Format: Trade paperback, 448 pages
Published: January 14, 2010
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
Back cover blurb:
Hundreds of years in the future, after the Something that Happened, the world is an alarmingly different place. Life is lived according to The Rulebook and social hierarchy is determined by your perception of colour. Eddie Russett is an above average Red who dreams of moving up the ladder by marriage to Constance Oxblood. Until he is sent to the Outer Fringes where he meets Jane — a lowly Grey with an uncontrollable temper and a desire to see him killed. For Eddie, it’s love at first sight. But his infatuation will lead him to discover that all is not as it seems in a world where everything that looks black and white is really shades of grey …If George Orwell had tripped over a paint pot or Douglas Adams favoured colour swatches instead of towels …neither of them would have come up with anything as eccentrically brilliant as Shades of Grey.
Jasper Fforde’s usual fare is more along the lines of far-fetched fiction, and I have loved all his previous works, so I began this believing it would be more of the same. I was wrong. This book is epic.
Set hundreds of years in the future, after the Something That Happened – no one knows exactly what – people can no longer see in full colour. What parts of the spectrum you can see determine your social standing, with Purples at the top and Greys – those who can see little or no colour – at the very bottom. Eddie Russett, a Red, is sent with his father to far-flung East Carmine after playing a joke on a Purple boy, and slowly he begins to discover how seriously restricted society has become because of the mysterious and ridiculous Rules. Along his journey he earns the ire of some prominent Yellows and falls in love with a Grey named Jane, who seems to know a bit more than anyone else about what’s really going on. For a start, she knows where all the spoons have gone…
Eddie is a fantastic fish-out-of-water with whom the reader can easily identify as he uncovers the secrets of his dystopia. Jane is kick-ass and smart, and the other village characters are all well-written and, dare I say, colourful. By the last page I was really horrified by the choice Eddie was faced with, and these twists set the story up nicely for two planned sequels.
Fforde has created a unique future which is complex, frightening and very funny. I can’t wait until the next book in the series, Painting by Numbers, comes out in 2013.
My rating: 5/5