The Eyre Affair
I’m somewhat conflicted about whether or not to blog fiction here on this blog, but I felt like blogging this one. Stefan recommended Fforde to me (well, sort of) and I figured I’d give him a try. I read this book quite fast and I have already decided to read at the very least the rest of the first Thursday Next series, i.e. three more books. The books are about Thursday Next – yep, that’s her name. The name actually makes a lot more sense than some of the names in this book, as there’s a perfectly reasonable explanation for (at least the first part of) it: “I was born on a Thursday, hence the name.” I gave the book five stars on goodreads. I have tried very hard to avoid spoilers in this post.
The book is all over the place and some would probably categorize this kind of stuff as ‘childish’ or something along those lines. I don’t give a crap, I enjoyed reading this stuff. It’s a combination of alternate history, fantasy, and some other stuff. The book takes place in some sort of alternate reality 1985-world where England is still at war with Russia over Crimea as the Crimean War never ended (given recent developments, that part was sort of, …). It also takes place in a world where Wales is an independent country, and has been since 1854 where The People’s Republic of Wales declared its independence. A world where people keep pet dodos in their homes, and where the occasional so-called ‘temporal distortions’ cause significant enough problems for there to have been established an Office for Special Temporal Stability and a ChronoGuard to deal with them. As you might infer from some of the quotes I’ve included in the post below, books matter quite a bit more to the people inhabiting this world than they do to people inhabiting ours.
A few samples from the book:
“A flick through the London telephone directory would yield about four thousand John Miltons, two thousand William Blakes, a thousand or so Samuel Coleridges, five hundred Percy Shelleys, the same of Wordsworth and Keats, and a handful of Drydens. Such mass name-changing could have problems in law enforcement. 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” [Something went wrong when he wrote this paragraph – ‘name-changings’ don’t have problems, people have problems, and ‘name-changings’ is hardly great English. He should have used the verb ’cause’ or a similar verb instead. I liked the rest (‘spirit’) of the quote enough to include it here, though I figured I should point out that I’m aware his choice of words here was not optimal so that people don’t get the impression I’ll miss stuff like this. I was considering leaving out ‘the offending sentence’ from the quote, but I decided against it because it seemed dishonest.]
“Your post was held by Jim Crometty. He was shot dead in the old town during a bookbuy that went wrong.” [Again I find myself questioning his word choice: Is not the expression ‘book deal’ more natural? But yet again I find myself thinking that this is just a minor detail of little importance, even if I did notice it. It’s his first novel after all, and satisfying pedants should hardly be the primary objective of an author trying to get published for the first time…] […] big business and the huge amounts of cash in the sale and distribution of literary works had attracted a bigger criminal element. I knew of at least four London LiteraTecs who had died in the line of duty.
‘It’s becoming more violent out there. It’s not like it is in the movies. Did you hear about the surrealist riot in Chichester last night?’
‘I certainly did,’ he replied. ‘I can see Swindon involved in similar disturbances before too long. The art college nearly had a riot on its hands last year when the governors dismissed a lecturer who had been secretly encouraging students to embrace abstract expressionism. They wanted him charged under the Interpretation of the Visual Medium Act. He fled to Russia, I think.'”
“‘Imagine Martin Chuzzlewit without Chuzzlewit!’ he exclaimed earnestly, running through all the possibilities. ‘The book would end within a chapter. Can you imagine the other characters sitting around, waiting for a lead character who never appears?” [The book has quite a few of these kinds of obscure references and I love them! Here’s another example from the book: “‘How long since I died?’ he asked abruptly. ‘Over a hundred and fifty years.’ ‘Really? Tell me, how did the revolution in France turn out?’ ‘It’s a little early to tell.'” As mentioned he also has a lot of fun with names. Let’s incidentally try not to get into the question of how that person could be having that conversation despite having been dead for more than a hundred and fifty years here – there’s a perfectly reasonable in-universe explanation…]
“He lowered the binoculars and sighed. It was a stinking, lousy, lonely job. He had been working in the ChronoGuard for almost forty years Standard Earth Time. In logged work time he was 209. In his own personal physiological time he was barely 28. His children were older than him and his wife was in a nursing home. […] It wasn’t a difficult job; it just took a long time. He had mended a similar rent in spacetime that had opened up in Weybridge’s municipal park just between the floral clock and the bandstand. The job itself had taken ten minutes; he had simply walked in and stuck a tennis ball across the hole while outside seven months flashed by – seven months on double pay plus privileges, thank you very much.”
“‘Hall and Marston – both Elizabethan satirists – were firmly of the belief that Bacon was the true author of “Venus and Adonis” and “The Rape of Lucrece”. I have a pamphlet here which goes into the matter further. More details are available at our monthly gatherings; we used to meet at the town hall but the radical wing of the “New Marlovians” fire-bombed us last week. I don’t know where we will meet next. But if I can take your name and number, we can be in touch.’ […] The Baconians were quite mad but for the most part harmless. Their purpose in life was to prove that Francis Bacon and not William Shakespeare had penned the greatest plays in the English language. Bacon, they believed, had not been given the recognition that he rightfully deserved and they campaigned tirelessly to redress this supposed injustice.”