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119 of 124 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fforde moves from literary fantasy to science fiction
It was not a month ago that I finished my last Jasper Fforde book, and was bemoaning the lack of further work by him to read. So I was more than delighted to have the opportunity to read his latest book.

This is the first book in another new series. I spend the first thirty pages of a Jasper Fforde series undergoing severe cognitive dissonance - or to put it...
Published on 2 Dec 2009 by P. M. Fernandez

versus
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars .......ooh, a difficult one.
This is a really good example of where Amazon reader reviews are so useful. I found this book REALLY hard to get into. Without any preamble, the author launches the reader into a very strange world thats quite difficult to comprehend, at first. A person's status in society is decided on by their ability to perceive colour, although most - from what I can gather - are only...
Published on 28 May 2012 by pigsmayfly


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119 of 124 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fforde moves from literary fantasy to science fiction, 2 Dec 2009
By 
P. M. Fernandez "exilefromgroggs" (London) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Shades of Grey (Hardcover)
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It was not a month ago that I finished my last Jasper Fforde book, and was bemoaning the lack of further work by him to read. So I was more than delighted to have the opportunity to read his latest book.

This is the first book in another new series. I spend the first thirty pages of a Jasper Fforde series undergoing severe cognitive dissonance - or to put it another way, wondering what the heck is going on. The next thirty pages are spent thinking something like: "Hmm. Let's run with this a little further." And the rest of the book (and indeed, subsequent books in the series) passes by in an increasingly addicted scamper.

The plot of "Shades of Grey" moves Fforde firmly in the direction of Science Fiction, rather than the kind of literary fantasy that constitutes the The Eyre Affair (Thursday Next) and The Big Over Easy (Nursery Crime) series, and the scope of the work is also bigger. We find ourselves in a future world, in which people have limited colour perception, and this is what determines their social standing. Edward Russett, a young man who is yet to take his place in society, finds himself struggling to accept the status quo, and as the book develops, we start to learn some sinister facts. Think of "Nineteen Eighty Four", "The Matrix" or "Brave New World", but with a lighter touch.

It isn't hard to read into "Shades of Grey" a parable of modern societies - it is well worth thinking through the implications of intolerance, racism and the priority of the system above individuals as you read the book. It is populated by authentic characters - and as with the earlier series, the principle actors are extraordinarily sympathetic.

There are few writers who, to my mind, come up with such complex and coherent imaginary universes - as with the other series, the divergence with the real world is radical, and yet seemingly consistent on the deepest levels. Fforde has been compared with Douglas Adams and Lewis Carroll, but to my mind, although they have their place, he surpasses them on a literary level. I can't wait to see how this series develops. (And I'm looking forward to hearing more about Thursday Next, as well!)

Unfortunately, now I've finished my last Jasper Fforde book, and have no further work by him to read....
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27 of 28 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wow!, 4 May 2010
By 
Jim J-R (West Sussex, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Shades of Grey (Hardcover)
I honestly can't think what to say about Shades of Grey. It's a fantastic book - deeper and much more cerebral than I had been expecting. I had thought it would be something more of a comedy romp, a little more like Fforde's previous Thursday Next and Nursery Crime series. Instead it's a modern masterpiece that I really hope becomes this half-century's equivalent to 1984.

The story is set in a post-apocalyptic world some 700 years in the future, so long after the 'Something that Happened' that no one can remember what made the world this way. Your social status is decided by colour - not of your skin, but how much, and which colour you can see. The Purples at the top of the pile down to the Reds at the bottom, and the Grey slave class that sit below the lot. Lives are lived by a set of arcane rules that no one understand, but everyone follows religiously. Until Eddie Russet has an idea to improve the efficiency of the lunch queue and his life changes beyond recognition.

It's quite frustrating in a way, as we see the world through Eddie's eyes (red) and so only learn things which he sees it fit to tell us. Usually that is not stuff about the world, as it is written 'in universe', so the narration assumes you know how the world is. As such there are lots of things you don't discover until it becomes relevant to the plot. On the other hand though this is a genius method for making want to keep turning pages to find out more, and it enables surprise to follow surprise. There are things that seem so obvious now that it seems unbelievable that I didn't see them coming.

Fforde has definitely surpassed his previous work with this one. Deep and meaningful while full of satire and humour, it's the most thought provoking novel I've read for a long time if ever. I can only hope that its sequels live up to its legacy.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars .......ooh, a difficult one., 28 May 2012
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This review is from: Shades of Grey (Paperback)
This is a really good example of where Amazon reader reviews are so useful. I found this book REALLY hard to get into. Without any preamble, the author launches the reader into a very strange world thats quite difficult to comprehend, at first. A person's status in society is decided on by their ability to perceive colour, although most - from what I can gather - are only able to perceive one colour anyway. Greys, being unable to perceive any colour, are the lowest rung on the ladder.

