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The Eyre Affair    by Jasper Fforde order for
Eyre Affair
by Jasper Fforde
Order:  USA  Can
Penguin, 2003 (2002)
Hardcover, Paperback, Audio, CD

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* * *   Reviewed by Nina de Angeli

Rave reviews barely do justice to Fforde's wildly inventive fantasy world, a surrealistic 1985 Britain where cultural icons are guarded and fought over as though they were weapons of mass destruction. Written in a mind-tickling style recently termed bibliowit, full of puns and literary allusions, the book stars tough yet vulnerable Thursday Next in her first series outing.

Thursday Next is a thirty-something LiteraTec whose job in the cultural police is to track down literary crimes like forging Byronic poems or performing unorthodox Shakespearean drama. In her world, tampering with literature is a heinous crime, rare books and manuscripts are bought and sold like illicit drugs, and crowds riot in the streets over differences between Renaissance and Impressionist art.

The main plot concerns master criminal Acheron Hades, a former college professor of Thursday's, vying with the evil and all-powerful Goliath Corporation. Both are after the secret of literary time travel, which allows entry into novels and poems with the power to alter them. I was hopelessly hooked early on when Thursday reminisces about her first chance encounter
ith Edward Rochester inside Jane Eyre. When the villain later threatens Jane herself, it's up to Thursday to save her.

Underneath all the fun is a sober secondary theme, a satire against war and jingo nationalism using a fictional continuation of the Crimean War for 131 years. The war is a major source of income for weapons manufacturer Goliath. Thursday hates the war, having served in the ambulance corps and lost one brother to it. Readers may well find parallels to real life warfare and saber-rattling.

Among the many small joys Fforde offers us, my favorites are the genetically modified bookworms who eat prepositions and spew out excess apostrophes into the text. Fans of Monty Python and Harry Potter, and all book loons with a taste for fantasy, will want to meet Thursday and her friends.

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