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The Eyre Affair and Lost in a Good Book, two novels by Jasper Fforde (New English Library), are easy to read and chock-full of smart puns, literary references and grammatical gags that are fun to fall for. The protagonist is a detective named Thursday Next—not your Inspector Wexford-type dick, but an operative in the LiteraTecs, a branch of SpecOps, or specialized police force. Thursday lives in a mid-1980s England that could only exist if different political, economic and technological choices had been made. It’s a world in which literature is so highly valued that it is a target of high-level crime, from forgery to theft to extortion and vandalism—not just of paper and jackets, but of plots. In this world, time and matter are “flexible,” and the border between fiction and reality is very blurry indeed. Both books are rich with allegory of “real life,” which is disguised in order to comment about the world in which the reader lives, yet the allegory is playful, not pointed, and provides background, not plot. Fforde’s use of this device is itself a commentary on the blindness with which we accept globalization, corporatization, political intrigue and reality TV. In The Eyre Affair, Thursday Next’s mission is to rescue her uncle, who has invented a “Prose Portal” and has been kidnapped by a criminal mastermind with supernatural powers. The bad guy uses the portal to disrupt Martin Chuzzlewit and ultimately Jane Eyre. In Lost in a Good Book, Thursday struggles to re-actualize her “eradicated” husband, train as a “Jurisfiction” agent and save the world from destruction with the help of her time-jumping father. Both books are fun and light, but there’s more here than meets the eye, including a good romp through English literature and through such phenomena as entropy, linear time and coincidence. I’m already watching for Fforde’s next book, The Well of Lost Plots.