Saturday, January 25, 2014

REVIEW: Shades of Grey by Jasper Fforde

Shades of Grey (Shades of Grey, #1)Shades of Grey by Jasper Fforde
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Format: Audio (electronic from Library)
Narrated By: John Lee
Original Publication Year: 2009
Genre(s): Fantasy, Thriller/Mystery
Series: Shades of Grey #1
Awards: None

Recommended Subtitle: Be careful what you wish for or you could end up being eaten by a carnivorous tree.

WOW! This book really snuck up on me! I was moseying along in it, enjoying Fforde’s signature writing style and humor and then suddenly I couldn’t get enough. It just got better and better as the action heated up. It is definitely now my favorite of his and I can’t wait for the next books in the series to come out.

I consider myself a moderate fan of Jasper Fforde. He’s a distinctive writer who specializes in taking a somewhat gimmicky idea (a detective of fiction who can go into books, crimes involving nursery rhyme characters) and then doing unexpected things with it. He’s imaginative, creative, and clever with a hilarious and quirky sense of humor. Shades of Grey is no exception to this but it is quite different at least from his Thursday Next series. It’s set in a far dystopian future, Jasper Fforde style – i.e. it’s sinister but also ridiculous which in some ways makes it even more sinister. It is definitely the most humorous dystopian book I’ve ever read. Society is made up of a class system based on color perception. People can no longer see in the full spectrum but have “specialized” and the color you can see and the level of your perception determines where you are on the social ladder. Greys are at the bottom of the heap and are almost a slave caste while Purples are practically royalty and so on… Society is also guided by a book of rules written by someone named Munsel (sp?) which dictates everything from the manufacture of spoons to correct social etiquette. The reader's guide through this world is Eddie Russet, a Red, and the book begins as he is being eaten by a carnivorous tree. He begins to tell the story that led him to this point, starting with him and his Father’s travel to the border town of East Carmine four days earlier. In many ways the whole point of the book is to further explain this society so it’s best to go in knowing little. The description on starts with “Part social satire, part romance, part revolutionary thriller…” which pretty much sums it up.

For me, the book started out a little abstract and slow because it was a little difficult to understand how things worked in this very different future society. The narrator Eddie, however, is on a journey to find the truth of things and the reader is along for the ride. As he uncovers more and more, the story also became more and more interesting and gripping for me. Eddie is a fantastic protagonist; easy to like, funny, honorable and curious, and he starts off being pretty invested in the "collective". As his world is tossed upside down by the odd little town of East Carmine and he searches for truth, he realizes there is something very rotten about the world he is living in.

The world Fforde has created is fascinating and creative as well as laugh out loud funny at times. I’ve been a little disappointed with Fforde in the past because he has so many clever ideas that I find some of his books seem more like a string of these ideas rather than a cohesive story. This is definitely not the case here. It is a tightly plotted mystery/thriller and the writing is exceptional. While the book doesn’t end on a huge cliff hanger, I have to say I really wish I had waited for the future books in the series to be published before starting. I want to know what happens next NOW!

The reader for the audio, John Lee, was amazing! He was the perfect narrator for a book that likely wasn’t the easiest to read but he captured the humor and tone of the book perfectly.

Final Verdict: This was a fantastic and completely unique dystopian thriller that will likely make you laugh out loud. Definitely my favorite Jasper Fforde book to date (Disclaimer: though I haven’t read all his books). Book 2 please!

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  1. I absolutely adore his Thursday Next series. I only found out about this series a couple months ago! I'm glad you like it though, it seems likely I'll love this series just as much as Thursday Next.

    1. This is definitely pretty different from the Thursday Next series but if you like his writing style I think you'll love it. It has all his wit and creativity and a really great story to booty.

    2. Yeah I'm totally sold on this! It's definitely his wit and creativity which really drew me to the Thursday Next series (which I REALLY need to finish!)