See what the New York times says right there? That is pretty much a perfect description of this book (and no, I didn't know the Journal included "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" in their review when I ordered it. That was a bonus!) This book came out in 2002! Why didn't anyone tell me? :)
We're in an alternate universe in 1980's England. Time travel is possible, cloning is an every day occurrence (I would love a dodo, but you have to get a "Splicense" to do so), a ginormous and slightly ominous corporation, The Goliath Corporation (who helped fund the reestablishment of England after WWII) has its hands deep in the government, media, etc., there's a ridiculous war going on with Russia over a piece of worthless peninsula, and people REALLY love their literature. There are even police divisions specifically for Literary crimes; the Literary Detective Division of the Special Operations Network (SpecOps). They're not really the top of the police ladder; they're SpecOp 027. The higher you go, the more clearance you have. No one quite knows what SpecOp 01 even does.
Thursday Next is a LiteraTec, A SpecOp 27 agent. Her job is to stop Literary crimes; theft of original manuscripts, forgeries being sold on the black market, etc. LiteraTecs take their jobs seriously; they love literature.
Thursday is thrown into the fray when someone manages to steal original manuscripts and starts taking people out of stories, and killing them! Thursday and her SpecOps team must stop the evil mastermind before something truly horrendous happens to Jane Eyre, who has been kidnapped from her book.
It's great fun. If you're a bibliophile, a sci-fi nerd, a steam punk fan, you will love all the references, barbs, asides, etc. I laughed aloud several times throughout the book.
- An internal security agent for the Goliath Corp. is named Jack Schitt.
- There's a SpecOp Division dealing with Vampires and Werewolves. The agent is Mr. Stoker. But you can call him Spike. (!!!!!)
- The ending of Jane Eyre in this reality is not our ending. They had me confused for a bit. I thought "Wait. What? Am I remembering wrong?" Then I remembered; alternate reality.
- People love literature so much, they change their names, but to avoid confusion, you get a number after your name. Milton496, for example.
- The commander of Thursday's division is called Braxton Hicks. *SNORT*
- There are airships with propellers, rather than jet engines. Very steampunk.
Thursday's dad is a ChronoGuard on the run. He is evading the Guard through time on his own personal war to right wrongs in time that Thursday does not understand. He does pop in at random times to say hi. Thursday also has an uncle, Mycroft Next, who is a famous inventor. He creating sending pizzas via fax. Nice! He also created the machine that enables the enemy to steal Ms. Eyre from the pages of her book. Ooops. This machine uses little bookworms, literal worms that Mycroft splices together (even though his splicense was revoked) who eat pages and make things happen with the machine. This passage had me howling:
He patted the large book that was the Prose Portal and looked at Mycroft's genetically engineered bookworms. They were on rest & recuperation at present in their goldfish bowl; they had just digested a recent meal of prepositions and were happily farting out apostrophes and ampersands. The air was heav'y with th'em&......... "That's right, Mis's Next."......"In he're the Pla'sma Rifle work's perf&ectly. All we ha've to do is open' the book........ "
The bookworms responded by belching out large quantities of unnecessary capitalizations.
"Any'thing That The Hu'man Imag'ination Can Think Up, We Can Reproduce. I Look At The Por'tal as Les's of A Gateway To A Million World's, .....etc."
For a split second I thought, what the heck? Then I realized what the author was doing and laughed aloud.
It's a fun read and if you're like me (geek, nerd, literature lover, etc. etc.) you will love it too. I've already ordered the second in the series; it's on its way through the mail!