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Grey Paperback – February 1, 2007

19 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

A Romeo-and-Juliet tale of star-crossed lovers and their conflicted families plays out against a futuristic backdrop shaped by outrageous fashion trends in Armstrong's offbeat debut fantasy. Michael Rivers, heir-apparent to a hi-tech security empire, is poised to wed Nora Gonzalez-Matsu, heiress-apparent to a rival firm, when an assassin's failed attempt on his life humiliates the company and scuttles the nuptials. Though the planned union seemed as calculated as the business merger behind it, incurably romantic Michael believes that Nora, whose lifestyle is governed by the same fashion magazine to which he's addicted, is his soul mate. When he repudiates his father's scheme to marry him into another corporate family and attempts a forbidden reunion with Nora, he discovers nasty realities that have made his coddled life possible. This routine romance plot is virtually secondary to the giddy elaboration of a future world so saturated with advertising and fashion imagery that its most public transactions are orchestrated like runway walks. Though the story runs on a little longer than it should, its playful take on fashionistas of the future is diverting. (Feb.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

In a future controlled by the fabulously wealthy Families, whose every move is a media event, Michael, 19-year-old RiverGroup heir, is engaged to MKG heiress Nora. Indicative of the business merger their marriage seals, their conversation is coded in quotations from their favorite magazine, Pure H. Just before the wedding, someone tries to assassinate Michael, wrecking the RiverGroup's ratings, confidence in the would-be merger, and Michael and Nora's perfect relationship. Michael questions his father (a terrible businessman, more showman than anything else), everything he thought he knew about life, and the identity of the assassins as he tries to salvage his relationship with Nora despite both Families' objections. He searches the "slubs," where the poor and non-Family live, and visits his estranged, circus-performer mother, which proves enlightening and potentially earthshaking for the RiverGroup. Since so much of it is based on the occasionally morbid Pure H patois, the novel makes frequently strange reading, but Michael's enlightenment and the bizarre family secrets he discovers make it worthwhile reading, too. Regina Schroeder
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 200 pages
  • Publisher: Night Shade Books; First Edition edition (February 1, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1597800651
  • ISBN-13: 978-1597800655
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.5 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,498,782 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Jon grew up outside Seattle, State College, PA., and Columbia, Maryland. His parents both have fine art and art education degrees and his childhood an extended art class. His early heroes were Buckminster Fuller and Jack Benny.

In 1986, after finishing a Liberal Arts degree at the University of Pittsburgh, he moved to New York and worked at a Japanese travel agency for several years and later had a short stint with Pan Am before the airline went bankrupt. Subsequently, he became a temp and gradually taught himself graphic design. As a graphic designer, he worked for such companies as United Media, Young & Rubicam, Archie Comics, HBO, and many others.

Jon hosts a bi-weekly mostly interview podcast called, If You're Just Joining Us. While most interviews have been with authors, other guests have included a nutritional anthropologist, a textile scientist, and a classical musician.

He currently lives in Queens, New York with his wonderful wife and child.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

18 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Melissa on July 29, 2007
Format: Paperback
You've already read the plot summaries. You get the general idea.

Armstrong presents a very clever concept but one not new to those who grew up with "The Medium is the Message." Its realization in this book is uneven--sometimes, as in the opening, wry and engaging, other times tedious and predictable. The language is sometimes so uneven that I wondered whether two different people had shared the writing. I got very, very tired of Father's obscenities and his one-note metaphors; the over/misuse of "like" and "fathom" jarred increasingly. The ending just *happened*, as if the writer had grown tired of his creation. Armstrong certainly has caught the flavor, however, of today's fashion poseurs and the affected dark pseudo-sophistication of their favorite style magazines.

This is not a science-fiction book, it's just fiction, about a dystopia of the post-apocalyptic world. It's also a sendup of Ultra aesthetes, one that Oscar Wilde might appreciate.

