Summary and book reviews of Shades of Grey by Jasper Fforde

Shades of Grey

By Jasper Fforde

Shades of Grey
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • Hardcover: Dec 2009,
    400 pages.
    Paperback: Mar 2011,
    400 pages.

    Publication Information

  • Rate this book


Buy This Book

About this Book

Book Summary

Part social satire, part romance, part revolutionary thriller, Shades of Grey tells of a battle against overwhelming odds. In a society where the ability to see the higher end of the color spectrum denotes a better social standing, Eddie Russet belongs to the low-level House of Red and can see his own color - but no other. The sky, the grass, and everything in between are all just shades of grey, and must be colorized by artificial means.

Eddie's world wasn't always like this. There's evidence of a never-discussed disaster and now, many years later, technology is poor, news sporadic, the notion of change abhorrent, and nighttime is terrifying: no one can see in the dark. Everyone abides by a bizarre regime of rules and regulations, a system of merits and demerits, where punishment can result in permanent expulsion.

Eddie, who works for the Color Control Agency, might well have lived out his rose-tinted life without a hitch. But that changes when he becomes smitten with Jane, a Grey Nightseer from the dark, unlit side of the village. She shows Eddie that all is not well with the world he thinks is just and good. Together, they engage in dangerous revolutionary talk.

Stunningly imaginative, very funny, tightly plotted, and with sly satirical digs at our own society, this novel is for those who loved Thursday Next but want to be transported somewhere equally wild, only darker; a world where the black and white of moral standpoints have been reduced to shades of grey.

A Morning in Vermillion

2.4.16.55.021: Males are to wear dress code #6 during inter-Collective travel. Hats are encouraged but not mandatory.

It began with my father not wanting to see the Last Rabbit and ended up with my being eaten by a carnivorous plant. It wasn’t really what I’d planned for myself— I’d hoped to marry into the Oxbloods and join their dynastic string empire. But that was four days ago, before I met Jane, retrieved the Caravaggio and explored High Saffron. So instead of enjoying aspirations of Chromatic advancement, I was wholly immersed within the digestive soup of a yateveo tree. It was all frightfully inconvenient.

But it wasn’t all bad, for the following reasons: First, I was lucky to have landed upside down. I would drown in under a minute, which was far, far preferable to being dissolved alive over the space of a few weeks. Second, and more important, I wasn’t going to die ignorant. I had discovered something ...

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Reviews

BookBrowse

Shades of Grey is the first book in a series, and while Fforde brings this novel to a satisfying conclusion, he by no means answers all the questions he raises. He leaves his readers eager to return to the dystopian world he has created if for no other reason than to satisfy their curiosity about how such a warped society arose in the first place. The novel may not appeal to all of Fforde's fans, as many will find its bizarre setting and deeper themes too much work to enjoy. However, the book's sheer originality and top-notch writing are likely to attract a host of new devotees. Shades of Grey is Fforde's best book to date.   (Reviewed by Kim Kovacs).

Full Review Members Only (1254 words).

Media Reviews
The Guardian (UK)

The narrowness of the high concept is, finally, too much a sort of meagreness, and too little a scalpel edge. But fans of Fforde, of whom there are many, may well find shades of greatness in Shades of Grey...

Publishers Weekly

Eddie navigates a vividly imagined landscape whose every facet is steeped in the author's remarkably detailed color scheme. Sometimes, though, it's hard to see the story for the chromotechnics.

Library Journal

Starred Review. Fforde has built a complex, engaging, and unique world full of surprises, serious ideas, and serious fun that will appeal to those beyond the author's readers and sf fans.

Kirkus Reviews

The world of the near future is anything but an ashen wasteland in the impish British author's refreshingly daft first volume of a new fantasy series.

Booklist

Starred Review. If his complex world building sometimes slows the plot and the balance of silly and serious is uneasy, we’re still completely won over.

Los Angeles Times

At moments, Shades of Grey suffers from the classic error of futurist fantasy, in which the creator grows so fond of his fanciful system that he spends too long setting it up and polishing its upholstery. But even then, it's great fun to waste time in Fforde's company. Though we've heard his plea for curiosity and creative rebellion before, his visceral antipathy for coercive mediocrity and the refusal to think for oneself bears repeating.

