Welcome to Chromatacia, where the societal hierarchy is strictly regulated by one's limited color perception. And Eddie Russet wants to move up. But his plans to leverage his better-than-average red perception and marry into a powerful family are quickly upended. Juggling inviolable rules, sneaky Yellows, and a risky friendship with an intriguing Grey named Jane who shows Eddie that the apparent peace of his world is as much an illusion as color itself, Eddie finds he must reckon with the cruel regime behind this gaily painted façade.
|Publisher:||Penguin Publishing Group|
|Product dimensions:||5.00(w) x 7.70(h) x 0.80(d)|
|Age Range:||18 Years|
About the Author
Hometown:Brecon, Powys, Wales, United Kingdom
Date of Birth:January 11, 1961
Place of Birth:London, United Kingdom
Education:Left school at 18
Read an Excerpt
A Morning in Vermillion
It began with my father not wanting to see the Last Rabbit and endedup with my being eaten by a carnivorous plant. It wasn’t really whatI’d planned for myself— I’d hoped to marry into the Oxbloods andjoin their dynastic string empire. But that was four days ago, before Imet Jane, retrieved the Caravaggio and explored High Saffron. So insteadof enjoying aspirations of Chromatic advancement, I was wholly immersed within the digestive soup of a yateveo tree. It was all frightfullyinconvenient.
But it wasn’t all bad, for the following reasons: First, I was lucky tohave landed upside down. I would drown in under a minute, which wasfar, far preferable to being dissolved alive over the space of a few weeks.Second, and more important, I wasn’t going to die ignorant. I had discoveredsomething that no amount of merits can buy you: the truth. Notthe whole truth, but a pretty big part of it. And that was why this was allfrightfully inconvenient. I wouldn’t get to do anything with it. And thistruth was too big and too terrible to ignore. Still, at least I’d held it in myhands for a full hour and understood what it meant.
I didn’t set out to discover a truth. I was actually sent to the Outer Fringesto conduct a chair census and learn some humility. But the truth inevitablyfound me, as important truths often do, like a lost thought in need of a mind. I found Jane, too, or perhaps she found me. It doesn’t really matter. We foundeach other. And although she was Grey and I was Red, we shared a commonthirst for justice that transcended Chromatic politics. I loved her, and what’smore, I was beginning to think that she loved me. After all, she did apologizebefore she pushed me into the leafless expanse below the spread of theyateveo, and she wouldn’t have done that if she’d felt nothing.
So that’s why we’re back here, four days earlier, in the town of Vermillion,the regional hub of Red Sector West. My father and I had arrivedby train the day before and overnighted at the Green Dragon. We hadattended Morning Chant and were now seated for breakfast, disheartenedbut not surprised that the early Greys had already taken the bacon,and it remained only in exquisite odor. We had a few hours before ourtrain and had decided to squeeze in some sightseeing.
“We could always go and see the Last Rabbit,” I suggested. “I’m toldit’s unmissable.”
But Dad was not to be easily swayed by the rabbit’s uniqueness. Hesaid we’d never see the Badly Drawn Map, the Oz Memorial, the colorgarden and the rabbit before our train departed. He also pointed outthat not only did Vermillion’s museum have the best collection of Vimtobottles anywhere in the Collective, but on Mondays and Thursdays theydemonstrated a gramophone.
“A fourteen- second clip of ‘Something Got Me Started,’ ” he said, as ifsomething vaguely Red- related would swing it.
But I wasn’t quite ready to concede my choice.
“The rabbit’s getting pretty old,” I persisted, having read the safetybriefing in the “How Best to Enjoy Your Rabbit Experience” leaflet, “andpetting is no longer mandatory.”
“It’s not the petting,” said Dad with a shudder, “it’s the ears. In anyevent,” he continued with an air of finality, “I can have a productive andfulfilling life having never seen a rabbit.”
This was true, and so could I. It was just that I’d promised my bestfriend, Fenton, and five others that I would log the lonely bun’s Taxanumber on their behalf and thus allow them to note it as “proxy seen”in their animal- spotter books. I’d even charged them twenty- five centseach for the privilege— then blew the lot on licorice for Constance anda new pair of synthetic red shoelaces for me.
Dad and I bartered like this for a while, and he eventually agreed tovisit all of the town’s attractions but in a circular manner, to save on shoeleather. The rabbit came last, after the color garden.
So, having conceded to at least include the rabbit in the morning’s entertainment,Dad returned to his toast, tea and copy of Spectrum as I lookedidly about the shabby breakfast room, seeking inspiration for the postcardI was writing. The Green Dragon dated from before the Epiphany and, likemuch of the Collective, had seen many moments, each of them slightlymore timeworn than the one before. The paint in the room was peeling,the plaster molding was dry and crumbly, the linoleum tabletops wereworn to the canvas and the cutlery was either bent, broken or missing.