Left to my own devices, I would have abandonned this book after the second chapter. However, I did bother myself to read the Amazon reviews and was confused by nearly all of them saying how wonderful this book was. There were a few though, that agreed it was difficult to get into and advocated persevering, which I did. After a few more chapters, I realised I wasn't struggling with the concept anymore and really quite enjoying it.

This is much darker than Fforde's previous works, all of which I have read, and very political. I did enjoy it, however, it was hard work at first. I feel it would have been fairly simple to introduce and explain the concept to the reader, as was managed with the Thursday Next series. Personally, I'm waiting (in vain, methinks) for the follow up to The Fourth Bear............ Mr Fforde, please??
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21 of 22 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Toto, I don't think we're on the Yellow Brick Road, 15 Jun 2010
By 
Amazon Customer (Glendale, CA USA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Shades of Grey A Novel (Hardcover)
"2.3.06.02.087: Unnecessary sharpening of pencils constitutes a waste of public resources, and will be punished as appropriate.

2.3.03.01.006: Juggling shall not be practiced after 4:00 p.m.

3.06.03.12.009: Croquet mallets are not to be used for knocking in the hoops. Fine: one merit."

'- Examples of Rules to be followed by members of the Collective

Those readers of the Thursday Next series can only marvel at the flights of fancy of the author, Jasper Fforde. In SHADES OF GREY, the author creates a new fantastical realm, Chromatacia.

Herein, it's presumably our planet Earth, or one on an alternate timeline, several centuries in the future. Five-hundred years previous to the time of the book, there was the Something That Happened, an apparently cataclysmic event that left the human survivors unable to distinguish the full visible color spectrum. Now, each individual perceives only one color or color range, or a small part of several color ranges at best. Society is organized into the Collective, and an individual's social status is governed by the Chromatic Hierarchy, i.e. the color he/she can perceive. Purples are at the top. Greys, at the bottom, are treated not much better than serfs. Bacon is considered the choicest of foods. The greatest life-threatening dangers are ostensibly posed by swans, flying monkeys, pookas, ball lightning, and a carnivorous tree called a yateveo. The Collective's laws and rules for living, enforced by the widely-hated Yellows, are derived from the Word of Munsell.

Technology from the time previous to the Something That Happened survives in roads made of Perpetulite, a living substance that allows the road to repair itself and push inorganic obstacles, e.g. rocks, to the verges. Organic debris is absorbed into road itself. No potholes here.

The hero of the story is young Eddie Russett. As his name implies, he sees colors in the red spectrum. Eddie and his father have moved to the Outer Fringe village of East Carmine, at which place Eddie will take a chair census as a lesson in humility ordered by the ruling Colortocracy after he proposed a Numbered Queuing System in his prior home town of Vermillion.

Eddie is several days short of his twentieth birthday, on which date he will undergo the conventional rite of passage to adulthood, the Ishihara - a one-time, comprehensive test of his color perception that will cement his rank in the Chromatic Hierarchy for the rest of his life.

During his first days in East Carmine, Russett will experience a momentous revelation having perhaps the same psychological impact as that experienced by Ty Thorn, the Charlton Heston character in the film Soylent Green [DVD] [1973].

For me, the chief value of SHADES OF GREY is to once again stand in awe of the author's creative imagination. Otherwise, the particulars of the plot reminded me of the relatively sedate Introduction to a larger work that will, by the end, knock the readers' socks off. There are, indeed, burning questions waiting to be explored. For example, at one point, the mysterious Moon is described as "having lights on the unlit side of the crescent." Lunar settlements, perhaps? And then there are the "other glowing specks adrift in the night (sky)." Satellites, shuttlecraft? It almost sounds as if the Something That Happened isolated a piece of damaged humanity on Earth while the rest of the species went on to colonize the near-space neighborhood.

