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.)
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*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