But the hot smell of toast, coffee and bacon, the flippant affability of thestaff and the noisy chatter of strangers enjoying transient acquaintancegave the establishment a peculiar charm that the reserved, eminentlyrespectable tearooms back home in Jade- under- Lime could never match.I noticed also that despite the lack of any Rules regarding seat plans in“ non- hue- specific” venues, the guests had unconsciously divided theroom along strictly Chromatic lines. The one Ultraviolet was respectfullygiven a table all to himself, and several Greys stood at the door waitingpatiently for an empty table even though there were places available.We were sharing our table with a Green couple. They were of matureyears and wealthy enough to wear artificially green clothes so thatall could witness their enthusiastic devotion to their hue, a proudfullyexpensive and tastelessly ostentatious display that was doubtlessfinanced by the sale of their child allocation. Our clothes were dyed ina conventional shade visible only to other Reds, so to the Greens sittingopposite we had only our Red Spots to set us apart from the Greys, andwere equally despised. When they say red and green are complementary,it doesn’t mean we like each other. In fact, the only thing that Reds andGreens can truly agree on is that we dislike Yellows more.
“You,” said the Green woman, pointing her spoon at me in an exceptionallyrude manner, “fetch me some marmalade.”
I dutifully complied. The Green woman’s bossy attitude was not atypical.We were three notches lower in the Chromatic scale, which officiallymeant we were subservient. But although lower in the Order, we werestill Prime within the long- established Red- Yellow- Blue Color Model,and a Red would always have a place in the village Council, somethingthe Greens, with their bastard Blue- Yellow status could never do. It irritatedthem wonderfully. Unlike the dopey Oranges, who accepted theirlot with a cheery, self- effacing good humor, Greens never managed torise above the feeling that no one took them seriously enough. The reasonfor this was simple: They had the color of the natural world almost exclusively to themselves, and felt that the scope of their sight- gift shouldreflect their importance within the Collective. Only the Blues could evenbegin to compete with this uneven share of the Spectrum, as they ownedthe sky, but this was a claim based mainly on surface area rather than avariety of shades, and when it was overcast, they didn’t even have that.
But if I thought she was ordering me about solely due to my hue, I wasmistaken. I was wearing a NEEDS HUMILITY badge below my Red Spot. It relatedto an incident with the head prefect’s son, and I was compelled to wear itfor a week. If the Green woman had been more reasonable, she would haveexcused me the errand due to the prestigious 1,000 MERITS badge that I alsowore. Perhaps she didn’t care. Perhaps she just wanted the marmalade.I fetched the jar from the sideboard, gave it to the Green, noddedrespectfully, then returned to the postcard I was writing. It was of Vermillion’sold stone bridge and had been given a light blue wash in thesky for five cents extra. I could have paid ten and had one with greenedgrass, too, but this was for my potential fiancée, Constance Oxblood, andshe considered overcolorization somewhat vulgar. The Oxbloods werestrictly old- color and preferred muted tones of paint wherever possible,even though they could have afforded to decorate their house to thehighest chroma. Actually, much to them was vulgar, and that includedthe Russetts, whom they regarded as nouveau couleur. Hence my status as“potential fiancé.” Dad had negotiated what we called a “half promise,”which meant I was first- optioned to Constance. The agreement fell shortof being reciprocal, but it was a good deal— a concession that, despitebeing a Russett and three generations from Grey, I might be able to see agoodly amount of red, so couldn’t be ignored completely.
“Writing to Fish- face already?” asked my father with a smile. “Hermemory’s not that bad.”
“True,” I conceded, “but despite her name, constancy is possibly herleast well- defined attribute.”
“Ah. Roger Maroon still sniffing about?”
“As flies to stinkwort. And you mustn’t call her Fish- face.”
“More butter,” remarked the Green woman, “and don’t dawdle thistime.”
We finished breakfast and, after some last- minute packing, descendedto the reception desk, where Dad instructed the porter to have our suitcasesdelivered to the station.
“Beautiful day,” said the manager as we paid the bill. He was a thin man with a finely shaped nose and one ear. The loss of an ear was not unusual,as they could be torn off annoyingly easily, but what was unusual wasthat he’d not troubled to have it stitched back on, a relatively straightforwardprocedure. More interesting, he wore his Blue Spot high up on hislapel. It was an unofficial but broadly accepted signal that he knew howto “fix” things, for a fee. We’d had crayfish for dinner the night before,and he hadn’t punched it out of ration books. It had cost us an extra halfmerit, covertly wrapped in a napkin.
“Every day is a beautiful day,” replied my father in a cheery manner.
