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A Reader of Fictions: Colorful - The Verve Pipe

A Reader of Fictions

Book Reviews for Just About Every Kind of Book

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Colorful - The Verve Pipe

Shades of Grey
Shades of Grey, Book 1

Author: Jasper Fforde
Pages: 400
Publisher: Penguin

Brief Summary:
In this dystopian novel, people are losing their visual acuity. No one can see at night anymore and only some people retain any part of their color vision. Our hero, Eddie Russett, is blessed with the ability to see the color red quite well, a fact which will enable him to marry well and move up in society. This society is a rule-driven hierarchy based on color: your color determines your rank, profession and where you live. Eddie's life plan is thrown out of whack when he is sent to East Carmine, a town in the Outer Fringes, to perform a chair census, an assignment intended to teach him humility.

Fforde tackles a dystopia with the same flair for the absurd that colors (punned!) his previous works. In Shades of Grey, as with the Thursday Next books, the best parts are the little details, the references and the one liners. The frame of the novel is patently nonsensical. Just accept it and enjoy the delightful tidbits along the way.

Eddie is a likable enough main character, if a bit boring. Jane, the grey (thus colorless) who has caught his fancy, however, is fantastic: rude, mocking and sarcastic. In general, a hoot. In fact, she is a bit like me, only much more violent and determined to make a difference. Her ides of romance is one I can totally agree with: "'You may have noticed I have a temper, [Jane] said, 'but when I calmed down, I realized that this world, blighted and imperfect as it is, would be better with you in it.'" Now that's romance!

For any book lovers or librarians out there (and who else would be drawn to this book, really?), the chapter about the Unlibrary is a definite highlight. So too are the silly rules by which the society is governed, such as the fact that the production of spoons is forbidden. Each chapter begins with a new rule, so make sure to watch out for those. Many of them made me giggle.

Shades of Grey is definitely a bit clunky in places and feels a bit long at times, but was overall quite a fun read. The ending was a bit disheartening, but I suppose I cannot complain about that what with it being a dystopia and all. Still, that was easy to forget and I wanted a slightly happier conclusion. If you enjoy absurdist humor, Fforde is an author not to be missed.

"Look ahead as far as you can see it
We'll live in drama but we'll die in a comedy and
I know I can be colorful (we're living in color blind)
I know I can be gray (my colors fade away)
And I know this losers living fortunate
Cause I know, you will love me
Yes I know, you will love me
I know, you will love me
Either way"

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