that deliberately funny names in the movies are a giveaway sign of desperation at the screenplay level." I felt the same way here. Some of the names are just sophomoric (like Jack Schitt), while others are so interchangable, all being cute puns, that I had trouble keeping track of who was who. Thank goodness at least the bad guy is called Acheron Hades.
Keeping the characters straight was just annoying, but the plot turned out to be fatal. We start out in an alternate reality which is, well, alternate, but seems pretty reasonable. Then, all of a sudden, surprise! People can travel through time! Okay, alternate reality with time travel. Then, all of a sudden, surprise! You can go into a book! Well, that wasn't much of a surprise, since I'd read the back cover, so we'll let it go. Then, all of a sudden, surprise! There are werewolves and vampires in this world! Oooo... kay. Then, all of a sudden, surprise! The characters go through a black hole! At that point I just rolled my eyes and stopped caring-- if the whole thing was completely random, then there was basically no point to the book. No matter what mess the author got the protagonist into, he could just come up with a "oh yeah, I didn't tell you this before but they can teleport from place to place by wiggling their nose!" type of thing to save the day.
I tried to think why I loved similarly topsy-turvy books like Alice in Wonderland and Hitchhiker's Guide, while this one fell so flat for me. Was I younger when I read those? Am I getting jaded and cynical? I don't know. I'm still delighted with those books and with more recent ones like Harry Potter, but I just never felt involved with Fforde's novel. The characters didn't matter to me, the plot didn't matter to me, and I finished it more out of a sense of duty than because I cared about the ending.
I'd been given the first three books in the series as a gift, but after finishing the first one I'm just passing them all along to a friend.
22 of 24 people found the following review helpful
on May 3, 2002
It's no small task that Jasper Fforde was able to create a world where genetic engineering has reached a point where people can own dodos as pets, Britain has been at war with Russia for 130 years, time travel is a common occurrence, and most incredible, English literature is actually pertinent to modern life.
This book is a lot of fun, the arguments about Shakespeare's Plays' true authorship, plus other satrical pokes at the world of English lit should keep any bibliophile snickering, and if the characters get out of control sometimes, well that happens with a first novel.
Ultimately I found myself thinking about this book when I wasn't reading it, and looking forward to getting back to it. There are some laughs, a fun plot, an incredible setting, and just enough jibes at literary deconstructionists to make one feel smart, which is not generally how one leaves the world of literary deconstruction.
Others have already outlined the plot well enough. If you liked Mark Frost's, List of Seven, or China Mieville's Perdido Street Station, then land somewhere in between, add some whimsy and sit down to a really fun read. Let's call Fford's new sub-genre, Lit-Punk.
It looks as if this is going to be a series, and I look forward to Fford's next book. Thursday Next is a great character and now, with his bizarre world established, Fford can sharpen his chops on more off-the-wall humor -- not because his work needs it, because we all do.
61 of 75 people found the following review helpful
on March 28, 2002
A lot of credit has to be given to Jasper Fforde for creating a parallel universe that is quite quirky and very fun to explore. England is embroiled in a 130 year war with Imperial Russia over the Crimean Penninsula. There is tension along the British border with the People's Republic of Wales--a totalitarian regime. French Revisionists are apparently traveling back in time to wipe out British heros (Churchill, Nelson etc). Long distance travel is done by zeppelin. People keep extinct creatures as pets (our heroine has a dodo, version 1.2). Uncle Mycroft invents a device that allows travel into a literary work. The world's third most evil man pulls a character out of Dicken's Martin Chuzzlewit and assassinates him. Richard III is performed a la Rocky Horror Picture Show. In short, there is a lot of stuff going on in this book and the reader needs to pay careful attention.
The first two-thirds of the book (the setup) is great fun. But the problem with the book is that Fforde cannot pull off an ending that equals the setup. Unfortunately, this seems to be a common woe of many "clever" books. It seems as though Fforde expended all his energy on creating this ultra-clever parallel universe and lost sight of the plot. I felt the ending was contrived and that is saying a lot in a book whose entire premise is contrivity.
