The Eyre Affair, by Jasper Fforde

I finished reading Jasper Fforde’s The Eyre Affair. It's a Brontë lover’s romp, written for our times.

A demonic villain, Acheron Hades, is invading fictional classics via the original manuscripts and changing the stories. Reader’s who own a copy of these books watch, dismayed, as he kidnaps characters or otherwise rewrites the stories.

Comic Fantasy is not my favorite genre. As a teenager, the Xanth novels quickly wore out my patience. I’m not interested in a world built on puns or dragons, two steps sideways from the real world.

An exception to this rule would be Robert Asprin’s Myth series. I devoured the originals and wish more were forthcoming. He did do one with a writing partner but it lacked Asprin’s originality and satirical edge. It was too much like a typical, comic fantasy book: No satiric bite. No enough world building.

On the other hand I adore speculative fiction from magic realism to SF.

Funny science fiction, such as Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Red dwarf and even Galaxy Quest, is a favorite for me, in any medium. If you have any laugh-worthy SF recommendations, please, take me to your bibliographic leader…

Despite my reservations about the genre, I enjoyed The Eyre Affair. The main character, Thursday Next, is believable. She is lonely, toughened by war and love. She is also a Brontë-esque heroine who wins romance in the end and uses her abilities to give Rochester and Jane a happier ending too.

In the world of The Eyre Affair, literature is so popular and important that people feed quarters into speech vending machines, to hear a costumed bust deliver Shakespearean soliloquies. There is an organization of Baconians who not only believe Bacon wrote Shakespeare’s plays but resort to violent protest to be heard. Many character names are puns on literary phenomenon. Thursday Next works as a LiteraTec, dedicated to authenticating and protecting original manuscripts.

British history is rewritten in other ways. The ChronoGuard is a mysterious organization that polices travel through time. Airships dominate the sky. The Crimean war, against Russia, is ongoing. Our heroine, Thursday, is a hero of the Crimean war who takes an anti-war stance. The People’s Republic of Wales is divided from the rest of the British Isles by razor wire.

Each chapter is introduced with a quotation from a fictional book. Here’s an example:

Miltons were, on the whole, the most enthusiastic poet followers. A flick through the London telephone directory would yield about four thousand John Miltons, two thousand William Blakes, a thousand or so Samuel Coleridges… Following an incident in a pub where the assailant, victim, witness, landlord, arresting officer and judge had all been called Alfred Tennyson, a law had been passed compelling each namesake to carry a registration number tattooed behind the ear. It hadn’t been well received – few really practical law-enforcement measures ever are.’

Millon de Floss

-- A Short History of the Special Operations Network

For once, this is a pun-filled fantasy comedy that is clever, not grating. I especially like Fforde’s treatment of Goliath, the hulking organization that stepped in to rebuild after the second world war. Goliath has since taken over England, behind the scenes and beyond the reach of government influence. Shades of modern multinational corporations...

This one is good fun cleverly presented, right down to the fake Goliath ads in the back and a cover that looks pre-worn at the time of purchase.