Thursday, January 15, 2015

Book Review: Shades of Grey

Book Review: Shades of Grey by Jasper Fforde

Goodreads Description: Part social satire, part romance, part revolutionary thriller, Shades of Grey tells of a battle against overwhelming odds. In a society where the ability to see the higher end of the color spectrum denotes a better social standing, Eddie Russet belongs to the low-level House of Red and can see his own color—but no other. The sky, the grass, and everything in between are all just shades of grey, and must be colorized by artificial means.

Eddie's world wasn't always like this. There's evidence of a never-discussed disaster and now, many years later, technology is poor, news sporadic, the notion of change abhorrent, and nighttime is terrifying: no one can see in the dark. Everyone abides by a bizarre regime of rules and regulations, a system of merits and demerits, where punishment can result in permanent expulsion.

Eddie, who works for the Color Control Agency, might well have lived out his rose-tinted life without a hitch. But that changes when he becomes smitten with Jane, a Grey Nightseer from the dark, unlit side of the village. She shows Eddie that all is not well with the world he thinks is just and good. Together, they engage in dangerous revolutionary talk.

My Review:  Shades of Grey was recommended to me by a coworker when we got to talking about books, and am I ever so grateful he did. I fell immediately in love with Jasper Fforde and his wonderfully quirky writing style. Right from the beginning, this book draws you in with our main character being eaten by a tree, and the weirdness quickly spreads as Fforde slowly introduces us to a world far in our own future, after the Something That Happened and multiple Leapbacks, leaving human society static and social classes determined by what colour you can see. It can come off a tad dystopic, in the way all societies can turn dystopic, even our own. Aside from that, this story is a far cry from anything titled dystopia and more often has a whimsical and romantic side to it, as one of the major subplots of the book is who will marry who to get children who can see more colour or for financial or social reasons.

After moving to a small town on the outer fringes with his father, Eddie is enthralled by a beautiful and mysterious girl and her connection to the theft of colour swatches, Greys impersonating as higher up colours, and murders framed as accidents. While nearly every other character adheres to the subtle social standards that are touched upon throughout the entire book, Jane is interesting in that she does not. She is brash, loud, and forward, so it's easy to see why Eddie falls for her. In a world where Munsell's Rules dictate everything, Jane is up for Reboot for her disrespectful actions-- where she will be reeducated into a proper member of society. But it's never as simple as that.

The beauty in this book, to me, was the balance between introspection and action. If this balance is thrown off, we can get bogged down too much by the MC's opinions or lost in non-stop action that has little to no meaning. Fforde's writing is perfectly set with quirky, clever observations with smooth, fluid action always a step behind. The tension, at times, is not as strong, but there are definite parts that ramp up the tension, though often in quieter ways. Mystery seems to be the frontrunner for drawing people in. The first half of the book presents you with several different threads, all seemingly random, and the second half ties it all together in a wonderful little bow. Though, at times, I would question whether something was really necessary in the plot (Such as, at times, the marriage subplot) but each subplot came together by the end and left me feeling extremely satisfied.

I would love to stand on my chair and proclaim the ending to everyone, but couldn't imagine spoiling such a wonderfully delicious ending. The only possible thing I could complain about is that its sequel is still not out, despite the book being released in 2009. By the end, high stakes have been established and conflicts are set up for the future which only makes me want to clamor to see what comes next. Though Shades of Grey stands as an excellent book on its own, the originality and creativity that went into this series has left me desperate for more.

Please, please share this book with those around you. This is an absolutely delightful read and would add to anyone's library. I'm looking forward to getting my hands on more of his books, for sure.

TL;DR: 5/5. For the love of all things wordy, YOU NEED TO READ THIS BOOK. 

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