Shades of Grey by Jasper Fforde
Read: because Jasper Fforde is crazy. And we all need a bit of crazy. (Viking, 400 pages)
Rating: 9 out of 10 (finished 8/7/10)
Synopsis: This inventive fantasy imagines a screwball future in which social castes and protocols are rigidly defined by acuteness of personal color perception. Centuries after the cryptically cataclysmic Something That Happened, a Colortocracy, founded on the inflexible absolutes of the chromatic scale, rules the world. Amiable Eddie Russett, a young Red, is looking forward to marrying a notch up on the palette and settling down to a complacent bourgeois life. But after meeting Jane G-23, a rebellious working-class Grey, and a discredited, invisible historian known as the Apocryphal man, Eddie finds himself questioning the hitherto sacred foundations of the status quo. En route to finding out what turned things topsy-turvy, Eddie navigates a vividly imagined landscape whose every facet is steeped in the author’s remarkably detailed color scheme.
Overall Impression: If you’ve read any Fforde before, you’ll know how the man can take a simple concept (the book world, nursery crimes, and, in this case, a “colortocracy”) and stretch and bend and mold it into something that’s so incredibly fun to read. Shades of Grey really defies description. I floundered when trying to explain its premise to friends. “Er, it’s sort of a dystopian future where everyone has color perception and there’s this kid who challenges the status quo and then there’s a plant that tries to eat him. And there is quite a bit about spoons.” But despite being unable to explain it, I really loved it. Dare I say it, I enjoyed as much, if not more than the Thursday Next series (horrors!). Well, I think I liked the Eyre Affair more than Shades of Grey, but liked Shades of Grey more than the rest of the TN series. The characters are fresh and interseting and the world Fforde’s created is unlike any other, down to the Perpetulite highway. This is the first in a series of three, and like all good first books, it made me want to pick up the second in the series right away. Too bad it isn’t out any time soon. Anywho, it’s an odd book with an odd premise, but if you let go and just go for the ride, it’s worth it.
Pros: a fascinating concept, main characters you find yourself really rooting for, a great first book in what is sure to be a fantastic trilogy.
Cons: sometimes I hadn’t a clue what was going on, it sometimes feels a bit ”Soylent Green is people!”
Other books I’ve read by Jasper Fforde: The Eyre Affair, The Well of Lost Plots, Lost in a Good Book, Something Rotten, First Among Sequels, and the Big Over Easy