his is a weird book. Man, what can I say? It takes place in a world where French time-travelers are mucking with things downstream, where the Germans won World War Two but life is going on pretty much as it should, the war in the Crimea has been going on for a century and where literature is such a big deal that there are flying brigades of police assigned to track down book crimes. And overall, I liked it, weird as it was.
This bastard story of The Big Over Easy and Shades of Grey was a fun deal. The story centers around Thursday Next (a female cop) (no explanation for the name) whose science dabbling uncle has developed a way to go into books. Of course, this comes to the attention of Acheron Hades, a villain of undefined powers who is as evil as he sounds (yes, this guy is evil!, in italics). And his plan is to go into the earliest-known copies of well-known, well-loved books and alter them. Martin Chuzzlewit is his first target. From this lessor Dickens novel, he extracts Mr. Quaverley (a bit character with little more of a paragraph or two to his fame) and kills him. Of course, all the copies of Martin Chuzzlewit no longer have this character. Yes, he can commit these crimes. And now he’s stolen a priceless copy of Jane Eyre and kidnapped Jane from it. And what will the literary world be like with hundreds of pages of blank classic. Oh dear.
Don’t worry if you haven’t read Jane Eyre; Fforde gives you enough backstory that you can follow along the plot (especially when Thursday has to enter the novel herself to combat Hades). And to those who have read it? You’ll just love it all the more.
I really enjoyed this one. Maybe not as much as Shades, but it was still a lot of fun. It’s got that loose-English storytelling going on, where everything doesn’t have to be explained, where everything just rolls along, where there is a lot going on in the background that makes no sense. There was one example of Chekhov’s gun, where an element seemingly critical (i.e. placing a gun on the mantle, actually, the wheel-well of a car) doesn’t enter into the story ever again. I kept wondering when this little time-travel trick she’d play would realize itself. But it didn’t. And that left me puzzled. Will there be another book that includes this valuable twist? I can’t tell you. Jasper didn’t share that with me.
Anyway, for you Hitchhiker fans, and literalheads, this one’s up your alley.