Thursday, August 25, 2016

Book Review: Shades of Grey by Jasper Fforde

I love reading this book in public. When people ask me what I'm reading, it's fun to say, "Shades of Grey" and watch their faces go carefully blank. Don't worry, this book is nothing like the other series whose title is so close to this one.

Shades of Grey by Jasper Fforde is a comedy/mystery/thriller that follows Edward Russett as he is banished to the Outer Fringes of his society to conduct a chair census to learn humility. Before Eddie and his father reach their destination of East Carmine, however, Eddie meets Jane, a girl who balks against the strict rules of the Colortocracy they live in. When Eddie begins asking questions (which are considered incredibly rude and can lead to Reboot) Jane begins to reveal to Eddie the problems of the society that they live in.

To quote the book blurb, "In this world, you are what you can see." In a Colortocracy, citizens are ranked socially from the reigning Purples down to the Reds, and the Greys are the outcasts of the society. Eddie, with the last name Russett has the ability to only see the color red. In this society, people can move up and down the color ladder by marrying people either in their color, or in Eddie's case, a Blue to create a Purple child.

One thing I love about Jasper Fforde is that he is known for burying pop culture references in all of his books, and Shades of Grey is no exception. From the Parker Brother's Badly Drawn Map to book titles like The Science of the Slams (whose real titles have been forgotten through the ages), the references are fun for the reader to piece together. I also really enjoyed the many layers of the story that Fforde wove together seamlessly. Will Eddie have to marry the horrific Violet deMauve to move up in society? Does Jane actually trust him with the secrets she has discovered? Is chicken officially a vegetable on the first Tuesday of the month? You'll have to read the book to find out.

My only complaints about Shades of Grey are that at times, the story feels a little disjointed. The reader really needs to be aware of how the society works to be able to figure out why certain events in the story are relevant. For example, in this society every citizen is required to participate in team sports, complete their Useful Work every day, and beware of swans, ball lightning, and the dark. I've read this book twice now and I'm still finding new parts to the story that I did not pick up on before. So, my other complaint? To get the whole story, you will probably have to read this twice. But, if you're like me and you enjoyed it the first time around, I don't think you'll mind too much.

Jasper Fforde is also the author of the Thursday Next series and the Nursery Crime series. Thursday Next is a police officer who discovers she can jump into books, and the Nursery Crime series follows Jack Spratt and Mary Mary as they try to find out who murdered Humpty Dumpty. If Shades of Grey sounds a little strange and not so appealing, definitely try one of his other series. Both Michelle and I will recommend these books until the day we fall over dead!

Emily is really sorry she missed last week's book review, but she was having way too much fun at World Con. The best moment for her? Getting a picture with the Trio, Tamora Pierce, and Gail Carriger. She will be on cloud nine for a very long time!

1 comment:

  1. A few people have mentioned Jasper Fforde's books. I'll have to add him to my ever-growing reading list. Reading your description of the story, sort of reminded me of the film "Upside Down". The film reviews weren't great, but I liked it.