Shades of Grey – Jasper Fforde

I bought this one because it was in the new flipback format. It’s Dutch! And very handy, because I was taking it away on a little hiking holiday. A word on the format first: A- would read again. It works fine. More please!

And now for the book: intriguing! I was not familiar with Jasper Fforde beforehand (although I had bought one of his books for my mum: I think she liked it). And it sort of turns out it doesn’t really matter because he hasn’t written anything like this before. So my lack of preparation didn’t count against me.

After having complained about the exposition in Snow Crash, I shouldn’t really complain about the lack of it in this, so I won’t. I was lost for quite a while. It turns out the The Something That Happened (remain indoors!) has caused everyone in this world to lose the ability to see more than one colour, and some not even that. And for some reason this is used to rank everyone in a strict hierarchy. Our hero is a Red, who has been sent for humility training in some backward village or other. Things become clearer. Something odd is up.

Eddie meets a Grey, who has a very pretty nose. She also has a temper, and does not approve of being reduced to just a pretty nose. Jane Grey (I think she’s a G12, whatever that means) sizes Eddie up, and decides that he might just be worth talking to. This obviously goes against the entire colour-based system, her deciding that he might be worth anything. But Eddie can’t help himself, despite his plans to marry up to an Oxblood. And then she pushed him into a man-eating plant.

So… nothing really makes sense for a long time, except that the characters are also slightly less than completely sure what’s going on too (some of them bluster and bully a bit more than the slightly hapless Eddie), which is very engaging. And the whole world seems complete, although there’s only a very small part of it that makes sense to us. But new details drip through, revealed to the naive Eddie by Jane (who seems to know much more than she lets on) and others, and I ended up enthralled.

There are sequels planned – apparently not yet written. But I don’t really want to wait.

See also: 1984 – no. Comparisons are blurbed all over it, but this isn’t a satire on a specific form of government or totalitarianism at all, except in very broad strokes. And it’s much more entertaining.

Flatworld – well, I haven’t read more than the first couple of pages, but this seems a much better fit.


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