“Indeed they are,” the manager countered genially. After we hadexchanged feedback— on the hotel for being clean and moderately comfortable,and on us, for not bringing shame to the establishment by poortable manners or talking loudly in public areas— he asked, “Do youtravel far this morning?”
“We’re going to East Carmine.”
The Blue’s manner changed abruptly. He gave us an odd look, handedback our merit books and wished us a joyously uneventful future beforeswiftly moving to attend someone else. So we tipped the porter, reiteratedthe time of our train and headed off to the first item on our itinerary.
“Hmm,” said my father, staring at the Badly Drawn Map once we haddonated our ten cents and shuffled inside the shabby yet clean maphouse,
“I can’t make head nor tail of this.”
The Badly Drawn Map might not have been very exciting, but it wasvery well named. “That’s probably why it survived the deFacting,” I suggested,for the map was not only mystifying but mind- numbingly rare.
Aside from the Parker Brothers’ celebrated geochromatic view of the PreviousWorld, it was the only pre- Epiphanic map known. But somehowits rarity wasn’t enough to make it interesting, and we stared blankly forsome minutes at the faded parchment, hoping to either misunderstandit on a deeper level or at least get our money’s worth.
“The longer and harder we look at it, the cheaper the entrance donationbecomes,” Dad explained.
I thought of asking how long we’d have to stare at it before they owedus money, but didn’t.
He put his guidebook away, and we walked back out into the warmsunlight. We felt cheated out of our ten cents but politely left positivefeedback, since the drabness of the exhibit was no fault of the curator’s.
“Why was the hotel manager so dismissive of East Carmine?”
“The Outer Fringes have a reputation for being unsociably dynamic,”he said after giving my question some thought, “and some consider thateventfulness may lead to progressive thought, with all the attendantrisks that might bring to the Stasis.”
It was a diplomatically prescient remark, and one that I had cause toconsider a lot over the coming days.
“Yes,” I said, “but what do you think?”
“I think we should go and see the Oz Memorial. Even if it’s as dullas magnolia, it will still be a thousand times more interesting than theBadly Drawn Map.”
We walked along the noisy streets toward the museum and soaked in thehustle, bustle, dust and heat of Vermillion. All about us were the traders whodealt with daily requisites: livestock herders, barrow boys, water sellers, piemen,storytellers and weight guessers. Catering for more long- term needswere the small shops, such as repairers, artifact dealers, spoon traders andcalculating shops that offered addition and subtraction while you waited.Moderators and loopholists were hirable by the minute to advise on mattersregarding the Rules, and there was even a shop that traded solely in floaties,and another that specialized in postcode genealogy. Amid it all I noticed astronger- than- usual presence of Yellows, presumably to keep an eye out forillegal color exchange, seed trading or running with a sharp implement.
Unusually for a regional hub, Vermillion was positioned pretty muchon the edge of the civilized world. Beyond it to the east were only theRedstone Mountains and isolated outposts like East Carmine. In theuninhabited zone there would be wild outland, megafauna, lost villagesof untapped scrap color and quite possibly bands of nomadic Riffraff.It was exciting and worrying all in one, and until the week before, Ihadn’t even heard of East Carmine, let alone thought I would be spendinga month there on Humility Realignment. My friends were horrified,expressed low- to- moderate outrage that I should be treated this way andproclaimed that they would have started a petition if they could havetroubled themselves to look for a pencil.
“The Fringes are the place of the slack- willed, slack- jawed andslack- hued,” remarked Floyd Pinken, who could comfortably boast allthree of those attributes, if truth be known.
“And be wary of losers, self- abusers, fence leapers and fornicators,”added Tarquin, who, given his family history, would not have seemedout of place there either.
They then informed me that I would be demonstrably insane to leavethe safety of the village boundary for even one second, and that a trip tothe Fringes would have me eating with my fingers, slouching and withhair below the collar in under a week. I almost decided to buy my wayout of the assignment with a loan from my twice- widowed aunt Beryl,but Constance Oxblood thought otherwise.
“You’re doing a what?” she asked when I mentioned the reason I wasgoing to East Carmine.
“A chair census, my poppet,” I explained. “Head Office is worriedthat the chair density might have dropped below the proscribed 1.8 perperson.”
“How absolutely thrilling. Does an ottoman count as a chair or a verystiff cushion?”
She went on to say that I would be showing significant daring andcommendable bravery if I went, so I changed my mind. With the prospectof joining the family of Oxblood and of myself as potential prefectmaterial, I was going to need the broadening that travel and furniturecounting would doubtless bring, and a month in the intolerably unsophisticatedOuter Fringes might well supply that for me.
