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Summary and book reviews of Shades of Grey by Jasper Fforde

Shades of Grey

by Jasper Fforde

Shades of Grey by Jasper Fforde X
Shades of Grey by Jasper Fforde
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  • First Published:
    Dec 2009, 400 pages
    Paperback:
    Mar 2011, 400 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Kim Kovacs
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About this Book

Book Summary

An astonishing, hotly anticipated new novel from the great literary fantasist and creator of Thursday Next, Jasper Fforde: Part social satire, part romance, part revolutionary thriller, Shades of Grey tells of a battle against overwhelming odds.

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 ...

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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

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...continued

Full Review (653 words).

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(Reviewed by Kim Kovacs).

Media Reviews

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.

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.

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

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