Since I read these books with allied conceits back to back, I am going to review them together.
The Eyre Affair is the first Thursday Next novel by Jasper Fforde.
Silverlock is by John Myers Myers
Steven Silver describes The Eyre Affair as “James Bond-style melodrama set in an alternative world which was designed by the lovers of English literature. This book, which appears to be the first in a series, pits Special Operations agent Thursday Next against her former instructor, the third most wanted man in the world, Acheron Hades, a literary Moriarty whose goal seems to be the destruction of literature as it is known and loved.”
That’s a good way of describing the strange world of Thursday Next. The world is an alternate history, and in a sense is an alternate world as well. The Crimean War has been going on and off since the 1850’s, air travel is limited to dirigible,and the rest of the political history is implausible at best.
However, the history changes are besides the point in this novel. Literature is all the rage, to the point of clubs, heated discussions, paraphernalia and even government operatives devoted to it. And a Moriarty like figure strides across this world: Acheron Hades. His strange and potent powers are not explained (a weakness, I think) but he brings them to bear for nefarious plots, the only person remotely able to counter him being Thursday.
His main plot forms the crux and title of the novel. Stealing a machine allowing entrance to and from fictional works (although travel independent of this machine also seems possible), Hades greatest gambit is to hold Jane Eyre, the fictional character for ransom.
The novel is a romp that worked for me best when I wasn’t thinking about lacunae and implausibilities in the world as it was displayed. I got into it more when I privately conflated Next’s England as a land of literature of its own, with Story as an important law of nature as the more ordinary ones.
Like the Weather Warden series, too, this novel is also a case where I am convinced that a friend of mine “could have written” it, in this case my friend Mel. It has her sense of humor, literary knowledge and the occasional penchant for throwing a bomb or two.
I enjoyed the book and I expect English Majors (pace Garrison Keillor) will like the novel even more.
Silverlock is one of my desert island books.
My elder brother introduced me to a banged up paperback copy of this novel years ago, and although I didn’t recognize a tenth of the literary references, I fell for the book hard. A new hardcover edition by NESFA press proved irresistable, especially since this edition includes a guide to the Commonwealth–a concordance.
Shandon Silverlock, on a ship out of Baltimore, falls overboard, and washes up in the Commonwealth, a realm of literary characters, locations and situations. He runs into a bard with many names and identities, gets transformed (briefly) by Circe, participates in a viking invasion, and meets Robin Hood. He encounters Puck, sups with the Mad Hatter, visits Heorot Hall after Beowulf’s victory, and after all that, only then really starts his adventures…
The book is a seminal one in F/SF circles, since it helped inspire filking. The book, like the Hobbit, has songs in it. And these songs are literary and allusional, too…when Golias tells the story of the battle of the Alamo, for instance, to the thanes in Heorot, Sam Houston becomes ‘Houston the Raven’ and Jim Bowie becomes ‘Bowie Gizzardbane’. There are even plenty of throwaway references and tags to literary characters, places and things from Gilgamesh to Huck Finn’s raft.
Anyone who loves literature and fiction owes it to themselves to read Silverlock.