The Oz Memorial trumped the Badly Drawn Map in that it was bafflingin three dimensions rather than just two. It was a partial bronze of agroup of oddly shaped animals, the whole about six feet high and fourfeet across. According to the museum guide, it had been cut into piecesand dumped in the river three centuries before as part of the deFacting,so only two figures remained of a possible five. The best preserved wasthat of a pig in a dress and a wig, and next to her stood a bulbous- bodiedbear in a necktie. Of the third and fourth figures there remained almostnothing, and of the fifth, only two claw- shaped feet truncated at theankles, modeled on no creature living today.
“The eyes are very large and humanlike for a pig,” said my father,peering closer. “And I’ve seen a number of bears in my life, but none ofthem wore a hat.”
“They were very big on anthropomorphism,” I ventured, which waspretty much accepted fact. The Previous had many other customs thatwere inexplicable, none more so than their propensity to intermingle fact with fiction, which made it very hard to figure out what had happenedand what hadn’t. Although we knew that this bronze had beencast in honor of Oz, the full dedication on the plinth was badly eroded, soit remained tantalizingly unconnected to any of the other Oz referencesthat had trickled down through the centuries. Debating societies hadpondered long and hard over the “Oz Question,” and published manyscholarly tracts within the pages of Spectrum. But while remnants of TinMen had been unearthed by salvage teams, and Emerald City still existedas the center of learning and administration, no physical evidence ofbrick roads had ever been found anywhere in the Collective, either ofnatural or synthetic yellow— and naturalists had long ago rejected thepossibility that monkeys could fly. Oz, it was generally agreed, had beena fiction, and a fairly odd one. But in spite of that, the bronze remained.It was all a bit of a puzzle.
After that, we paused only briefly to look at the exhibits in themuseum, and only those of more than passing interest. We stopped andstared at the collection of Vimto bottles, the preserved Ford Fiesta withits obscene level of intentional obsolescence, then at the Turner, whichDad thought “wasn’t his best.” After that, we made our way to the floorbelow, where we marveled at the realistic poses in the life- size Riffraffdiorama, which depicted a typical Homo feralensis encampment. It wasall disturbingly lifelike and full of savagery and unbridled lust, and wasfor the most part based upon Alfred Peabody’s seminal work, Seven Minutesamong the Riffraff. We stared at the lifeless mannequins with a smallcrowd of schoolchildren, who were doubtless studying the lower orderof Human as part of a Historical Conjecture project.
“Do they really eat their own babies?” asked one of the pupils as shestared with horrified fascination at the tableau.
“Absolutely,” replied the teacher, an elderly Blue who should haveknown better, “and you, too, if you don’t respect your parents, observethe Rules and finish up your vegetables.”
Personally, I had doubts about some of the more ridiculous claimsregarding Riffraff. But I kept them to myself. Conjecture was a dishmostly served up wild.
As it turned out, the phonograph would not be demonstrated, becauseboth it and the music disc had been put “beyond use” with a very largehammer. This wasn’t a result of mischief, but a necessary outcome ofLeapback Compliance issues, as some fool hadn’t listed the device onthis year’s exemption certificate. The staff at the museum seemed a trifle annoyed about this, as the destruction of the artifact reduced the Collective’sdemonstrable phonographs to a solitary machine in Cobalt’sMuseum of the Something That Happened.
“But it wasn’t all bad,” added the curator, a Red with very bushy eyebrows.
“At least I can lay claim to being the last person ever to hearMr. Simply Red.”
After giving detailed feedback, we left the museum and headed offtoward the Municipal Gardens.
We paused on the way to admire an impressive wall painting of greatantiquity that was emblazoned across the gable end of a brick house.It invited a long- vanished audience to “Drink Ovaltine for Health andVitality,” and there was an image of a mug and two odd- looking buthappy children, their football- sized eyes staring blankly out at the worldwith obvious satisfaction and longing. Although faded, the red componentsin the lips and script were still visible. Pre- Epiphanic wall paintingswere rare and, when they depicted the Previous, creepy. It was theeyes. Their pupils, far from being the fine, neat dot of normal people’s,were unnaturally wide and dark and empty— as though their headswere somehow hollow— and this gave their look of happiness a peculiarand contrived demeanor. We stood and stared at it for a moment, thenmoved on.
Any colorized park was a must- see for visitors, and Vermillion’s offeringcertainly didn’t disappoint. The color garden, laid out within the citywalls, was a leafy enclave of dappled shade, fountains, pergolas, gravelpaths, statuary and flowerbeds. It also had a bandstand and an ice creamstall, even if there was no band, nor any ice cream. But what made Vermillion’spark really special was that it was supplied by color piped directfrom the grid, so it was impressively bright. We walked up to the maingrassed area, just past the picturesque, ivy- gripped Rodin, and stared atthe expanse of synthetic green. It was a major improvement on the parkback home, because the overall scheme was tuned for the predominanceof Red eyes. In Jade- under- Lime the bias was more toward those whocould see green, which meant that the grass was hardly colored at all andeverything red was turned up far too bright. Here the color balance waspretty much perfect, and we stood in silence, contemplating the subtleChromatic symphony laid out in front of us.
