It’s probably just me, but every time I hear or read something about the current conflict in the Crimea, place names like Sevastopol and Simferopol, my mind immediately goes back to Jasper Fforde’s Thursday Next series?
If you haven’t read them, and you love literature, history, science fiction, and absurdity, or some of these, there’s a good chance this series is for you. I’ve read the term “comic fantasy” and I guess that fits.
It’s hard to explain in short, but Thursday Next is a police officer in England specialising in literary crimes. Dodos and other extinct animals have been resurrected, and her pet is one called Pickwick. The Crimean War has been ongoing for 130 years, England is a republic, and Wales is an independent socialist republic, walled off from the rest of Britain.
It is…delightful. Dare I say it, almost Pratchett-like. In fact, if they were to collaborate, or even somehow see their literary worlds combine, I might have to dance and jump around in delight (I do that occasionally).
Because I’m finding it a little hard to describe, I’m going to paste some reviews from Amazon about the first novel in the series: The Eyre Affair that do the job nicely. Emphasis my own.
Penzler Pick, January 2002: When I first heard the premise of this unique mystery, I doubted that a first-time author could pull off a complicated caper involving so many assumptions, not the least of which is a complete suspension of disbelief. Jasper Fforde is not only up to the task, he exceeds all expectations.Imagine this. Great Britain in 1985 is close to being a police state. The Crimean War has dragged on for more than 130 years and Wales is self-governing. The only recognizable thing about this England is her citizens’ enduring love of literature. And the Third Most Wanted criminal, Acheron Hades, is stealing characters from England’s cherished literary heritage and holding them for ransom.
Bibliophiles will be enchanted, but not surprised, to learn that stealing a character from a book only changes that one book, but Hades has escalated his thievery. He has begun attacking the original manuscripts, thus changing all copies in print and enraging the reading public. That’s why Special Operations Network has a Literary Division, and it is why one of its operatives, Thursday Next, is on the case.
Thursday is utterly delightful. She is vulnerable, smart, and, above all, literate. She has been trying to trace Hades ever since he stole Mr. Quaverley from the original manuscript of Martin Chuzzlewit and killed him. You will only remember Mr. Quaverley if you read Martin Chuzzlewit prior to 1985. But now Hades has set his sights on one of the plums of literature, Jane Eyre, and he must be stopped.
How Thursday achieves this and manages to preserve one of the great books of the Western canon makes for delightfully hilarious reading. You do not have to be an English major to be pulled into this story. You’ll be rooting for Thursday, Jane, Mr. Rochester–and a familiar ending. –Otto Penzler
From Publishers Weekly
This novel might be called “James Bond Meets Harry Potter in the Twilight Zone.” In fact, the reader plays “name that literary reference” through most of this zany work, where characters wander around in time from the Crimean War through the present and into the future, and in and out of novels including, of course, Jane Eyre. The narrator, Tuesday Next, is a tough, gun-totin’ heart-of-gold heroine with a pet dodo, a true love she has refused to acknowledge and a brilliant, dotty scientist uncle named Mycroft. Her job is to rescue literary characters kidnapped out of books from being wiped off the face of every copy of a work by tracking down and outwitting the purely evil Asheron Hades and Goliath Corporation greedyman Jack Shit. Throughout, discussions of who really wrote Shakespeare’s plays abound, along with send-ups of every literary genre from the highest to the lowest brow. Sastre’s reading works particularly well because she’s good at the straight narrative, while the nature of the book’s language makes melodramatic voices for the other bizarre characters. Simultaneous release with the Viking hardcover (Forecasts, Dec. 17, 2001).
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.
I never got around to obtaining and reading the latter books in the second arc of the series…I may have to add them at some point!
(I got kinda busy getting and being married).