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Shades of Grey

January 16, 2011 10:40PM
In my last review, I mentioned that The Last Dragonslayer was a quick, easy read. Shades definitely wasn't.

That is not to say I didn't find it a good book - quite the contrary in fact. I've already shortlisted it for my personal Best Read of the Year (just for reference, I award that title to the book that leaves me with the best overall feeling after newly discovering it. In 2010, it was The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, in 2009, The Book Thief).

Shades of Grey is much more radically different from Fforde's previous work than TLD was. It is definitely more serious in subject matter than any of his other books have yet been. And still, it is written with a light, quirky (I use that word a lot) tone and a matter-of-fact narrator that belies the subject matter.

Narrator and main person is Eddie Russett, 21, who is pretty good at perceiving reds. In Eddie's world, a dystopian future about half a millenium away, social hierarchy works according to perception of natural colour. Those who can only see greys form the working masses; the higher your perception is, the better breeding material you become; it is taboo to have contact with someone of a complementary colour.

Eddie's world is full of curious details - such as the limited number of spoons available or the constant fear of swan attacks - that almost make you forget how dire a world it must be. Unless you can afford expensive artificial colours, everything is grey, and a great deal of technology has been out-lawed by an unknown authority. Rules and regulations such as standardised clothing and fixed community meals make up everyone's life and the community is ruled by merit alone - the currency unit, that is. And yet, everyone seems content, nobody questions anything or is curious about anything.

Not so Jane, whom Eddie meets in the beginning of the book. Jane has a retroussee nose and has the completely wrong attitude for a Grey - and, as we learn in the first chapter, it was she who pushed Eddie into the carnivorous plant from which he is telling the story of how he got there and what happened on the road to High Saffron.

I could tell more, but you really have to read for yourself - only be warned. It is an (IMHO) immensely good read, very disturbing in how the dystopia is so far and yet so close to our world - but, BIG CAVEAT - it has a highly unnerving end, for it is the first volume in a three-volume series. It doesn't exactly end with a cliffhanger, but, it leaves everything more or less unsettled (apart from a couple of resolutions that you didn't want to see AT ALL) and I have no idea when the next volume comes out.

Also, there seem to be quite a couple of theories out there about the origin of the dystopia and of course, speculation about how it continues - if anybody has read it, I'd love to discuss and speculate!!

"I want you to know that you matter. I want you to know that your lives matter, that your dreams matter." (Barack Obama, 03 June 2020)

Shades of Grey

Mari A.January 16, 2011 10:40PM

Theories & Stuff (SPOILERS!)

KatharinaOctober 10, 2011 11:16PM

Re: Shades of Grey

KathyJanuary 17, 2011 02:28AM

Re: Shades of Grey (slight spoilers)

Mari A.January 19, 2011 09:42AM

Re: Shades of Grey (continued spoiler)

KathyJanuary 27, 2011 06:26PM

Re: Shades of Grey (continued spoiler)

Mari A.January 28, 2011 10:21AM


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