“I’d give my left plum to move to a Red sector,” murmured Dad in arare display of crudeness.
“You already pledged the left one,” I pointed out, “in the vague hopethat Old Man Magenta would retire early.”
“Last autumn, after the incident with the rhinosaurus.”
“What a dope that man is,” said Dad, shaking his head sadly. OldMan Magenta was our head prefect and, like many Purples, would havetrouble recognizing himself in a mirror.
“Do you think that’s really the color of grass?” asked Dad after apause.
I shrugged. There was no real way of telling. The most we could saywas that this was what National Color felt the color of grass should be.Ask a Green how green grass was and they’d ask you how red was anapple. But interestingly, the grass wasn’t uniformly green. An area the sizeof a tennis court in the far corner of the lawn had changed to an unpleasantbluey- green. The discordancy was spreading like a water stain, andthe off- color area had also taken in a tree and several beds of flowers,which now displayed unusual hues quite outside Standard BotanicalGamut. Intrigued, we noticed there was someone staring into an accesshatch close to the anomaly, so we wandered over to have a look.We expected him to be a National Color engineer working on theproblem, but he wasn’t. He was a Red park keeper, and he glanced at ourspots, then hailed us in a friendly manner.
“Problems?” asked Dad.
“Of the worst sort,” replied the park keeper wearily. “Another blockage.The Council are always promising to have the park repiped, butwhenever they get any money, they spend it on swan early- warning systems,lightning protection or something equally daft.”
It was unguarded talk, but we were Reds, too, so he knew he was safe.We peered curiously into the access hatch where the cyan, yellow andmagenta color pipes fed into one of the many carefully calibrated mixersin order to achieve the various hues required for the grass, shrubs andflowers. From there they would feed the network of capillaries that hadbeen laid beneath the park. Colorizing gardens was a complex task thatinvolved matching the osmotic coefficients of the different plants withthe specific gravities of the dyes— and that was before you got started onpressure density evaporation rates and seasonal hue variation. Coloristsearned their perks and bonuses.
I had a pretty good idea what the problem was, even without lookingat the flow meters. The bluey- green caste of the lawn, the grey appearance of the celandines and the purplish poppies suggested localized yellowdeficiency, and this was indeed the case— the yellow flow meter wasfirmly stuck on zero. But the viewing port was full of yellow, so it wasn’ta supply issue from the park substation.
“I think I know what the problem is,” I said quietly, knowing fullwell that unlicensed tampering with National Color property carried afive- hundred- merit fine.
The park keeper looked at me, then at Dad, then back to me. He bit hislip and scratched his chin, looked around and then lowered his voice.“Can it be easily fixed?” he asked. “We have a wedding at three.They’re only Grey, but we try to make an effort.”
I looked at Dad, who nodded his assent. I pointed at the pipe.
“The yellow flow meter’s jammed, and the lawn’s receiving only thecyan component of the grass- green. Although I would never condoneRule breaking of any sort,” I added, making sure I had deniability ifeverything turned brown, “I believe a sharp rap with the heel of a shoewould probably free it.”
The park keeper looked around, took off his shoe and did what I suggested.Almost instantly there was an audible gurgling noise.
“Well, I’ll be jaundiced,” he said. “As easy as that? Here.”
And he handed me a half merit, thanked us and went off to packageup the grass clippings for cyan- yellow retrieval.
“How did you know about that?” said Dad as soon as we were out ofearshot.
“Overheard stuff, mostly,” I replied.
We’d had a burst magenta feed a few years back, which was excitingand dramatic all at the same time— a cascading fountain of purple allover the main street. National Color was all over us in an instant, andI volunteered myself as tea wallah just to get close. The technical languageof the colorists was fairly obfuscating, but I’d picked up a bit. Itwas every resident’s dream to work at National Color, but not a realisticprospect: Your eyes, feedback, merits and sycophancy had to be beyondexemplary, and only one in a thousand of those who qualified to takethe entrance exam.
We ambled around the garden for as long as time would permit, soakingin the synthetic color and feeling a lot better for it. Unusually, theyhad hydrangeas in both colors, and delicately hand- tinted azaleas thatlooked outside of the CYM gamut: a rare luxury, and apparently a bequestfrom a wealthy Lilac. We noted that there wasn’t much pure yellow in the garden, which was probably a sop to the Yellows in the town. They likedtheir flowers natural, and since they could cause trouble if not accededto, they were generally given their own way. When we passed the lawnon our way out, the grass in the anomaly was beginning to turn back tofresh lawn green, more technically known as 102-100-64. It would beback to full chroma in time for the wedding.