The next two installments in the series are apparently to be entitled PAINTING BY THE NUMBERS and THE GORDINI PROTOCOLS, and the prospects for having my socks knocked off seem assured indeed.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Shades of Class, 10 Mar 2010
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This review is from: Shades of Grey (Hardcover)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Like it or not, we life in a society determined by class; gone are the days of the obvious working, middle and upper classes - but the imprint of them still exists. Imagine a world which is even more structured around your class level, and in turn this level was determined by what colours you are able to see. This is the intriguing premise that is the centre of Jasper Fforde's new novel `Shades of Grey'. This is intelligent science fiction based in a world that may, or may not, be our very own in the future. The central idea of a world almost drained of colour is a hard one to get your head around, but Fforde is a skilful enough writer to ease you in. The central character of Eddie Russett is an ideal person to do this as he views the world with red tinted curiosity - in a manner that informs the reader.

For a book with such a high concept it is nice to see how English it feels. The world is one of petty bureaucracy at home in the liked of Gilliam's `Brazil', or the County Council! With so many people on the take, it is fun to see Eddie get himself in and out of trouble. The story itself is pretty limp, in this the first of a planned trilogy. Instead, it is the world itself that is at the forefront and Fforde spends almost the entire book explaining the various eccentricities of it all; from the strict law book full of typos, to the common nature of selling you children for profit. Many people may find the book too bizarre or complex, but for those people that do get through it, and begin to understand the world, there is a very funny and interesting book to be found.
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32 of 35 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Exciting Writing!, 28 Nov 2009
By 
Donald Lush "lushd" (United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Shades of Grey (Hardcover)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Thanks to Amazon Vine, Jasper Forde has just become one of my favourite authors. I don't really know where to begin in praising this book.

Superficially it's a lengthy tour of a charming dystopia. If it was only that, it would be a comic gem. We are plunged into a society that works through detailed regulation and bureaucracy, founded in the aftermath of the collapse of ours. The comedy comes from the subversion of the rules. Or The Rules, as they are known. And there is much inspired and delicious subversion as all the characters indulge in what is delightfully known as "loopholery".

But of course, it goes deeper. Satire holds a mirror to the present and reflection on the foibles of the future Colourtocracy reveals much about the stupidity and dangers of the present. I especially enjoyed the exaggerated respect paid to trivia - obsessive attention paid to social status while the appalling brutality and exploitation inflicted by almost every act of this apparently stable and rational world is gently glossed over (sorry, paint metaphors come much too easily after reading this story). Every sentence rings deep alarm bells about the way we live today, as well as raising a smile and often a belly laugh.

The great failing of fantastic writing like this is that is often too concerned with satire to make the characters worth caring for. Not so here - Fordes characters are generously painted (ahem, sorry again) in warm and sympathetic colours. Their drama is entirely believable and engrossing. The dialogue is always witty and sharp and there is always a rewarding puzzle to mull over as Forde reveals layers of his world with great subtlety and wit.

If you haven't read him before, you will be reminded of Swift and Douglas Adams frequently but will never forget you are safely in the hands of a witty and creative original author whose voice is entirely his own and completely compelling.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Loved it, 2 Feb 2011
This review is from: Shades of Grey (Paperback)
I really did enjoy this book a lot. I've read the "Thursday Next" books by Jasper Fforde previously and thoroughly enjoyed them. The world he inhabits is strangely different and strangely similar to ours - this cleverly done, well written and highly amusing. Shades of Grey however is in some ways very different from the Thursday ones which are (relatively) straightforward fantasy. It is set is a post apocalyptic world although we do not know the nature of the disaster which has befallen an age somewhat after our current time but leaving many feature we can recognise and a body of law laid down which is unquestionably bizarre, clever and funny. There have been a number of "Leapbacks" since the "Time When Something Happened" which have removed many traces of useful technology including spoons but no other eating implements... Fortunately there is the word of Munsell which lays down any number of rules many of which are highly amusing.

However this differs quite a bit from the Thursday Next books in that it has a very dark under current running all through it - I happily laughed at the rules and procedures and then starting thinking a little deeper. For me there is more than a nod to an Orwellian world which has a flavour of both Animal Farm and 1984. Colour provides the hierarchy in this world (the ability to perceive colours) and those who do not get the merits required to remain citizens are sent to Reboot.

