Jasper Fforde’s The Eyre Affair is too clever by at least half. Though the pacing is admirably brisk, the plot is borderline gibberish and strains at the seams. The humor in the book is more imaginary than the classic literary characters Mr. Fforde so eagerly appropriates. Overall, the whole affair is little more than a tedious exercise in flattering book-lovers who like a book because they get all the references.
In a vastly different version of 1985, England and Russia are still fighting the Crimean War and literature is considered important enough to have a whole division of the special police assigned to it. Just how seriously do these Brits take their books? Whole factions of the state are devoted to proving that Shakespeare wasn’t really a playwright.
It’s in this world where Litera Tec Thursday Next becomes entangled with a dastardly villain committed to evil for its own sake. A demonic purist, if you will, named Acheron Hades. When Hades manages to alter the original manuscript of Dicken’s Martin Chuzzlewit by sending a hitman into the text to kill off a minor character, and threatens to disrupt Charlotte Bronte’s beloved Jane Eyre, Next is plunged into an epic, absurd contest to save English literature.
Many have compared Fforde to Douglas Adams, and it is true that structurally the two authors are similar. However, I found Fforde’s work to contain much less wit than The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. I found Fforde’s reliance of puns and silliness to be cheap, unimaginative humor. If your the person who just finds the idea of a character named Jack Schitt hilarious, then maybe this book is more to your taste.