I wish I could give the book five stars because I really like it. Maybe Fforde will deliver a more satisfactory climax in the sequal(s).
14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
on January 31, 2002
This is a great book that I wanted to read again as soon as I had finished! Once you start on the adventure it is very difficult to leave and I just wanted to keep on reading and reading.
I loved the characters - not only the fab Thursday Next and her pet dodo but also suppporting roles like Bowden Cable, Braxton Hicks, Felix8, the wonderfully evil Acheron Hades and of course Mr Edward Rochester. The whole story is a funny and clever mix of our world and a world of books and literature, with plenty of hilarious jokes, some illuminating ideas and a whole lot of fun. I found myself laughing out loud at times and giggling to myself at others. The author loves to play with words and names and great fun can be had spotting the gags and allusions. There are also, should you wish to see them, some serious undertones but they seem to be there for your own interpretation.
If you like adventure, literature, inspiration, humour, Shakespeare, dodos, Dickens, Wordsworth, prose portals, theatre, the Crimean war, films, cars, airships, detectives, Swindon, Bronte, books, inspiration and fun - then you should read this!
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on April 4, 2002
I just finished this book about a week ago and it's been quite a trial explaining it to people who ask what I've been reading. It's definitely literary fiction, but it's also got bits of fantasy, mystery, sci-fi, romance, comedy and any number of other things all wrapped into this one novel (plus there's a pet dodo-bird, of which I don't feel there are enough in modern literature). Comparisons of Jasper Fforde to authors such as Julian Barnes, Douglas Adams or even Umberto Eco and Reginald Hill are well-deserved. Its heroine, Thursday Next, is a decent, down-to-earth Crimean War veteran-turned-literature cop who just wants to do the right thing. Its villain, Acheron Hades, is evil for the sake of being evil (as villainy for profit is just too, too common), and he is indeed deliciously evil. I really enjoyed the background on Thursday and how she got into the LiteraTec field, and her history with Hades. The tale of trying to save Jane Eyre and the novel to which she belongs is an engaging adventure (_Jane Eyre_ is one of my favorite books). I also liked the wordplay and allusion immensely, and the alternate history was an interesting premise. Even the epigraphs at the head of each chapter were amusing. However, the ending seemed slightly thrown together and contrived and then I was somehow all of a sudden on the last page. Hopefully the forthcoming Thursday Next story will maintain the same humor, adventure and intelligence and just wrap up a bit more convincingly. Overall, though, a VERY entertaining read.
17 of 20 people found the following review helpful
"The barriers between reality and fiction are softer than we think." This statement just about sums up "The Eyre Affair," a bizarre blend of mystery, fantasy, alternate universe novel, satire, and a dash of horror and scifi. With its likeable heroine and delightful plot, this is one that bibliophiles will drool over. It's sort of as if Terry Pratchett wrote mysteries.
It takes place an alternate world where the Crimean War has lasted over a century, vampirism and lycanthropy are like diseases, time can be warped, and people can fall in and out of books and plays -- and if it's the original work, it will change all the other copies. Thursday Next is an agent for a special division devoted to literature, and is on the trail of the villainous Acheron Hades after the theft of the manuscript of "Martin Chuzzlewit" by Charles Dickens. (There are a lot of fantastic names in this book) To complicate matters more, her old boyfriend Landen has reentered the picture, and the obnoxious Schitt of the powerful Goliath Corporation is following Thursday.
Hades seems to have been killed, but Thursday is almost sure that he isn't. It turns out she's right -- he kidnaps her aunt and "mad as pants" uncle Mycroft Next, who has just made a machine that allows people to wander into pieces of literature. Hades's plot is to use the machine to disrupt literature as we know it. First he kills a minor character from "Martin Chuzzlewit," and then kidnaps Jane Eyre (in this parallel universe, the novel has a very different ending). Thursday Next teams up with the brooding Rochester and an odd bunch of characters to save Jane -- and all the other great works of literature.
