Jennifer's Reviews > Shades of Grey

Shades of Grey by Jasper Fforde
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Dec 08, 12

bookshelves: own, read-2012, author-event-missed, fiction-dystopian
Recommended to Jennifer by: MBTB
Read from September 02 to 12, 2012 — I own a copy


This book should most certainly not be confused with Fifty Shades of Gray. While reading this book, someone asked me if it was science fiction. I said it was in particular more dystopian. When asked what “dystopian” meant, I paused, momentarily flummoxed as to how to describe dystopian literature. I then blurted “it’s the opposite of utopian!”

The book takes place after the “Something that Happened,” which is never fully explained. Chromatica is hierarchically structured by color. Social standing is determined solely by the color an individual sees, and for reasons unknown, individuals can only see their own color. Those who see Purple belong to the aristocracy. Those who see no color at all are Greys, and are considered nothing more than slaves to perform drudgery (only one step above the Riffraff). Reds are working class and the only thing Reds and Greens can agree on is that they don’t like Yellows.

Artificial color is mined from pre-“Something that Happened” objects and synthesized to add color to anything from custard to a town’s “color garden.” Color is also serves as medicine – Swatchmen administer different colors to treat a variety of maladies. Various shades of green are treated as recreational drugs, and overdosing can create deadly side effects. Individuals fear killer swans, lightning, and the dark (pupils don’t dilate, which limits seeing in the dark). Society members face killer trees, and spoons are highly prized objects that are no longer manufactured for no apparent reason. Technology rapidly retrogresses through a series of Leapbacks, and pre-Epiphany technology is shunned.

The Colortocracy has squashed any and all individual thought and creative endeavors, and members of society follow “The Rules” of Munsell. You know, the guy who made an early attempt at creating an accurate system for numerically describing colors and the revered founder of Chromatica. I had to look the guy up. Each chapter of the book is prefaced by a “rule” which I thought was a nice touch. The Rules can only be circumvented by Loopholery. Society utilizes a system of merits and demerits. If an individual earns too many demerits, punishment can result in permanent expulsion or “reboot.” Eddie Russet is a Red who hopes to marry to a red further “up color” to improve his social standing. He has been sent to the Outer Fringes of society to conduct a chair census to earn a dose of humility for pulling a prank.

While there, Eddie meets Jane, a Grey with an attitude problem, a cute nose, and a penchant for physical violence. Through Jane, Eddie discovers that much of what the Colortocracy has told the public is not true. (view spoiler)

This book is very Jabberwocky-esque. Fforde uses terms and phrases which are semi-incomprehensible, and this carries over for the entire novel. It was very frustrating at first, but things kind of fell into place as I continued to read mostly through intuition. Readers definitely have to stick with it. This book is definitely not a fast-paced read; a slow reading is necessary in order to learn social and legal rules and understand the many eccentric and unique characters. Fforde goes into great detail on color, which was rather tough for me to follow at times. The book is delightfully tongue-in-cheek, fantastic, satirical, and sometimes downright silly. It is a very well thought out and intelligent read. What Fforde makes obvious is that the world is never is black-and-white. I am looking forward to installment two.
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Comments (showing 1-2 of 2) (2 new)

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Barbara You might want to hide the spoilers!


Jennifer Thank you for pointing that out, Barbara.


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