One of my all-time favorite authors is Jasper Fforde. His Thursday Next novels rank high on my list of favorite books. So, I was excited when Fforde started a new series, Shades of Grey about a society that couldn’t see colors like you and me. Instead, people have colors they can see more than others so society has created a hierarchy around the chromatic scale. Our hero, Edward Russett is a Red who is being sent to the Outer Fringes for a dose of humility. He is days away from his Color being declared and being a full member of society. Upon his arrival, Eddie meets Jane Grey and suddenly the very normal, very safe future he had planned doesn’t seem so certain.
A review I read on Goodreads about Shades of Grey: The Road to High Saffron said that the first pages of a Fforde book are like being plunged into the deep end of a pool. You spend the next 100 pages trying to re-surface. His worlds are complex and fully realized and he doesn’t waste time explaining them to a reader. He pays his readers the great compliment of letting them figure what’s going on as the story develops. Fforde’s books are always an inherent mystery as a reader tries to understand the world in which the story is taking place, then a reader actually gets to the mystery of the story itself. As the first book in a series, Fforde spends a lot of time setting up the series’s bigger goals and mysteries. He also lets us get to know Eddie Russett/deMauve and Jane Grey/Brunswick, the heroes of the series. Eddie is one of those fun dystopian characters, the reluctant hero who has a vague idea that everything might not be what it seems. He has a fatal flaw that usually dooms dystopian heroes, he is curious. He asks questions and it is this trait that eventually wins him the girl of his dreams. Jane is a tough character who spends a great deal of the book threatening to kill Eddie but she’s smart, clever and knows there is more to the Collective than meets the eye. The world they live in is full of manipulative people and a government that is ruling by fear of the unknown and together they’ve resolved to take it down, one color conspiracy at a time.
Fforde never fails to deliver with witty, fast-paced dialogue, a riveting story and a world in which anything can happen. I cannot wait for the next two installments!