A dystopian novel from the author of the delightful Thursday Next and Nursery Crimes books, Shades of Grey will be out here in the US in a few weeks. I enjoyed it tremendously, partly because Fforde’s brave new world is as witty and fully realized as his other alternative worlds, partly because I found his new hero very endearing, and partly because the plot became more and more intriguing as I read on.
Jasper Fforde loves words, loves silly bits, loves envisioning other worlds filled with literary bric-a-brac*, and clearly loves to tell his readers, in ample detail, about these other worlds. I suspect you have to be the sort of reader that adores this to truly enjoy this book. That is, the plot for this one is a bit slow to kick in and for a while you just need to go with the flow, soaking up the many details of this strange future.
It consists of a world hobbled by a Colortocracy ruling a class structure built on the color spectrum. And as is always the case with Fforde the results are incredibly clever. Something That Happened way back, it seems, we don’t know what, has caused a progressive intentional dumbing-down of society. Why they keep Leaping Back, getting rid of technology of one sort or another, we aren’t yet sure. We do know it is a society of irrational rules (they reminded me of the ones developed by Terry Pratchet for his Bromeliad Trilogy) which some do question, but more do not.
I eagerly await the next two in the series (Painting by Numbers and The Gordini Protocols) in which I hope we learn more about Something That Happened, whether a Red and a Yellow can meld despite societal taboos, and if sporks are the answer.
*At one point (and I can’t find the page anymore, sorry) there is a reference to one of the many, many rules those in this society live under — that there can be no “fainting in coils.” Someone (our, hero, I believe) asks what that means, but no one (of course) knows. But I do! Straight from the Mock Turtle’s Story in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.