Shades of Grey by Jasper Fforde

Shades of GreyThis book was a personal purchase.

Jasper Fforde’s Thursday Next series is a marvel of literary fun and games, but the author has proven that he’s not confined to parody. With Shades of Grey, he’s added social satire to his repertoire. The first in a series, the book raises as many questions as it answers.

Eddie Russett hasn’t taken his Ishihara, or color test, yet, but he’s pretty sure he’ll score in the high red. This will confirm him as a productive citizen and give him a fighting chance at marrying Constance Oxblood, heir to the family string fortune.

But an ill-timed prank sends Eddie to East Carmine to conduct a chair census as punishment. When he and his father arrive there, they discover that the Rules that govern everyone’s lives are a little more flexible than in the cities. Into this morass comes Jane, a Grey with a flagrant disdain for the Rules and a very cute nose. She challenges Eddie to find the truth about the world he so blindly lives in, before it consumes him.

Many books that leave so many small elements unexplained are simply too frustrating to read. Fforde manages to include tons of curiosity-inducing nuggets, and it only heightens the reader’s enjoyment. Who wouldn’t get a laugh out of carnivorous swans?

Fforde stated on his website that this novel was conceived as a post-apocalyptic story well after the earth-shaking event, and therefore the novel is about a “Big Event” that is nobody talks about anymore. It’s a strange concept, and yet it makes sense. What’s more, it’s an original idea in a genre where dystopian tales have become common.

With his trademark wackiness and sly humor, Jasper Fforde has created another winner with Shades of Grey. Unlike anything he’s done before, the book yet again forges new ground in a genre that finds it all too easy to tell the same story over and over again.