Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Shades of Grey by Jasper Fforde

Release Date (Australia): 1 January 2010
Rating: 9/10

It’s Britain, but not as we know it. Democracy has been replaced by Colourtocracy. Visual colour dominates society – there is a social hierarchy based upon one’s limited colour vision. You are what you see.

Edward Russett has no ambition to be anything other than a loyal drone of the collective. With his better-than-average Red perception, he could marry an Oxblood, inherit the Stringworks, maybe even make Prefect. Life looks colourful. Life looks good. But then he meets a Grey named Jane who opens his eyes to the painful truth behind his seemingly perfect society.

I truly love dystopian fiction. I have a fondness for weird, frightening versions of the future written in stories. Books such as Brave New World by Aldous Huxley, 1984 by George Orwell, The Handmaid’s Tale and Oryx and Crake/Year of the Flood by Margaret Atwood are all among my favourite books primarily for this reason. However, I am not a huge fan of most extensive Lord of the Rings-style science fiction or fantasy; anything based too far from my reality is not to my liking most of the time. But if a world is based on ours, with supernatural or futuristic elements thrown in, I can fall in love with it.

I am also completely in love with Jasper Fforde’s stories. I had a friend speak of how great his books are and I kept planning to read them but not getting around to it for a long time. I finally gave in and borrowed my friend’s copy of The Eyre Affair and ten pages in, I knew. I knew these books, this writer, was going to be among my top five authors and I would read his books again and again.

The point of all this is that when I first heard that Jasper Fforde was writing a new book in what may become a new series about some kind of dystopian world based on colour, I was ecstatic to say the least. And I was not disappointed. Shades of Grey keeps Fforde’s clever ideas, perfect humour, and many of the other aspects I adore in the Thursday Next and Nursery Crime series’. There is a strong emphasis on the importance of colour within Chromatica, and yet their world is very much one of black and white. Rules are followed blindly and unquestioned, regardless of the sense they may or may not make. And, naturally, there is a character that stands up against those rules that I think is the heart of the story. As with many of these types of books, it takes a bit of getting into because numerous concepts need to be set up so the reader has a general idea of the rules, who is ‘above’ (the Purples at the top) and who is ‘below’ (the Greys at the bottom) within the hierarchy, and so on. But once you’re in, that’s when it starts showing its true brilliance.

I loved this book, but would still recommend a new Jasper Fforde reader to read The Eyre Affair or The Big Over Easy as their first taste. But if you’re already a fan, I fail to see how you could not love to hate this new world that Jasper has created for us and fall in love with these characters.

Why, when you begin to question the world around you, do black and white certainties reduce themselves to shades of grey?


  1. I totally loved that the Purples were the best, too :)

  2. I can't believe he made the purples the best, you two must totally be on the same wave-length! haha, i love that last quote too :)

  3. For some reason blogspot if telling me you wrote this three hours ago - why is the time so screwy?
    Anywho, on topic, I really need to read me some Jasper - he sounds right up my alley (does that have an e?) :-)Now, where would I get myself one? If only there was a shelf full of them at home

  4. The only thing I can think is that I edited out a typo earlier today? But I didn't change the date or time, so wtf. That's just weird.

    Yeah, shame your housemate doesn't own them all or something! Would make life easy. You'd like the hilar literary references in The Eyre Affair (and the following Thursday Next books).

    PS, Yes, it does have an e.