Shades of Grey by Jasper Fforde

Rating 9.0/10
The characters are amazingly well written, the use of colour ingenious.

It’s a shame that the title of this book is similar to another very famous title as the subject matter is completely different and this book to most people will be much more satisfying to read. Shades of Grey is set in a fairly dystopian world after the “Something that Happened” which is never explained and so this could be a future reality of the world we live in now. The main character, Eddie Russett, is a Red, which defines his place in The Collective. The Collective is based on the colours that people can see. With a hierarchy that is bottom heavy, Purples are at the top, followed by Blue, Green, Yellow, Orange and Red. Underneath all the colours are the Grey’s, who are numerous.

Eddie is on a trip to the outskirts to learn humility but whilst there he learns a whole lot more. Most of the inhabitants of the Collective do not question the life they lead - they are almost bred to not question the status quo of their reality, and they are only taught what they need to know. In this way everyone toes the line and if you are not a valuable member of society then you are sent to Reboot to be retaught communal good conduct.

On their way to East Carmine Eddie, and his father who is heading that way as a temporary Swatchman (like a doctor), take a brief stop when Eddie sees Jane, a grey who happens to be anything but a responsible citizen. Through this chance meeting Eddie slowly has his eyes opened not only to the way East Carmine is corrupt, but how The Collective may be a greater evil than ever imagined.

The characters are amazingly well written. Generally, with a character like Eddie, I would be really annoyed at his naivety and yet he has an endearing quality that makes you hope he survives the story. The cast of supporting characters is vast but believable, with society as closely monitored as can be, as well as people manipulating the system for their own benefit - they almost seem human. I would love to know what the “Something that Happened” actually was that made society like this.

The many uses of colour are ingenious. Natural colour seems to be a commodity that is slowly disappearing but you would only be able to see the colour you were born with. So if you were born a Red you would never see Green, and a Grey would never see natural colour. There is also Univisual colour which is synthetic in nature, which everyone can see although there are costs involved.

This is a very detailed book with lots of comedic and dark moments hidden within this seemingly idyllic world. If you have never read anything by Jasper Fforde this may be a good book to start with.

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