Let me make this crystal clear: Jasper Fforde does not write science fiction. He writes highly amusing mystery books to delight people who love to read. And they take place in an alternative universe set in the 1980s.
In his alternative universe, literary creations like Miss Havisham, Heathcliff, and Falstaff have lives beyond the characters they play in books and plays. In fact, sometimes they enter the physical world, and vice versa. Sound confusing? Just accept it as fact, like knowing what a television does without having a clue as to how that is possible.
I strongly suggest starting with the first of his Thursday Next series (The Eyre Affair), because like all worlds Fforde’s universe becomes increasingly and hysterically more complex the more you learn about it. The more familiar you are with classic literature, the more “inside” jokes you will enjoy. But even if some of these sweep by you unnoticed (I sadly have a shabby classic literature history), there is still much to enjoy.
Thurday Next is a detective — a Literary Detective with SpecOps, which is where the mystery plots come in. She has a pet dodo, a disppeared husband (in every sense of the word), and a propensity for winding up in trouble in every investigation she undertakes. Her first involves finding Jane Eyre — some rascal has stolen Miss Eyre from her book and the world is aghast.
Fforde also has another mystery series that focuses on detectives in the Nursery Crime Division (The Big Over Easy is the first in that series). You don’t need to read any of the Thursday Next books to enjoy these and there’s no huge reason to read them in order, either. To give you an idea of what you’re in for — Humpty Dumpty is the focus of a murder investigation in the first one.
His Shades of Grey, which is scheduled for release in December, 2010, takes another tack entirely. I can’t wait to see what new ingenious insanity Fforde has ready to dish out next.
If you’re uncertain about whether Jasper Fforde is for you, take a trip to his website by clicking here. Personally, I feel nothing but glee anytme I open the cover to one of his books.