Shades of Grey (Review)

Shades of Grey (Review)

erhaps it was because I came off a hard read with The Republic. Or maybe it was one of those “right book – right time” things. Don’t know why. But when I entered Jasper Fforde’s newest world, I was confused, befuddled, and then delighted.

Yes, the first chaper or two are tricky to navigate around. You’ll wonder about this supposed future world of little villages and gryro-monotrains (with their two wheeled cousins rusting by law on disused sidings). You’ll ponder about the abject fear of the populance towards swans, ball lightning and mildue. And you know that by the end of the first page, the hero is going to find himself shoved into the maw of a man-eating plant.

So, yes, a very confusing start. Kinda like a trip through the airport with children.

But then it starts making sense. A lot of sense. And before long (this is not a spoiler – it’s on the back cover) you realize that the reason everything is described strangly from the hero’s perspecive is precisly that – his perspective. Edward Russet, plucky boy protagonist, can only see red. Those tiny little pupilled eyes people have now? They only let in a specific color (and night is pitch black for them – they don’t even know about stars). So yes, this is a strange new world. And social ranking is hue based – the higher up the spectrum you can see, the higher your social position.

So on it goes, with Edward and his father journying to East Carmine – his father is going to be the new swatchman (a doctor who cures with color-cards) and Eddie is being sent off for a prank he pulled – he’s to perform an inventory on chairs in the community. And little towns like this have their big secrets, murders, mysteries, understandings and affairs. And poor Eddie’s going to have to survive them all, including getting belted by Jane (a grey who wallops him for delighting in her perfect nose, who will go on to be the person to shove him into the maw of the man-eating plant). So, yes, busy book, a lot of characters and a delightful read.

I don’t think it comes as a surprise but I hate series. I want a book to be over when it’s over. But this time, I was feeling kinda down and lost – I was coming to the end of this amazing world. Things were just wrapping up perfectly. And then they weren’t. I was sitting there, staring at a page as a horrible thing happens, the fairytale ending vanishes, and suddenly I realized that things weren’t as happy as I thought. And that all those unexplained things (swans?) might still get a chance to be detailed. Yes, two more books are in the queue for this series. And I couldn’t be happier. Great book. For all you English lampoonery fans, a must-read!