Shades of Grey by Jasper Fforde

15 02 2010

A life without color would be very depressing.

I have a hard time picking favorites, but, as a viewer of Lost, I have given some thought to the old deserted island question.  You know, what music, movies, dudes, whatever, you’d choose the have stranded with you.  The one that I think about most is probably books – but because I can’t decide on just 5 books, I’ve expanded it to top 5 authors with the assumption I’d be able to take their collected works with me.  (Because this is a ridiculous thing to imagine so of course I could.)  For the past couple of years now, Jasper Fforde has had a permanent spot on that list.

Jasper Fforde is just brilliant – there’s really no other word for him.  His first series, the Thursday Next novels, were so amazing and out there they may have gotten on my island on their own.  Then came the Nursery Crimes books, which blew me away again – and weren’t quite as complicated as the Thursday Next books – they sealed the deal.  But oh my sassy molassy, Shades of Grey smacks the rest of his books in the face with awesome.  Seriously.  I don’t know if I’m going to be able to accurately convey my love for this book in words, but while I read it, I basically felt like the Nintendo 64 kid.

Shades of Grey is a post-apocalyptic novel – but instead of focusing on the apocalypse event and the resulting confusion and struggle to rebuild society, Fforde drops us in a couple of centuries after the “Something That Happened.”  In this future world, people have lost the capacity to see the full spectrum of color, and how much color and what color you can see determines your place in the very rigid social structure.  And once you have your place, everything else is figured out – who you can marry, what your job will be, where you live – there is no thinking, no exploring, only a struggle to increase your family’s color through an up color marriage.  At the bottom of this society are the Greys, those who see almost no color at all, and they are the ones who do almost all of the actual work and have almost no rights.  The story follows Eddie Russett, a red who is soon coming of age and is a bit too inquisitive for his own good – which of course leads to all the interesting troubles that add up to a story.

With any Fforde novel, the more you attempt to describe the plot, the less sense it makes.  So, I’ll restrain myself and leave it there.  But, believe me, it is so so so amazing.  This is an entirely new world, and not just because of the lack of color.  He gives us this society based on rules which seem absolutely ridiculous – I mean, what color you can see? – but are really as arbitrary as our current social laws.  Shades of Grey is a very sly satire, but you never feel as though you’re in the middle of a sermon because there’s so much humor and the mysteries are so engrossing.  And, really, isn’t that what really matters?  The story is compelling, interesting, joyful, intelligent and, above all, fun.  Oh, and lucky me, it’s the first in a new series, so I have at least two more installments coming my way.


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2 responses

17 02 2010
Colleen

Who are the other authors you would choose?! I hope Tom Robbins is one of them?!

17 02 2010
elandlo

Girlie – don’t be ridic – of course Tom Robbins is number one on that list.

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