Chicago Sun-Times

The story moves slowly at times, but even when Fforde gets bogged down in description, you marvel at the imagination that could create a world so bizarre, yet so complete and convincing.

Washington Post

[I]t's hard not to get lost in the marvelous details of this novel, which is pretty much what happens to the plot... Both the thrills and the romantic comedy pick up during the final quarter, but as much as it hurts to say it, color me disappointed.

Denver Post

In short, Shades of Grey is everything that Fforde fans love, and distinctly different from what has come before.

Miami Herald

Shades of Grey marks the beginning of Fforde's third series, with two more books expected. His Thursday Next novels, starting with the bestselling The Eyre Affair, may be more accessible for readers new to Fforde's singular brand of wit, but for established fans Shades of Grey is not to be missed.

Reader Reviews
Cloggie Downunder

more brilliant Fforde
Shades of Grey, sub-titled The Road to High Saffron, is the eighth novel by Jasper Fforde, and the first novel in the Shades of Grey series. Fforde has used his incredible imagination to create for the reader a unique world, Chromatacia, where ...   Read More

Write your own review!

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Jasper Fforde

Jasper Fforde was born in London on January 11, 1961. His father was a prominent economist, while his mother did charity work and was a passionate reader. Fforde and his four siblings were raised in London and Wales. At the age of twelve Fforde was sent to Dartington Hall School, a progressive coeducational boarding school near Totnes, Devon, which he attended until his graduation in 1979.

As a child he shared his mother's love of reading, and by the age of eleven had become quite interested in film and television. While the young Fforde liked to watch Monty Python, he was particularly influenced by a commercial he saw for milk starring the actor Roger Moore. It showed what happened behind the scenes on a production set, and this ...

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Readalikes

Readalikes Full readalike results are for members only

If you liked Shades of Grey, try these:

  • American Gods jacket

    American Gods

    by Neil Gaiman

    Published Feb 2013

    More about this book

    Read Reviews

    As unsettling as it is exhilarating, American Gods is a dark and kaleidoscopic journey deep into myth and across an America at once eerily familiar and utterly alien.

  • Angelmaker jacket

    Angelmaker

    by Nick Harkaway

    Published Feb 2013

    More about this book

    Read Reviews

    A blistering gangster noir meets howling absurdist comedy as the forces of good square off against the forces of evil, and only an unassuming clockwork repairman and an octogenarian former superspy can save the world from total destruction.

Non-members are limited to two results. Become a member


Search Readalikes again
How we choose readalikes
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!
Member Benefits

Join Now!

Check the advantages!
Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year

    •  
    • FREE
    • MEMBER
    • Range of media reviews for each book
    • Excerpts of all featured books
    • Author bios, interviews and pronunciations
    • Browse by genre
    • Book club discussions
    • Book club advice and reading guides
    • BookBrowse reviews and "beyond the book" back-stories
    •  
    • Reviews of notable books ahead of publication
    •  
    • Free books to read and review (US Only)
    •  
    • Browse for the best books by time period, setting & theme
    •  
    • Read-alike suggestions for thousands of books and authors
    •  
    • 'My Reading List" to keep track of your books
    •  

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: Shotgun Lovesongs
    Shotgun Lovesongs
    by Nickolas Butler
    Nickolas Butler's debut novel, Shotgun Lovesongs, follows five life-long friends, now in their mid-...
  • Book Jacket: Gemini
    Gemini
    by Carol Cassella
    How good is Gemini, Carol Cassella's book about a Seattle intensive care physician who becomes ...
  • Book Jacket: The Goldfinch
    The Goldfinch
    by Donna Tartt
    Winner of the 2014 Pulitzer for Fiction.

    Her canvas is vast. To frame a story about art, love and ...

First Impressions

Members read and review books ahead
of publication. See what they think
in First Impressions!

Books that
expand your
horizons.

Visitors can view a lot of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only

Find out more.

Book Discussions
Book Jacket

The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry
by Gabrielle Zevin

Published Apr. 2014

Join the discussion!

Who Said...

Read the best books first...

Click Here to find out who said this, as well as discovering other famous literary quotes!

Word Play

Solve this clue:

P Your O C

and be entered to win..

Books thatinspire you.Handpicked.

Books you'll stay up all night reading; books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, books that will expand your mind and inspire you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.