It could be quite difficult to write my book thoughts on ‘Shades of Grey’ by Jasper Fforde. I should instantly clear up the fact that this is not because it’s a difficult book to read, it’s just got such a huge scope. I hadn’t read any Jasper Fforde before I read this novel (although I have wanted too for ages and tried to have ‘The Eyre Affair’ as a choice for an old book group) and so in some ways I didn’t really know what to expect. I did get a whole lot of something that I wasn’t expecting.
In Shades of Grey we meet Eddie Russett who is stuck inside a carnivorous plant that a girl he shouldn’t have fallen in love with, because she is a Grey, has pushed him in. As he contemplates a highly likely death he tells us of the story of how he got there from leaving his home and his “possibly” fiancée Constance and heading away with his father to the Outer Fringes and East Carmine in a dystopian future where people are put in a social order by the colours that they can see, the Russett’s being Reds. However things start to go very strange when Eddie’s father saves a Grey who has disguised himself as a purple and another Grey, Jane, suddenly turns up in his life bringing along a whole heap of adventure that takes us through an amazing landscape and a host of unusual characters and creatures. That sums up the start of the story but there is so much more to the book than just a great premise.
The book is utterly compelling; it’s also bizarre in a brilliant way. It was some of these bizarre things such as the fact that people go to the Emerald City to reboot (too long to explain) that both made me more interested and slightly concerned at the beginning that maybe this wasn’t going to be for me. I was also slightly worried that this was going to just be a rewriting of Nineteen Eighty-Four, but then won’t that happen to any dystopian book initially. Fortunately I soon realised this was nothing like Nineteen Eighty-Four, not because it isn’t as good but because you simply cannot compare the two other than they are both set in a future. Have I mentioned that the book is very, very funny? I wasn’t expecting to laugh out loud and I did quite a lot which only added to my enjoyment. I was happily lost in Jasper Fforde’s world and didn’t want to leave; I am very much looking forward to going back there when the next in the series comes out.
I am still left feeling like I haven’t explained the book enough, but it’s a tough job. As I mentioned this doesn’t mean it’s a tough book and the fact that I was hooked reading it through a bout of lurgy shows that. It was a wonderful and very witty escapist read. It has also left me wanting to read lots more of Jasper Fforde’s work which has been described by Books On The Nightstand (who I might be quoting non stop for while) as ‘literary science fiction’ and sums up Shades of Grey, though if you aren’t a fan of science fiction still give this wonderful book a whirl.
So who else has had a read of this or who really wants to? What other books by Jasper Fforde have you read and would recommend? Finally, which Fforde should I try next the Tuesday Next or the Nursery Crimes series?