Shades of Grey

More Than Fifty, Thankfully

So, the goal is to read about a book every week, which is a tidbit I think I left out of the last few posts. It’s something I tried before, but didn’t make it more than two months into before Major Life Issues threw me out of whack. (Excuses, yeah yeah.) I thought it would be nice to try again this new year, but in a low-pressure kind of way.

I have a couple heaver books I want to push myself to get through – that is, they’re more technical or academic, and not really light reading – and to imagine I’d finish them in the span of a week and still have time left over is setting myself up for failure. To balance out those books and still keep to the 52 in 52 challenge, I’m counting graphic novels as books where some people wouldn’t. They’re no less “real” books in my mind, but they certainly are quicker reads. As long as I’ve hit 52 books by the end of the year, it’s a win!

Now, the blogging. I’m not always going to be reading the most recent releases, and while my selections are predominantly YA and fiction I’m not confining myself to a genre or theme. The blog posts themselves, therefore, aren’t really meant to be piercing timely reviews, but more like a friendly (if a bit one sided) chat about what I just read. I’ll try to avoid spoilers, and I’ll warn you when it’s unavoidable. But this here is mostly a chronicle of the challenge for my entertainment and yours.

Alright, that’s the housekeeping out of the way. On to the books!

shades of grey cover

Shades of Grey (2010) Jasper Fforde

Yesterday I finished Shades of Grey by Jasper Fforde, which came highly recommended from my aunt. Actually, the book itself came right from her last September, and I hadn’t read very far at the time. We send books back and forth with some regularity, and it’s nice having someone with good taste in “grown up” books to shake up the monotony I get myself into at times.

Although you could say Shades of Grey follows the pattern I’ve been in lately, in that it’s a post-modern dystopia. And there’s a little romance. Thankfully it’s much less on the angsty teen inner dialogue end of things and firmly camped in snarky British absurdism. Which I don’t think is its own dystopian genre yet, but I’m on board if it happens.

Eddie Russet, our protagonist, lives in a world some thousands of years after our own where people can’t see the full spectrum we’re used to seeing. Folks are classified into a hierarchical society based on their color perception, from Purple down to Grey, and follow a large number of unquestionable rules for the betterment of the Collective. There are some relics of the past that clue them in to how the Previous existed, but it’s generally assumed that the Collective operates much better than we ever did. Besides, if we hadn’t screwed everything up so bad then the Something that Happened never would have happened and it would all be a non-issue.

Anyway, Eddie and his father get relocated to East Carmine, which is a relative backwater compared to the larger cities and their piped-in color. And I just have to say that the thought of piping in color in CYM lines and adjusting ratios and all that to a garden of wherever is crazy fascinating. The most revered job you can get is a position with National Colour, since they’ve got the power to distribute Univisual Colour that everyone can see, regardless of social class. As an art person, I am totally hooked.

So, all the cool color stuff aside (like chromatology! Swatchmen show people specific colors to help heal them! What!), Eddie meets a Grey girl named Jane who is unusually aggressive and nearly gets him killed a few times, but she’s clearly got some cool secrets he just can’t help but try to find out about. So as with any good dystopia, Eddie uncovers little by little that his society isn’t all he thought it was, and there may in face be something terribly sinister going on. What with possible murders and unexpected wheelbarrows and all.

Plus! A spoon shortage, giant predatory swans, a naked wandering man everyone pretends isn’t there, drugs in the shade of lime green, political intrigue, Ovaltine, ball lighting, and merit-pins that basically amount to pet-shaming, but for people.

It seems there are at least two more in the works, and I’m greatly looking forward to the continuation of the story. It’s tough to mix absurd and thought-provoking, but Fforde definitely did that, and maybe you should go read that book instead of this blog. It’s cool. I’ll wait.

Title: Shades of Grey
Author: Jasper Fforde
Pages: 432
Rating: 5 out of 5

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