The Eyre Affair, by Jasper Fforde

It may have a title like a mystery novel, but in fact the villain of the first Thursday Next book is revealed early; it’s more of an action/adventure novel, albeit one with so many innovations of setting you certainly can’t call it cliche.  You can call it predictable, though; what happens with Jane Eyre in this novel may be something that could only happen in the universe of this series, but you still see it coming as soon as the book is mentioned as having a different ending as it does in our world.  The details of that are pretty fun, but the plot really is the book’s weakest point; there are plausibility as well as predictability issues(and not in the universe’s premise, but in how certain  characters behave).

Fortunately everything else in the book is much better.  The character of Thursday Next, for one thing, a complicated and super-competent heroine the likes of which are still far too uncommon in fiction.   But the thing that keeps you reading is the kitchen sink of a world different enough from our own in enough ways there’s something new to learn about it in just every turn of the page, but still remains a cohesive whole with all the changes complementing each other.  It’s especially a delight for the bookish, of course, with jokes like the Richard Horror Picture Show and the valuing of literature as much as avid readers think it should be valued-but the world that results almost makes you want to be careful what you wish for!  Also a take-down of the whole “Who wrote Shakespeare’s plays?” debate with an answer to the question perfect for those with a sense of humour, and even more so for the universe.  Still, one does see a little bit of laziness in Fforde’s choices of books; he mostly uses the pantheon of old dead white authors that anyone who was awake for literature class has heard of.  The descriptions of the later books in the series doesn’t indicate this changes either.  I’m tempted to keep on reading anyway, though.  I doubt it would be that boring.

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