Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Book Review: Shades of Grey by Jasper Fforde

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Author: Jasper Fforde
Publisher: Viking Adult
Hardcover: 390 pages
Series Order: Book 1
Summary: (taken from Goodreads)
Part social satire, part romance, part revolutionary thriller, Shades of Grey tells of a battle against overwhelming odds. In a society where the ability to see the higher end of the color spectrum denotes a better social standing, Eddie Russet belongs to the low-level House of Red and can see his own color—but no other. The sky, the grass, and everything in between are all just shades of grey, and must be colorized by artificial means. 
Eddie's world wasn't always like this. There's evidence of a never-discussed disaster and now, many years later, technology is poor, news sporadic, the notion of change abhorrent, and nighttime is terrifying: no one can see in the dark. Everyone abides by a bizarre regime of rules and regulations, a system of merits and demerits, where punishment can result in permanent expulsion. 
Eddie, who works for the Color Control Agency, might well have lived out his rose-tinted life without a hitch. But that changes when he becomes smitten with Jane, a Grey Nightseer from the dark, unlit side of the village. She shows Eddie that all is not well with the world he thinks is just and good. Together, they engage in dangerous revolutionary talk.
Overall Rating: 4/5

For as entertaining, thought-provoking, hilarious, and downright awesome Fforde's books are, I'm surprised that more people don't know about him. If you are one of those who haven't read any of his books yet, then take note: I have thoroughly enjoyed all the books I've read by him, and while his Thursday Next series is a personal favorite of mine, Shades of Grey is also a nice place to start. For one thing, it's a dystopia (and well-written, which automatically makes it a must-read). For another, I couldn't stop reading it. From start to finish, I was completely enthralled by this strange world ruled by the color spectrum, of all things.

Eddie is an average guy who follows all the rules and who is just about to officially become an adult. Going to one of the outskirt cities to complete a disciplinary assignment, he is faced with corruption on a scale he has never known before. Between trying to solve a mystery involving a Grey (one who sees no color) who was masquerading as a Purple, arranging his marriage with the illustrious Constance Oxblood, and finishing his assignment so he can return home, Eddie finds himself in more trouble than he ever thought possible.

The one thing I love most about Fforde is his ability to mix genres into something completely unique. Shades of Grey is a humorous coming-of-age dystopic mystery that has something for everyone. At first, I had a little trouble adjusting to the strange world Fforde has created, but after the first few chapters, I got the hang of it. Eddie is incredibly easy to relate to, and I thought all the characters were a treat to get to know. There is a great deal of humor mixed in with what are really horrible realities of the world Eddie lives in so that instead of being horrified, I was thoroughly amused throughout the entire book.

It's hard to talk about specific plot points without ruining the rest of the novel, as everything is neatly woven together, but I will say that there is a good deal of intrigue, mystery, and drama. As is expected, this society that is governed by a handbook of rules for pretty much everything (from what to wear while traveling to what items are able to be produced -- spoons, sadly, didn't make the cut), is completely run by underhanded and corrupt dealings of those in power.

While this book is excellent and I think everyone should read it, I will say that it's probably better to wait until a sequel is out for this one. While Shades of Grey doesn't end on a cliffhanger, there are enough unresolved issues at the end to have made me incredibly frustrated.

Other Reviews:
Reading 2011 (and Beyond)