Either way the life of Eddie Russett, who has quite high Red perception, and is sent to Outer Fringes to gain Humility, and Jane, a mere Grey who would certainly injure me for that comment, who lives there, is due for Reboot and has explored far more of the surrounding area which is now "wild" than almost any others, had me gripped. The bad news is I now want to read the others in the series and they will not be available for quite a while. If "off the wall" fantasy coupled with dark manipulative higher powers appeal I would strongly recommend this book.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Ballard meets Tom Sharpe? Quirky, witty & mischievous sci-fi., 24 April 2010
By 
Cartimand (Hampshire, UK.) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Shades of Grey (Hardcover)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This is the first Fforde novel I have read (courtesy of the excellent Vine programme) but it certainly won't be the last!
Shades of Grey traverses many genres and works on several levels; as a post-apocalyptic epic with almost Ballardesque overtones, it is always visionary enough to hold the readers' interest for its almost 500 pages. As a profound commentary on the nature of class, caste or race, it is caustically perceptive throughout. As a robust and witty satire, it certainly had enough laugh-out-loud moments to tickle my funny bone. It is also packed full of clever, memorable and eminently quotable bons mots which I will shamefully plagiarise and drop into conversation every now and then (thanks Jasper!).
To paraphrase one of these; even clever readers may not fully understand Shades of Grey, but can pride themselves on having at least misunderstood it at a deeper level.
My only possible reservation is that Shades of Grey could be perceived as trying hard to be something of a jack of all trades. The die-hard sci-fi aficionado for example would surely rather turn to the likes of Iain M Banks, and satire fans to Sharpe or Adams?
But it certainly worked for me. Very clever stuff and highly recommended!
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17 of 19 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good start to a series, 16 Dec 2009
By 
D. Harris (Oxford, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Shades of Grey (Hardcover)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I came to this with some misgivings, as I have previously found Fforde's books a little twee and cloying. However, this was (at least for me) a fresh departure. Fforde paints - or perhaps I should say shades - a world which is on the surface deceptively naive, but has chilling depths.

The central device of "Shades" (and sequels are planned) is a world where most people have limited vision (their pupils won't open and they can't see at all at night) and little or no perception of natural colour at all. As a result, those who can see natural colour to any degree have greater social status, with a hierarchy which depends on which colours they can see. Colour is valued in other ways too - artificial colours (which everyone can see, I think - although this wasn't totally clear?) are provided by a utility, National Colour, whose mains pipes every community wishes to have access to. The search for colour is an endless preoccupation with each separate community sending out "toshers" to forage in ruined towns for scrap colour.

Quite how things got this way isn't clear - this is obviously our world, several hundred years in the future. There has been a war, perhaps, or an epidemic, and a society which had developed subtle ways of using colour for education, entertainment and medicine has fallen. Its influence remains, though - for example, "swatchmen" treat illness by showing the sick swatches of the right colour. Look at the wrong colour too long, though, and you're dead, or as good as.

This world is described well and in detail. This is where my only reservation comes in - the middle of the book drags rather as Eddie (I hadn't mentioned that the hero is Eddie Maroon, a Red about to fall in love with ... ugh ... a GREY of all people) potters round East Crimson (yes, all the places have colour names) doing nothing in particular. I think this is what's termed "world building" - Fforde is writing a series of novels and has to set out the background first. Hopefully, with that out of the way, the remainder will be a little pacier.

But don't misunderstand, I enjoyed this book, which manages to be both sinister (look out for the Colourman) and funny (the marriage market in East C. resembles nothing so much as Jane Austen, with the added twist that couples' compatibility depends on their colour orientation - if you and your beloved are complementary colours, forget it, that just isn't done.)

What else? A bizarre Rulebook that governs every aspect of life (leading to a thriving science of "loopholery"), Leapback (every ten years, another technology is proscribed: this is a Great Leap Backwards) and an Apocryphal Man... wonderful, and I'm looking forward to the sequels.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Can hardly wait for the sequel, 1 Jan 2011
By 
S. B. Kelly (London United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Shades of Grey (Paperback)
After the slightly disappointing Nursery Crimes (bit too silly), it's great to see fforde back on top form with this new series.

Set in the distant future, post-apocalypse (or Something that Happened, as the characters call it), society is rigidly demarcated depending on what colours you can see and how well you can see them, with the colour-blind greys forming an underclass which is worked like slaves. Young Eddie Russet is no rebel despite being sent on temporary (he hopes) relocation to East Carmine for daring to suggest an improved method of queueing; he intends to marry into the wealthy Oxblood family and play his part in the Collective. But meeting grey Jane, with her anarchic spirit and propensity for sudden violence, makes him reassess all he believes, and soon his position in society and even his life are under threat.

fforde wouldn't be fforde without his brilliant jokes. My favourite concerns one of the detailed, petty rules but which life is conducted in the Collective. For 200 years every child is given a glass of milk and a smack at 11am, until someone tentatively suggests that 'smack' may be a typo.

This is one of those books that you read quickly because you want to know what happens while, at the same time, wishing it would go for another 1000 pages.
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Shades of Grey
Shades of Grey by Jasper Fforde (Paperback - 6 Jan 2011)
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