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Shades of Grey: A Novel Hardcover – December 29, 2009


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Viking Adult; First Edition edition (December 29, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0670019631
  • ISBN-13: 978-0670019632
  • Product Dimensions: 1.3 x 6.4 x 9.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (202 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #496,299 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

This inventive fantasy from bestseller Fforde (The Eyre Affair) imagines a screwball future in which social castes and protocols are rigidly defined by acuteness of personal color perception. Centuries after the cryptically cataclysmic Something That Happened, a Colortocracy, founded on the inflexible absolutes of the chromatic scale, rules the world. Amiable Eddie Russett, a young Red, is looking forward to marrying a notch up on the palette and settling down to a complacent bourgeois life. But after meeting Jane G-23, a rebellious working-class Grey, and a discredited, invisible historian known as the Apocryphal man, Eddie finds himself questioning the hitherto sacred foundations of the status quo. En route to finding out what turned things topsy-turvy, Eddie navigates a vividly imagined landscape whose every facet is steeped in the author's remarkably detailed color scheme. Sometimes, though, it's hard to see the story for the chromotechnics. 10-city author tour. (Jan.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

*Starred Review* In Eddie Russett’s world, color is destiny. People’s perceptions of color, once tested, determine their rank in the Colortocracy, with primes ruling “bastard” colors and everyone lording it over the prole-like grays. No one can see more than their own color, and no one knows why—but there are many unknowns ever since Something Happened, followed by the deFacting and successive Great Leaps Backward. Due to an infraction against the Collective’s rule-bound bureaucracy, Eddie is sent to East Carmine, in the Outer Fringes, where manners are shockingly poor, to conduct a monthlong chair census. In short order, he falls in love, runs afoul of the local prefects, learns a terrible secret, and is eaten by a carnivorous tree. This series starter combines the dire warnings of Brave New World and 1984 with the deevolutionary visions of A Canticle for Leibowitz and Riddley Walker, but, Fforde being Fforde, his dystopia includes an abundance of tea shops and a severe shortage of jam varieties. It’s all brilliantly original. If his complex world building sometimes slows the plot and the balance of silly and serious is uneasy, we’re still completely won over. In our own willful myopia, we sorely need the laughs. --Keir Graff

More About the Author

Jasper Fforde traded a varied career in the film industry for staring vacantly out of the window and arranging words on a page. He lives and writes in Wales. The Eyre Affair was his first novel in the bestselling Thursday Next series. He is also the author of the Nursery Crime series.

Customer Reviews

The characters are well drawn and feel very real.
D. Cashin
I'm used to a bit of brain exercise from Jasper's other books, but this one took about two-thirds of the book before I really understood what the dickens was going on!
Gen of North Coast Gardening
This book took me a little while to get into, but it's worth the read.
JTFanClub

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

117 of 126 people found the following review helpful By Susan Tunis TOP 500 REVIEWER on December 29, 2009
Format: Hardcover
6.1.02.11.235: Artifiacture from before the Something That Happened may be collected, so long as it does not appear on the Leapback list or possess color above 23 percent saturation.

Did you understand that? You would if you were Eddie Russett, the 20-year-old, first-person narrator of Shades of Grey: The Road to High Saffron. Eddie knows that the above is one of Munsell's innumerable Rules. "The Word of Munsell was the Rules, and the Rules were the Word of Munsell. They regulated everything we did, and had brought peace to the Collective for nearly four centuries. They were sometimes very odd indeed: The banning of the number that lay between 72 and 74 was a case in point, and no one had ever fully explained why it was forbidden to count sheep, make any new spoons or use acronyms. But they were the Rules..." Not surprisingly, this is a society that has embraced "loopholery" enthusiastically.

Eddie's society is a Colortocracy, where social status isn't determined by merit or by birth, it's determined by which color(s) of the spectrum you can see, and how much of them. Eddie's a Red, which is next to lowest on the totem pole. Oranges are higher than Reds, Yellows higher than Oranges, and so on. The only ones lower than Reds are the Greys, or achromatics. They can't see any color at all. They're the unappreciated workers of this society.