We stepped out of the color garden, and walked back toward the mainsquare. On the way we passed a Leaper who was seated by the side of theroad, covered entirely in a coarse blanket except for his alms arm. I putmy recently acquired half merit in his open palm, and the figure noddedin appreciation. Dad looked at his watch.
“I suppose,” he said with little enthusiasm, “we should go and havethe rabbit experience.”
Excerpted from "Shades of Grey"
Copyright © 2011 Jasper Fforde.
Excerpted by permission of Penguin Publishing Group.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
What People are Saying About This
The world of the near future is anything but an ashen wasteland in the impish British author’s refreshingly daft first volume of a new fantasy series.
Already cult-worshipped for his popular Thursday Next and Nursery Crimes novels (First Among Sequels, 2007, etc.) Fforde is something like a contemporary Lewis Carroll or Edward Lear. He’s a shameless punster with a demonic flair for groan-worthy parodies and lampoons, and it’s just too much bother to try to resist his greased-pig narratives. In this one, which does take place in a possibly post-apocalyptic world, a repressive Colortocracy ranks and separates citizens according to their ability to perceive particular colors. For example, haughty Greens and dictatorial Yellows (“Gamboges”) deem Red-ness hopelessly lower class. It’s as if 1984 were ruled by Coco Chanel. Our hero, Eddie Russett (a Red, naturally), is an affable young man who hangs out with his father Holden (a healer known as a swatchman), killing time until his arranged marriage to fellow Red Constance Oxblood. But when son and father resettle in the odd little hamlet of East Carmine, the lad’s eyes are opened to a confusion of standards and mores, and the realities of sociopolitical unrest. While serving his punishment for a school prank by compiling a “chair census,” Eddie visits fascinating new places, enjoys the wonders of the UnLibrary and the organized worship of Oz, and decides that conscientious resistance to entrenched authority probably won’t bring about the ultimate ecological catastrophe—Mildew. He’s a little less sure about his wavering infatuation with Jane, a militant, pissed-off Grey (they’re the proles) who rather enjoys abusing him. Eventually, the best and brightest prosper, while characters of another color end up in the relational red (so to speak).
All this is serenely silly, but to dispel a black mood and chase away the blues, this witty novel offers an eye-popping spectrum of remedies. A grateful hue and cry (as well as sequels) may be anticipated.—STARRED Kirkus
In Eddie Russett’s world, color is destiny. A person’s perception of color, once tested, determines 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 month-long 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 worldbuilding 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.—STARRED Booklist
Reading Group Guide
"Choice is overrated." (p. 274)
Purple, Blue, Green, Yellow, Orange, Red, and—the lowest of the low—Grey. Such is the descending social hierarchy in Chromatacia, a postapocalyptic dystopia in which the natural color you can see determines your destiny. Eddie Russett is a Red of modest means and high ambitions—until an incident at home causes him to be sent to the Outer Fringes for Humility Realignment. En route, he meets a Grey named Jane whose brusque disregard for the Rules causes Eddie to question everything he has staked his future on believing. (Eddie is also attracted to Jane's very retroussé nose, but she is known to react violently at its mere mention.)
Like twenty-year-olds of every hue, Eddie is soon to take his Ishihara, the color test that will measure the precise degree of Eddie's color perception, and thus establish his permanent place in Chromatacian society. He has always suspected that he is a high-level Red, but Eddie has also hedged his bets by wrangling a half-promise of marriage from Constance Oxblood, a prominent and wealthy string heiress.
Although Eddie hopes to better his rank through marriage and a prestigious job with National Color—the governing body that oversees the production of universally visible artificial colors—he is not a total conformist. In addition to playing a trick on the local Head Prefect's son, he once "suggested a better way to queue… [and] was fined thirty merits for 'insulting the simple purity of the queue'" (p. 29).
Once in East Carmine, Eddie finds life in the Outer Fringes even more challenging than he'd imagined. A de Mauve appropriates Eddie's Open Return ticket, an Ochre is dead from a suspicious overdose of Lincoln (125 – 66 – 53), and his meals are regularly stolen by the Apocryphal man who doesn't exist and therefore cannot be stopped. To top it all off, Eddie's rival back in Vermillion is taking advantage of his absence to win Constance's affections.
Things finally start to look up when Jane downgrades her hostility toward him to a mild contempt. And then His Colorfulness, Matthew Gloss, turns up in East Carmine—ostensibly for "a Magenta feed-pipe leakage" (p. 200)—and Eddie sees an opportunity to finagle a coveted recommendation to National Color.
Yet, Eddie can't stop himself from asking questions—even after Jane's warning that "cozy ignorance is the best place for people like you" (p. 110). Who were the "Previous," and what was the "Something That Happened"? How is it that a Red might marry a Grey, but not a Green? Why is it forbidden to produce new spoons? And has anyone actually read all "seven hundred and eighty-two volumes of The Word of Munsell (unabridged)" (p. 267)?