This is one of the best-conceived and best-executed ideas in recent years. A lot of readers probably won't understand all of the literary jokes and in-jokes (it sounds snobby, I know, but if you don't get something then just skip it), as well as some that anybody can understand (like the invention of the banana). The idea of high art as pop culture is delightfully done, like the guy with the "Hand of God" tattoo, or the door-to-door Baconian missionaries, or geeky John Milton convention. Take a sprinkling of real-life popular stuff, make it art-inclined, and that's what you get.
One of the best things about this book is that it overflows with promise for sequels in this universe. Time travel, a chilling scene with a lisping vampire, lycanthropy, and the wealth of literature are all dealt with, but not so thoroughly that it can't be used again. The writing style is spare and fast-moving, sort of like Terry Pratchett's but more detailed. The dialogue is very good, with a lot of good quotables.
Thursday Next is a likable female lead, very hard-boiled, tough and smart, but with a vulnerable side. Uncle Mycroft is just delightful, mad as pants! Acheron Hades is one of those villains who loves evil for its own sake (well, with a name like "Hades," what can you expect?), and people who like a complex reason for a person to be bad won't like him. I thought he was fantastic, especially the line "I'm just... well, differently moralled, that's all." And Thursday's dad steals every scene he's in, as the casual time traveller who's always setting things right in history, and stops time when he appears ("My father had a face that could stop a clock"). And who couldn't love Pickwick the dodo?
Jasper Fforde's first novel is a slightly frothy, book-hopping, tongue-in-cheek novel. It may not be a work of literature equal to "Jane Eyre," but it's a supremely entertaining and promising one. And from what I've read of "Lost in a Good Book," the sequel is just as good...
9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on October 16, 2007
As a fan of Jane Eyre and other classics of literature, I found this book difficult to accept - not because I think those works are sacred, but because I thought this attempt was poorly done. The moment I began to feel uncomfortable with use of beloved literature was when Fforde's heroine, a literary cop by the name of Thursday Next, gave a summary of the novel Jane Eyre...and got it wrong. Now, I do realize that, in this alternate universe, Fforde has Bronte write an anticlimactic ending that sees Jane disappear off to India with her cousin - he's made the entire concept of plot fluid and changeable...but that's not what I'm talking about. The problem was with his renderings of the human relationships - between Jane and Mr. Rochester (and as paralleled by Thursday and her ex-honey Landen). Thursday states, in her summary, that Mr. Rochester actually considered marrying Blanche Ingram and that he only began to love Jane after she had left Thornfield to attend at the deathbed of her despised Aunt - I'm not sure where this interpretation came from, but it's not right. I hoped that this misreading of the text would be addressed somehow once Thursday physically enters the book and plots are being altered left and right, but it never was. And now I'm quite stuck on these details, because Blanche Ingram was brought to Thornfield by Rochester to make Jane jealous because he decided to let himself fall in love with her one of the first few times they talk. How can I trust an author who insists on seriously engaging in another work of fiction that he doesn't seem to understand?
The second problem is a lack of commitment in details. I believe in the alternate universe readily enough, but I felt that a lot was lost in the story when characters ran head-on through random tangents simply so that the author could highlight yet another cool idea. In the end, there were so many little concepts that were unrelated to the story that it felt disjointed. I've read many books that deal well with all kinds of complicated overlapping - this was just jumbled. I'm not sure what speeding towards a rift in time added to the plot, but it never tied back to the story and was distracting. I think there could have been a way to tie such an event into the plot and make it wildly interesting, but it wasn't done.
That being said, it's not a horrible read. The dialogue is entertaining in a way that one rarely sees, and is therefore something to be treasured. I haven't decided if I can stomach the next installment, but if I do, it's the interaction between characters that will draw me back - along with the hope that all these wonderful concepts will eventually be used effectively.