Not too long ago, I went to see Jasper Fforde speak at the Australian National University. He was kind enough to sign my battered copy of his book “The Eyre Affair”, and it was great hearing him speak. I was telling a friend of mine about this and she highly recommended another book of his called “Shades of Grey” (not to be mistaken for the infamous BDSM-lite novel “Fifty Shades of Grey”). I was browsing my local Dymocks store recently and Fforde’s name caught my eye with a little tag underneath his book that said ‘signed copy’. I couldn’t NOT buy it.
“Shades of Grey” is set in a dystopian future England where people can no longer see all the colours in the visible light spectrum. Society has been stratified based on what colours you can see, with purple being at the top and red being at the bottom. People who cannot see any colour at all are the Greys, and they are more or less used as slave labour. The main character is a Red called Eddie Russett who has been sent to a backwaters town called East Carmine to conduct a chair census while his dad works as the new swatchman (i.e. doctor). Eddie suspects that he had ruffled a few feathers after playing a prank and concentrates on getting himself back home to his wealthy, semi-betrothed sweetheart. However after he meets the mysterious and extremely volatile Grey called Jane, Eddie’s priorities take a dramatic shift.
This book was an absolute breath of fresh air. Sometimes when I’m reading, I get a little bogged down in the idea that everything has been done before and nothing is a new idea. If you ever get stuck in that kind of mindset, drop everything and read this book. It is so original and wild and clever, and I’ve said it before, but Jasper Fforde is pretty much a comedian who writes his jokes rather than saying them. The concept of this book is so unique and the execution is almost flawless. The world of Chromatacia is hilarious, arbitrary and disturbingly still a lot like our own.
There’s nothing much else to say about this book except that if you like fantasy or mystery or science fiction or dry British humour, then you’ll get a kick out of this. Jasper Fforde’s novels defy classification, and this is a book that I think most people would get something from.