As Jane's impudence leads her closer to Reboot and Eddie's plums suddenly become coveted property, the two find themselves undertaking an expedition beyond the Outer Markers to High Saffron, where a dark secret lies buried.
Rich with the inspired wordplay and sly cultural references for which Jasper Fforde is famous, Shades of Grey conjures a bleak vision of humanity's future and transports readers to an utterly original world—one full of outward color, but pitch black at heart.
ABOUT JASPER FFORDE
Jasper Fforde was an enthusiastic member of the film industry for nineteen years before being published. Author of the New York Times bestselling Thursday Next and Nursery Crime series, he says that writing is the same as filmmaking—only you do all the jobs, not just one. He currently works and lives in Wales.Shades of Grey is his eighth novel.
A CONVERSATION WITH JASPER FFORDE
Q. What is National Color?
National Color is the Chromatic elite who supply the synthetic hues available—at a price—to the citizens. Although one might be Red and never able to witness "the alleged splendor of a bluebell spring," that Red can see a synthetic blue, as supplied by National Color. Although a poor copy of the original, the Univisual shades do permit a tantalizing glimpse of what the world might actually look like if you could see all the colors. Synthetic hues, however, are limited in scope (mock-hued daffodils, lemons, bananas, and melons are all the same shade) and cost a lot more. Mind you, they do impress at dinner parties—unless one of your guests is a Yellow, in which case it would probably give him or her a headache.
The communal color gardens, the boast of any village, are fed by an intricate network of capillary beds beneath the ground which are supplied from the CYM feed pipes that crisscross the country as part of the National Colorization Program. It is the fervent wish of every village that they will be connected to the grid and thus have an endless variety of hues on tap—full gamut, full pressure. Needless to say, East Carmine, the village our hero finds himself in, is neither on the grid nor particularly wealthy. And that's a cause of much consternation.
Q. Do you think readers will agree with National Color's enforcement of politeness? Everyone agrees that people should be more polite!
I agree—in any regime there is always something that one should agree with, and in Shades there are quite a few notions that, on the face of it, seem like a good thing—the strict adherence to good manners, the fact that learning a musical instrument is compulsory, as is dancing, performing musicals, and an hour's Useful Work every day in order to properly discharge your duty to society. But a cage is still a cage, irrespective of the nature of its bars.
Q. What is a Chromaticologist?
Eddie's father is a Swatchman, or Chromaticologist. In Eddie's world, health issues are dealt with by viewing "healing hues." If you have a skin condition, a bald patch, or tuberculosis, the cure can be accomplished by the viewing of a color specifically blended to engender the necessary effect. In fact, there is only one fatal illness, The Mildew, and if you catch that, there is nothing but The Green Room, a chamber of soothing shades that lead you comfortably, painlessly, and euphorically to a place where you are no longer a burden.
Q. Institutionalized mercy killings are one aspect of the book readers may find disturbing. Are these included for shock factor?
Not really. Aspects that we consider normal today could very well be repugnant in the future—eating animals, for one thing, or abundant choice, or invasive surgery. I was simply trying to demonstrate that what is acceptable today may not be acceptable forever, and vice versa. Social mores change with time, like fashion—who knows where it might all end up? I especially like the idea that waste, impoliteness, and overpopulation become "abominations," although I'm not sure recycling one's aunt will ever truly catch on.
Q. Did the story change at all as you wrote or did you map it out ahead of time?
My first draft was pretty much a travelogue—Eddie wandering around East Carmine and being introduced to Technological Leapbacks, the Janitor, the Apocryphal man, the lack of spoons, Mildew, bar codes, the Fallen Man, the Chromogencia evening, High Saffron, the Caravaggio, and Violet deMauve—not to mention the linoleum factory. The main thrusts of the story I added later. It's an odd journey, and a complex one, but one that I hope readers will enjoy.
Q. Did you have any worries about writing such a bizarre world?
Of course. But I've never been averse to a little risk—after all, writing without risk is not really writing at all. Sometimes one has to just let fly with a high concept piece and see where the pieces fall. As it generally turns out, the central story is familiar, just with different rules of engagement. Whether it is Eddie's quest to side with Jane when what he really wants is to have a quiet life married into the Oxbloods, or with Jack Spratt in my NCD (Nursery Crime Detective) series trying not to be a boring stereotypical detective, or even with Thursday Next trying to have her husband reactualized from nonexistence, my approach to writing has always been that of telling a conventional story, but in a wholly unconventional setting.
