The Eyre Affair
by Jasper Fforde
A book review by Mark L. Olson
Viking, 2002, 374 pp, $23.95
Oh, wow! This is a real gem
It's also nearly indescribable.
It's a fantasy or, perhaps, SF set in something like an alternate England. The heroine, Thursday Next, is an agent for SO-27, the Literary Detectives who specialize in crime related to literature. Thursday's father is also in Special Operation, SO-12, the Chronoguard who police reality.
The main story is Thursday's pursuit of Acheron Hades, the super-intelligent arch-villain as he commits one horrible crime after another, including the abduction and murder of Mr. Quaverley, a minor character from Dickens' Martin Chuzzlewit. (After the abduction, Mr. Quaverley is no longer a character in the book.)
Besides Hades, Thursday is continually troubled by operatives from the Goliath Corporation, the mega-company which almost rules England. (Goliath is interested because they sold a super-weapon to the English government to attempt to end the Crimean War (now well into its second century). The super-weapon doesn't work, but Goliath figures that if Acheron Hades can penetrate a Dickens novel and abduct a character, then they can get into an SF novel and steal a working super-weapon....
The story is complicated, mixing time travel and police work and literature and is wonderfully absurd and yet holds together very well (if you don't look too closely). I've rarely enjoyed a non-comedy more!
This was a 2001 UK book and a 2002 US book, so it's eligible for the Hugo at Torcon.
See also my review of The Well of Lost Plots
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