This book is set in a parallel universe. In this universe, mad science reigns. People care about literature! There are vampires! It's all different from our universe! And yet somehow similar!
You'd think I would love this. Yet, I did not love this.
People talk about a concept called the "uncanny valley". It comes up when you try to make things that are like people. Like if you try to make an android. Or if you write a computer program that tries to hold a conversation over IM chat. If you make something that looks totally like a machine, people interact with it neutrally, as if it were a tool. If you slap a cartoonish smiley face on it, people react to the thing positively. People like cartoony things. If you make it seem a little more human, people react to it more warmly. But... if you create something that seems almost human but not quite, then people react against it strongly.
I want to propose a new concept, the "unsilly valley". This refers to a work of art that approaches the absurd, does not quite achieve it, and is thus trapped in a strange zone: too strange to inform, too normal to be interesting.
I think The Eyre Affair falls in this zone.
It's a popular book. I suspect it's popular with people who like the idea of an alternate universe in which more people care about literature. But in the book's world, Dickens is an example of stuff worth caring about. C'mon, really, Dickens? I can only suspend my disbelief so far.
Labels: absurd, book, mad science