12. Shades of Grey by Jasper Fforde

Shades of Grey: The Road to High Saffron by Jasper Fforde (Canada) - (US)
Shades of Grey, Book 1

Pages: 389
Ages: 18+
Finished: Jan. 23, 2010
First Published: Dec. 29, 2009
Genre: fantasy, dystopian, humour
Rating: 4.5/5

First sentence:

It began with my father's not wanting to see the Last Rabbit, and ended up with my being eaten by a carnivorous plant.

Acquired: Received a review copy from Penguin Canada.

Reason for Reading: I haven't read Jasper Fforde before. I really want to but just never find the time to start his Thursday Next series so I jumped at the chance to get in at the beginning with a new series.

Summary: I don't really feel capable of doing this justice but I'll make an attempt. This is a satirical dystopian novel. Set 500 years in the future after Something Happened, this new world is ruled by a Colortocracy. People are born being able to see only one colour or perhaps a mixture of primary colours thus making greens, oranges, etc. Those at the top of the class system are Purples and those at the bottom are Greys, the working class who are colourless. Increasing one's family's colour heritage is of utmost importance and marriages are arranged to produce children who will climb further up the class system. It is here we find Eddie Russet, half promised to marry into the Oxblood family, who finds himself wearing a humility badge, sent to the Outer Fringes, a town called East Carmine, to conduct a chair census supposedly because of a prank he pulled but in reality because he asks too many questions and shows too much curiosity, a dangerous quality in this society. But it is in East Carmine that he realizes the banality of the heavily rule dependent government and the oppressiveness that is wrought upon society. He meets Jane, a Grey revolutionary, who he loves at first sight and while her ideas seem fanatical at first, the more he experiences the more he starts to agree with her.

Comments: This was a fabulous book. Fforde has created an utterly unique and fascinating dystopian society that is believable but is full of satirical comments that reflect upon our own society that one can take the story seriously and with tongue in cheek at the same time. I became immersed in this world from the first page, and while I'd never want to live there, I enjoyed every detail of it from government policies to recreation requirements. The characters are wonderful. Eddie and his group of friends each are distinctly real and flawed persons. The entire cast of characters is enormous and entirely eccentric from the librarian Mrs. Lapus Lazuli who has memorized the barcode of every book that has been removed from the library to the Apocryphal man, a 400 year old historian who everyone must pretend does not exist. The plot itself is a slow unraveling of Eddie coming to terms with the hidden reality of his society and the unsettling realization that the few must be sacrificed for the many. The story is quite dark and while I haven't read any other Fforde books, from what I've read about the Thursday Next series, it would appear that this is a different move for the author. The themes and atmosphere are dark, there is a lot of satire making for plenty of humour but even the humour is dry and biting at times. There is so much going on within the pages of this book that I could simply go on and on about it. Suffice to say, I am utterly enamored with this world and its mythos and can't wait for the next book.


  1. I really want to read this, but I want to read his older stuff first.


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