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Shades of Grey

Jasper Fforde

Average Review Rating Average Rating 9/10 (1 Review)
Book Details

Publisher : Hodder & Stoughton

Published : 2010

Copyright : Jasper Fforde 2010

ISBN-10 : HB 0-340-96303-4
ISBN-13 : HB 978-0-340-96303-6

Publisher's Write-Up

No one could cheat the Colourman and the colour test. What you got was what you were, forever. Your life, career and social standing decided right there and then, and all worrisome life-uncertainties eradicated forever. You knew who you were, what you would do, where you would go, and what was expected of you. In return, you simply accepted your rung upon the Chromatic ladder, and assiduously followed the Rulebook. Your life was mapped. And all in the time it takes to bake a tray of scones...

Eddie Russett lives comfortably in a world where fortune, career and ultimate destiny are rigidly dictated by the colours you can see. Until he falls in love with a Grey named Jane, and starts to question every aspect of the Rulebook.

'Fforde's books are more than an ingenious idea. They are written with buoyant zest and are tautly plotted... and are embellished with the rich details of a Dickens or Pratchett.'


'Fans of the late Douglas Adams or, even, Monty Python, will feel at home with Fforde.'


'No summaries can do justice to the sheer inventiveness, wit, complexity, erudition, unexpectedness and originality of the works, nor to their vast repertoire of intricate wordplay and puns.'

The Times
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Reader Reviews

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Review by Nigel (310310) Rating (9/10)

Review by Nigel
Rating 9/10
It is difficult to talk about Shades of Grey without giving some of the plot away, so for those who already know Jasper Fforde's work this will not disappoint and for those wanting a recommendation for a really good read you have it here... so go no further.

Spoiler Alert

The basic plot of Shades of Grey is not new by any means; growing up in a mildly dystopian society where control is absolute and dysfunction and disobedience are covertly weeded out in such a way the average person doesn't really notice... it's just the rules you live by in your day-to-day life after 'the something that happened'.

Eddie Russet and his father are both travelling to East Carmine, Eddie to undergo humility realignment by conducting a pointless chair census while his father is to stand in temporarily for the village Swatchman (a kind of doctor) who was fatally self-misdiagnosed.

As the story unfolds for Eddie we are transported along through a strange yet familiar alternative world where society is slowly sliding, through choice, into the dark ages. We get to know the inhabitants of the East Carmine collective and the hierarchy of the chromatic system that governs everyone's life. The colour aspect of the plot is difficult to explain but your place in society is dictated by a chromatic scale. Your position on that scale is assigned by the Colourman based on your colour perception and from that point on your whole life is mapped out for you. As you have probably guessed everything is not as it seems and Eddie starts to become conscious of some nasty truths, helped along by Jane, a Grey (lowest on the chromatic scale) he has fallen in love with even though she seems to hurt him quite a lot... very funny at times.

Whilst this is the first book in a planned trilogy it deals with events in a very satisfactory way, ending at just the right point to make it feel like you have most of your questions answered while knowing there is much still to be revealed, namely who, why and when. Although this doesn't sound like much of an achievement it really is... the number of books I've read that just seem to stop midway through major plot development (the fantasy genre being a particular culprit) is not insignificant. While I accept this is done deliberately to leave the reader on a cliff-hanger it can be very irritating after 500+ pages. At the end I had the pleasant sensation of closure to the story so far told yet more than happy to know it had not ended... I for one can't wait for the next book.

I have to admit I've struggled with this review, not because there is anything wrong with the book, far from it, just that it is so difficult to put in to words. While it is a simple love story about a young man growing up and finding his place in the world, albeit a strange one, it has humour, adventure and tension all wrapped around weighty topics such as racism (colourism?) eugenics and social control. Throw in hints at lost technology, some major disaster in the past, sentient machines, other societies (the riffraff) and so much more it just becomes difficult to wrap up neatly. Quite simply a stunning piece of imaginative fiction by an incredibly talented author.
Nigel (31st March 2010)

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