In this parallel world, England and Imperial Russia have fought the Crimean War for more than a century; England itself is a police state run by the Goliath Corporation (a powerful weapon-producing company with questionable morals); Wales is a separate, socialist nation; and literary questions (especially the question of Shakespearean authorship) are debated in the streets and are the subject of gang wars and murder. Single, thirty-something, Crimean War veteran and literary detective Thursday Next lives in London with her pet dodo, Pickwick. As the story begins, Thursday is called upon to investigate the theft of the original manuscript of Martin Chuzzlewit by Charles Dickens.
As part of the investigation, Thursday is temporarily promoted to SpecOps-5 to help them apprehend their suspect, the third most wanted criminal in the world, Acheron Hades. Because he was one of her professors at university she is one of the few people that actually knows what he looks like. Using her prior knowledge of Hades she comes close to capturing him, but is badly injured in the attempt, and is saved only by a copy of Jane Eyre in her pocket that stops a bullet. Due to a strange blurring of the line between reality and fiction, Edward Rochester supports her until the paramedics arrive, leaving an embroidered handkerchief and jacket behind. This is not Next's first encounter with someone from within the novel: when she was a child she entered the book herself. During this strange flashback, she met the romantic lead of the novel, Rochester, just before he meets Jane. Thursday's appearance results in a minor change to the plot of the book that improves it slightly. In this parallel world, Jane Eyre has a different ending than in our world: Jane moves to India with her cousin, St. John Rivers, to become a missionary.
While recovering in the hospital, Thursday encounters her future self, who tells her, "Take the LiteraTec job in Swindon!" She therefore requests the apparently unexciting transfer to the office in her old home town. Back at home, she catches up with her mother Wednesday, her Uncle Mycroft (the name of Sherlock Holmes' older, smarter brother), and her Aunt Polly. Mycroft is an inventor of literary technology. He has created bookworms that eat the words of books, translating carbon-paper (you write something in English, and the copy is in any other language you wish, provided that you press hard enough), and most importantly, the Prose Portal. This device allows people to step into the pages of any work of literature. Next also renews an acquaintance with her former fiancé Landen Parke-Laine (a reference to the British version of the board game Monopoly).
Next learns that Hades has kidnapped Mycroft, Polly, and the Prose Portal in order to blackmail the literary world by changing their favorite novels. Any change in the original manuscript of a novel results in all copies of that novel being changed. In order to demonstrate the power of the Portal, Hades removes Mr. Quaverley, a minor character from the original manuscript of Dickens' Martin Chuzzlewit; when his demands are not met, he kills him -- altering the text of every copy of the novel. (In reality, there was never any such character in Martin Chuzzlewit.)
Next and a loathsome Goliath Corporation operative named Jack Schitt trace Hades to the Socialist Republic of Wales. They rescue Mycroft and the Prose Portal, but find that Polly has disappeared, and Hades has gone into the original text of Jane Eyre. Next decides to pursue Hades into the text, and after much trouble, she succeeds in catching him and finishing him off. In the process however Hades sets fire to Thornfield Hall, Rochester's manor, resulting in its destruction, the death of Rochester's first wife, Bertha, and Rochester being grievously injured. In the aftermath Rochester and Jane get married; accidentally, Next has changed the ending of the book.
Returning to her own world, Next uses the Prose Portal to release her Aunt Polly from a Wordsworth poem and to imprison Jack Schitt in the text of Poe's "The Raven". Next and Parke-Laine are reconciled and get married.
At the wedding, Thursday's father turns up. He is a renegade agent from SpecOps-12, the ChronoGuard (see Chronology protection conjecture). He temporarily stops time in order to dispense some fatherly advice to his daughter. The novel ends with Next facing an uncertain future at work: public reaction to the "new" ending for Jane Eyre is positive. The series continues with Lost in a Good Book.
*I literally lifted this off of Wikipedia!! :)
2 years ago