In Shades of Grey, Jasper Fforde has created a richly imagined future that revolves entirely around color, and the perception of it. Explains Eddie, "No one could cheat the Colorman and the color test. What you got was what you were, forever. Your life, career and social standing decided right there and then, and all worrisome life uncertainties eradicated forever.
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39 of 42 people found the following review helpful By S. Lionel TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on January 6, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Oh, how I missed Jasper Fforde! I devoured his Thursday Next series and then the Nursery Crime books, and definitely had mixed feelings when he wrote that his next book would be delayed a year due to the birth of his new daughter. (I understand, really, but I also wanted to read more Fforde!)

At last, we have Shades of Grey, and it's both like and unlike anything Fforde has published before. Like, because it gives us a richly imagined world with absurd-sounding details, yet it all hangs together. Unlike, because Shades of Grey is firmly on the side of science fiction whereas his other books I'd call fantasy.

It is some unspecified time in the future. An "Epiphany" occurred some hundreds of years in the past - nobody knows what it was - that changed the world. Most people can see only one shade of color - the higher up the spectrum you can see, the higher your social status. Those who can't see colors at all are Greys and are generally a servant class, but not entirely. It is possible to move up and down the social strata through marriage, and children are reclassified by a color test given when they are 20.

We meet our hero, Eddie Russett, a Red, as he is being digested by a carnivorous tree, into which he was thrown by Jane, the Grey woman who has turned his life upside down. I spent a large part of the book wondering how this would be resolved, since Eddie is narrating the story and this implies he somehow moved past this fate. We shall see....

As Eddie learns more about how his society works, he has more questions. This does not endear him to the community leaders, since their society is rigidly structured according to the rules laid down by "Munsell" some centuries past.
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50 of 60 people found the following review helpful By Nicole Del Sesto on December 29, 2009
Format: Hardcover
9.3.88.32.025: 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.

If you've read and loved Fforde in the past stop right here. There's no need to read this review. Shades of Grey is Fforde at his Ffordy best. Buy, read, enjoy.

I really feel that this is one of those books that it's best not to know anything about before you start reading it. But you seem rather committed to reading this review, so I'll continue.

It feels like there's a nod to both Brave New World and We (Modern Library Classics), though I've never read anything quite like this. Once again, Fforde takes us into a cleverly devised fictional world, filled with his satire, humor and social commentary. A world where the cause of death could be "mildew", "Nightloss", or accidental beheading by the guillotine at the linoleum factory.

Green is the drug of choice, and beige is quite rightly Hell, and I can't even begin to expound upon the Perpetulite.

"I'm not a big fact person," said Mr. Crimson, who was honest, even if a twit. "Unproved speculation is more my thing ... "

This book is the first in a trilogy. Enjoy.
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23 of 26 people found the following review helpful By Marika McCoola on December 31, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Ever since I picked up a copy of The Eyre Affair at a used bookstore in Chicago, I've been a bit obsessed with Jasper Fforde. Now on my second copy of The Eyre Affair (the first was lent and never returned) and with an addiction to the audio versions of his books as well, I hunger when I hear of a new publication.

I have been looking forward to Shades of Grey ever since the teaser went up on Fforde's website. Unfortunately, the publication date was released, delayed, delayed again, and then finally established (of course, no matter when the release date is, it is always too far away). Lucky for me, the appearance of an advanced reader's copy at the bookstore I work at meant no more waiting.

For those of you unfamiliar with Fforde's work, he has written the Thursday Next series, the Nursery Crimes series, and now, Shades of Grey (the first in a trilogy). If you haven't read Fforde before, start with the Thursday Next novels, move to Nursery Crime, an then pick up the newest. While Thursday Next is certainly my favorite, Fforde's bizarre worlds and witty British humor are enjoyable in each of his series. Enough of this chatter- on to Shades of Grey.

Shades of Grey starts off slowly. Fforde's new world is complex and confusing and it takes a good quarter of the book to establish an understanding of world and how it works. This initial section sets up the entirety of the book and if you hang in there, you will be rewarded. Fforde's new world is wonderful; it has amazing potential which I hope will be reached in the sequels now that the whole messy business of explaining things is over.

The protagonist, Eddie Russett, is a fine, upstanding young man who truly wants the best for people.
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