A brilliantly imagined satire that envisions a terrifying dystopia by the bestselling author of Thursday Next.
Reviews I love Jasper Fforde. He is one of my favorite authors, and so I was predisposed to like this, but found it wanting. It pains me to say the social commentary is heavy handed, and the plot is hackneyed. It's hard to bring a fresh perspective to the story of one or two lone souls who try to fight against the state. If anyone could do it, it might be Fforde, but I'm afraid Shades of Grey falls short of the two excellent examples Fahrenheit 451 and 1984.
Fforde's protagonists, villains, and plot twists are all predictable. The setting is interesting, and how the world represented came to be is intriguing, but the main action is so uninspired, it was hard to get involved in that part. There are many dangling questions that have the feel of having been left off for the sake of social comment. All in all, it feels like two books. One book is too worried the reader will miss the cautionary tale about fascism. The other is a potentially marvelous story of a future more then 500 years in the future, in which everything has a bar code, including the people--maybe people--who've evolved so that color vision is severely limited.
My final criticism is the book ends with a cliff-hanger--such as it is, with heavy foreshadowing. The isn't a self-contained unit. As such, it's not a self-contained novel. Being a part of a series is one thing, but, in my opinion, all the books in a series should also be able to stand alone also.
I suggest that readers new to Fforde read his earlier books first. Reviews Beautifully written sentences flesh out another crazy, amazingly entertaining and novel plot from Jasper Fforde! Reviews Shades of Grey: A Novel by Jasper Fforde is about the eighth book I've read by this author so I was somewhat prepared for a number of the common themes of his work: humor, a witty look at the funny side of tyranny (more about this momentarily), imagination in great excess - Fforde seems to specialize in creating other worlds from whole cloth which are often utterly different from our own, but more often with some striking similarities that cast a footlight on our own culture, society, mores & values, as well as our foibles and the things that make people funny. His Thursday Next character deals with an all-powerful, oft corrupt super-corporation called 'The Goliath Corporation'. Their brand of tyranny is rather more pythonian than Kafkaesque. They mostly control the government, arbitrarily promote hyperinflation of cheese prices (causing a black market in Welsh cheese to arise and flourish), and utterly eradicating any persons they deem a problem, often by using a special branch of the secret police to cause them to never be born in the first place. As you can see, very creative, and flash.
In this new novel, the tone is more staid, and the unsettling dark lies deeper. The main character is a young Eddie Russett, a middle rank middle class fellow(and a Red, as his name denotes) who strives to get along, and who's great ambition is to marry a couple notches up the social ladder, and settle down to a life with, for his world, all the amenities. That the amenities include servants of a less prominent color perception, live feed from the central office of artificial color, which can be used to color just about anything, and color it in a fashion that everyone can clearly see irrespective or their personal color perception.
Trouble begins brewing when Eddie falls foul of the rules. The bureaucracy of his society is serpentine indeed, and the punishments are harsh. Independents and insolent types are swiftly singled out, and sent off for a year or more of attitude correction at 'reboot'. Thankfully Eddie's infraction is less serious, so the collective decides just to send him out to the sticks on more of a wild goose chase. The novel begins with his rather untimely demise, having just been devoured by an yatevayo plant. Delightfully, this is not even the worst of the troubles he encounters in his adventure.
1.3.02.06.023 There shall be no staring into the sun, however good the reason.
As you may see this review can just begin to scratch the surface in describing the elaborate and otherworldly story that Jasper Fforde so wonderfully and clearly lays out.
By the end you will be citing the rules just as Eddy does. In the meantime, plan to be delighted and (what other word is there really but...)horrified. You may find yourself wondering as I did if it's really right to titter about totalitarianism, or chuckle over class-struggle such as rear their ugly heads here. I hope in the end you find that this book is destined to become a real classic up on the shelf between Brave New World, We, and the collected works of P.G. Wodehouse. Reviews Each first book in any Jasper Fforde series takes a little getting used to. I was iffy at the beginning of the Thursday Next series and Nursery Crimes also. I think it's because Fforde doesn't initially introduce you to the altered context of reality that his stories take place in. This makes the first few chapters slightly disorienting. You have to just keep reading and gradually you begin to understand how things work in this strange world he's created then you begin to settle in and enjoy the story.
The world in which Shades of Grey is set revolves almost exclusively around an individuals ability to perceive the color spectrum. It also has a set of arbitrary rules given by the infallible "Munsell" that bind the collective together. This book is more complex and perhaps this is why some commenters feel it's merely a set-up to a sequel. In many ways it is because you have to understand how this color-based world with its strange rules and customs functions before the story can really take off. It also seems as if more time has been taken to develop the characters. Fforde's previous novels seem more action oriented and the characters develop over the course of the series. Shades of Grey is character driven with minimal action.
I enjoyed this book very much. The ending felt like a cliffhanger and I can't wait for the next installment.
Reviews Jasper Fforde, he of the witty, dense, super-smart genre-bending caper novel, has applied all those skills to something brand new (and still comes up recognizable and every bit as entetaining). Welcome to the dystopian/utopian post-alternate future as seen through the strange and wonderful spectacles of Jasper. Creating a caste-system future (future?) where visual color perception indicates class, Fforde actually just spins a huge and head-spinning yarn. If it eventually devolves into a bit of LOGAN'S RUN, it's the most interesting devoluation of the year. The great thing about his novels is if you think you're missing something, keep reading; the next paragraph holds rewards the past one could never have prepared you for.
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