A word of warning: The production of this novella is so dreadful that it seriously interferes with the reader's ability to enter the story. On nearly every page (I do not exaggerate) occur missteps that a decent editor would have caught--grammar errors, spelling mistakes, poor punctuation, errors of continuity (exactly WHICH eye is the gray one?), incorrect usage, confusion of vocabulary (e.g., "epithets" for "epaulettes", "sign" for "sine", "wave" for "waive"). It reminded me of long nights spent correcting student essays. It is curious that an author so adept at parodying Conde Nast publications could be guilty of such clumsiness and pratfalls of speech. Standards in this area have certainly fallen throughout the industry, but never have I seen so unprofessional an edition.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By N. Carpenter on February 26, 2007
Format: Paperback
Think "Romeo and Juliet" meet "Snow Crash". The plot is summarized quite well above, so I won't repeat. This book is, at its heart, a love story set within the context of social parody. Anyone who loves fashion, food, spirits, and all things upper-crusty will find themselves skewered in some way in this book. There are one or two outstanding moments in the book, but otherwise it's fairly predictable and somewhat shallow. The universe created by Armstrong has the opportunity to be compelling and interesting but the opportunity to enrich the world has been missed by this short work.

Not as satisfying as other genre novels, such as Patricia Sullivan's _Maul_, yet still an excellent breakout performance. Hope to see more from this author in the future.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Miknam on March 1, 2007
Format: Paperback
I work in the marketing communications world and reading this book made me hate myself. Armstrong's vision of the future and PR's effect on it is scarily dead-on. His is a distopian world where everything is part of the branding process and all conversations have messaging.
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9 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Irate Reader on August 10, 2009
Format: Paperback
Jon Armstrong's "Grey" sounds like a great book when summarized in five words or less ("Fashion Dystopia Science Fiction" for example). This is, unfortunately, the only positive thing that can be said about this infantile train wreck of a novel. It is so bad that it is insulting--to the intelligence, to the audience, to Science Fiction in general, to humanity at large.

"Grey" attempts to paint a portrait of a future where civilization is dominated by two things, corporations and the mass media: people are defined by the way they dress and they script their lives so as to maximize publicity ratings. I say "attempts" because Armstrong fails to build a cohesive world of any sort. In trying to combine a world of high fashion with a world of dystopias, Armstrong proves that he understands neither. Fashion trends are thrown around arbitrarily and no justification is given for "Grey"'s over-the-top, ridiculous satire. Characters wear dresses that explode or hats the size of houses because...well, just because. Armstrong's view of fashion is akin to that of someone who watches a chess match without knowing the rules of the game: he knows that something is going on, but he can't fully understand what it is. Luckily for him, this ignorant perspective allows him to employ a recurring plot element, the deus ex fashionista, where the (arbitrary and derivative) plot is propelled by silly articles of clothing that light up, explode, or some other such nonsense. Proper forethought and execution could have made this aspect of the novel into something brilliant; here it's just dumb.

The other aspect of "Grey"'s world, the one where corporations control everything, is so poorly fleshed out that it is barely worth mentioning. The reader knows that they are there and that they do...something...
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Andrew Liptak on June 20, 2011
Format: Paperback
A recent book caught my eyes in the bookstore the other day: Jon Armstrong's second novel, Yarn, with a gorgeous cover and an interesting looking storyline. In the midst of deciding which book to get, two others won out, and it was returned to the shelf. Followup research showed that I should have gone for it, and further searches in nearby stores came up empty.

Over the course of reading up on Yarn, I discovered that the author's first book, Grey, was set in the same universe, setting up Armstrong's particular brand of fiction, labeled `Fiction-Punk'. Better still, the publisher, Nightshade Books, had an advance reader's copy of the book up on their website, for a free download. (You can get it here.)

Grey is a quick, funny read, with a couple of caveats and assumptions to go along with that. Set in a near future dystopia, Michael Rivers is the son of a family member, part of the elite, in a world where pop culture and consumerism has run amok, in the most ridiculous fashion possible. While reading the book, I'm operating on the assumption that this book shifted more towards the satirical than rational. Rivers is a celebrity, and where reality television runs every day, with talk show hosts and talking heads talking nonstop to his own egotistical father who has a documentary filmed of his life as he's living it, reediting it as he goes.

Fashion takes a front seat in this book, and Armstrong's descriptions of the fashion of this world is a fun one. Despite the book's title, there's multiple colors everywhere, with people wearing some of the strangest things throughout, at least in the expensive and livable areas.
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