Book Review: Shades of Grey by Jasper Fforde

Shades of Grey by Jasper Fforde

Genres: Adult fiction, dystopia, science fiction.

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.

“The cucumber and the tomato are both fruit; the avocado is a nut. To assist with the dietary requirements of vegetarians, on the first Tuesday of the month a chicken is officially a vegetable.”

I was immediately blown away by how realistic, original and detailed the world in Shades of Grey was. In this dystopian society, social hierarchy is determined by an individual’s perception of colour. Eddie Russet is a Red – only second from the bottom of the hierarchy. He, like others, cannot see any other natural colour unless it is created artificially. His aim is to marry into the Oxblood family and increase his position in society but he becomes infatuated with Jane, a lowly Grey, and a trip to the Outer Fringes throws everything he’s aimed for, and believed in, in disarray. Eddie is about to discover what his world is really like.

There are so many details (and all of them extremely well thought-out) that I cannot even begin to explain what I liked about this novel. The description summarises the society much better than I can:  “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.”

The novel is very slow-paced but that’s because the thrill is in discovering this world for yourself: learning its social and legal rules, meeting many unique and hilarious characters, and discovering why this world most definitely not the utopia it appears to be.

I’m not giving the novel the full five star rating because I did get quite confused during the dénouement, but I imagine everything will make more sense when I reread it in the future. I cannot speak more highly of this novel… it’s fantastic. I’d recommend it to those looking for intelligent dystopian novels to read or just looking for something a little bit different. I’m very much looking forward to the sequel, Painting by Numbers, even though it isn’t due to be released until 2013.

Flipback review
I read this book in the new flipback format. While it was quite awkward to read at first, I soon became absorbed in the storyline and it became easier to hold and use. It was perfect for taking on the plane and reading on holiday – small, compact, sturdy (it’s a mini hardback, basically) but I did find it quite difficult to read when it was breezy. The paper is the kind they use in Bibles and it kept fluttering about and so I had to keep strategically placing my fingers, which is not what you really want to have to think about while reading a book. I’m unsure as to whether I’ll be buying more as ‘normal’ paperbacks are easier to hold, but it was an ideal option for holiday reading.

My Rating:★★★★½

4 thoughts on “Book Review: Shades of Grey by Jasper Fforde

  1. […] it for being a satire – something I didn’t realise I was enjoying back when I read Shades of Grey. It was originally considered to be a view of a utopian society and it’s easy to see why […]

  2. […] decided that I really should read more Jasper Fforde since I loved Shades of Grey. Hodder & Stoughton kindly sent me The Eyre Affair for review. I really love the cover. […]

  3. […] Picoult Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood Pure by Julianna Baggott Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier Shades of Grey by Jasper Fforde Sister by Rosamund Lupton The Book of Lies by Mary Horlock The Girl with the […]

  4. […] and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shafer & Annie Barrows The Spindlers by Lauren Oliver Shades of Grey by Jasper […]

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