Monday, April 15, 2013

Review - SHADES OF GREY

Genre: [adult] speculative fiction/dystopian/satire
Publisher: Hodder (UK)/Penguin USA
# of pages: 403 (UK paperback)
Recommended for: teen & up
Hundreds of years in the future, after the Something that Happened, the world is an alarmingly different place. Life is lived according to The Rulebook and social hierarchy is determined by your perception of colour.
If George Orwell had tripped over a paint pot or Douglas Adams favoured colour swatches instead of towels . . . neither of them would have come up with anything as eccentrically brilliant as Shades of Grey.

3.5

Well, I stand by my previous comment: Jasper Fforde is such a literary genius and pretty underrated - at least in America. For those who aren't really 'sciency' enough for the aliens and space weirdness of Douglas Adams (love the movie though!) or who find themselves intimidated by the sheer enormity of Terry Pratchett's Discworld series, Jasper Fforde is a good choice.

I mean, here is a guy who invented the Nursery Crime series, which revolves around a detective dealing with the seedy underbelly of the nursery-rhyme world. And then there's the acclaimed Thursday Next series, which supposes that book characters truly exist and jump in and out of other stories.
And now he has a somewhat-comic dystopian series in which society is stratified by color perception.
I mean, Fforde probably has more genius in his farts than all the spheres of JK Rowling's cranium combined. The world of Chromatica and the different social spheres - all according to color perception - was fascinating. I mean, who would have thought of such a thing? Jasper Fforde is quite a guy, in my opinion, for constantly creating such innovative premises.

Having said all that, my appreciation for wholly original and entertaining stories only reaches so far. For a story laden with exquisite detail, Fforde's characters are surprisingly simple and basic. And honestly, a bit stereotypical. It doesn't get more stereotypical than Eddie Russett, the 20-year-old protagonist. Honestly, the guy seemed much younger and so simpleminded, with only a handful of saving-grace smart remarks and witty comebacks. For most of the novel, I waited patiently for him to grow a backbone and acquire a halfway-intriguing personality. The other characters populating the Chromotocracy were additionally one-dimensional. The enlightened heroine with an aggressive streak (and like a nod to the film noir genre, it's the woman who holds all the answers and the dopey guy who is basically a tool). There's a scheming, conniving girl who wants to use the hero to further her own agenda, the wise-cracking, smooth-talking sidekick who is dynamic but wickedly amoral, the social-climber bad guys who want to preserve their New World Order. Stereotypes, all of them. The one-dimensional characters seemed like tools to further along the plot. And though Shades is a plot-driven novel, the sequence of events was like one cliche after another. One of the most overused plot devices concerns the "I really love you, but I have to marry that one."

It's a shame, too. I have huge respect for Jasper Fforde. The only interest provided by this book was the sheer genius of the story world. I probably will pick up the sequels just to see when/if the "Something That Happened" is ever explained, but I'll definitely be skimming.

With stronger, more dynamic characters, Shades of Grey could have been a real treasure. Would I recommend it? Actually, I would. To other readers not as uptight and picky as I am, Shades of Grey offers a truly unique premise with witty, dry prose.


1 shout-outs!:

Bookworm1858 said...

Bummer this didn't totally work for you-I remember loving it when it first came out and have been craving the next book which I believe is finally due soon!

 
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