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.
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).
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.
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.
[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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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...
Recent Reader Reviews
Rated of 5
by 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
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 commercial inspired Fforde's aspirations as a movie director.
Working as an odd-job man in 1981, he was painting and decorating at a producer's home when he mentioned his desire to break into the film industry. The...
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.
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