Shades of Grey | The Digital Americana Wall

Shades of Grey

Book Review

If you’ve ever wondered whether the color you see as green is really the same as what everyone else calls green, then I have the novel for you. If you haven’t, read on anyway and discover a fantastic writer.

Jasper Fforde has outdone himself. Last month brought the paperback release of Fforde’s novel Shades of Grey, the first installment in a new series, which is also available on eBook markets. I firmly believe this to be his best novel yet, with weighty ideas given a helium-light treatment. The ideas of class and caste are re-configured to exist within the color spectrum where purple reigns supreme, gray festers at the bottom of the pile, and a person’s place in the world is pre-determined by what color he/she can see.

Our guide through this future society is Eddie Russet, a 20 year old idealist who thinks he can better the world by changing the way people stand in line. His trip to the Outer Fringes to learn some humility becomes an accidental quest for truth. Along the way you’ll find yourself just as surprised, frustrated, and stubborn as he is.

Sound a little odd? Well, this is Fforde at his best, turning post-apocalyptic literature upside down just like he did for murder mysteries. But for anyone who thinks that the inherent silliness of a society terrified of swans and facing a spoon shortage means the deeper issues at work in many novels of this ilk will be ignored, you’re wrong.

Fforde tackles censorship, history, labor and a host of other problems. Just because you’re laughing (which you will be) doesn’t mean you’ll be able to ignore the context (which you won’t). The highest praise I can give the book is this: when I finished reading it, I could not move on. Literally hundreds of novels await me, calling my name from their shelves and I ignore them all.

I find myself at odd hours thinking about Eddie Russet, Chromotacia, and what kind of disaster would have to occur to make a society so interested in rules that everything else falls by the wayside. Is a disaster even necessary, or is Fforde commenting on the rights we continue to slowly let slip away in the name of safety? Above all, what’s going to happen next?

This book grabs you with humor and holds on to you with everything else. You’ll enjoy the misunderstood references to our reality. You’ll cheer for Eddie, plot with him, and most of all, wonder with him what sacrifices he’s willing to make to change the world.

It’s April, and that means rain. Lots of rain. Instead of letting the weather get you down, find a copy of this book and curl up on the couch with a snack. Before you know it the sun will be out–but you may want to ignore the beautiful day and start all over on the road to High Saffron.

- Christina Kratzner


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