Q. Which character do you feel most attached to?
Eddie. He's a reluctant hero, someone who wants to lead a normal life but is called to step up and be counted. Without Jane he would have simply returned to his home village and Constance. But Jane changes all that. I think it is that sense of unrealized potential in all of us that I find most interesting. Ordinary people do exceptional things in exceptional circumstances.
Q. What were the literary influences upon the work?
1984 and Brave New World, to go back to primary sources. In both the afore mentioned books, there are large cities with a centralized government that is very much the dominating force. In Shades I wanted the forces of oppression to be much subtler and internal, so everything is more localized, but no less oppressive. The citizenry are dispersed, with communication and transport limited, and idle and seditious thoughts banished from the head by a cocktail of the compulsory staging of musicals, tea dances, and the minimum of one hobby. There is the fear of the dark to keep people bound to a home village, and the ever present possibility of Riffraff, lightning, and swan attacks. Keep them amused with ballroom dancing and entertainment, but keep them in line with fear.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Jasper Fforde knows how to entertain. Normally he does this with absurdist humor, which has just enough collegiate literary banter to keep intelectuals, bibliophiles, and those looking for nothing more than a fun story and a smile, Happy. He took on more here. The first several chapters were turning me off. I didn't laugh; I wasn't lost in imagination; I was trying to understand. There was a complex society and a complex relationship between father and son, that I knew would be pivotal to the story... but in my current mood I didnt care for that. I wanted the Ffun-Fforde part! So I skimmed, and I eventually found myself enamored with the main character and flipping backwards to see what I'd missed! Don't skip any of this book. It's different for Jasper, but it will not dissapoint. The more you read the better it gets. This is a mystery, but not one that sets itself up in the first chapter; you get tiny hints and integral pieces well into the book. By the end, I promise you won't be dissapointed. Hopefully you'll be like me and petition our Mr Fforde to put out the sequel before all else!
The book as a whole is very slow; this is due to all the color society related ceremonies and quirks that need to be explained. The plot as a whole isn't ground breaking in any sense, but the setting and the whole idea of only being able to see certain colors in a post disaster world are the main draw. Fforde need a novel to establish a firm setting. The world in the novel is complex and some of the work done by Fforde might not be appriciated without some outside reading (I suggest being ready to google some names and ideas to get a sense of how intresting the world is.) In the next two novels I would expect a much faster plot and more action. The stage has been set and I'm waiting egerly!
Most sarcastic deadpan humor i have ever read in a book. Amazing
Everything by Jasper Fforde is always a delight to read. This is his first novel outside of the Book World universe he created and it is just as intriguing, gripping and intellectually stimulating as the other. There is so much information in every single sentence in Fforde's writing - whether it's plot development, humor or allusions - that you can truly immerse yourself in his writing.
This was one of the first books I chose to purchase for my nook. I had never heard of either the author nor the book itself, but I have to say that it was a pleasant surprise in a sea of books that mostly share far too much in common. Taking the dystopian future that George Orwell and Aldous Huxley focused on in their well-known works, Fforde has written a novel that is intriguing and compelling. If I had to explain it to someone in the simplest way possible I would probably say "It's like 1984, but with color." The role that color plays in the story is huge, as it dominates every aspect of the society that the characters live in. Our world is the past, theirs is the present. In this future, the vast amount of colors that we take for granted in seeing are obscured. People are segregated and assigned roles in society's castes by their ability to perceive varying colors; some are Greens, some are Reds, etc. Not only that, but within those color designations they are organized by how strongly they can see that color. In this setting, the protagonists make their way to a town on the edge of society, both literally and figuratively. Here, they stumble upon a mystery that the townspeople are eager to gloss over, but there is more than what appears on the surface. This book is not perfect (I really cringed at some of the romantic sentences), but it is very funny, and has left me in the unfortunate position of having to wait about 4 years for the sequel to come out. The wordplay is clever, including many subtle, and many not-so-subtle puns on color-themed words. I will definitely be checking out other works by Fforde.
Typical Jasper Fforde - wonderful to read, impossible to describe. I always enjoy seeing how he creates his alternate universes in such a believable way. If you are looking for a fun and funny book, this is a great choice.
If you took the futuristic, caste-based society from Brave New World and combined it with the outrageous humor of Monty Python, you'd end up with Jasper Fforde's Shades of Grey. The book is both insightful and amusing, not to mention very, very clever.The world of Shades of Grey is so intricate that it almost defies description. The story is set far into the future in a place in which the Wizard of Oz was as real as Chuck Norris and Rembrandt. In Fforde's world, the hierarchical society is based on an individual's ability to see color. The better one can perceive color, the higher one's rank in society is. And the society is rule-bound to the point of absurdity with its highest goal to be as conformist as possible.Eddie Russet, the book's main character is an extremely likeable person who sticks to his morals despite the fact that everyone around him, including his friends and family, will do anything to better themselves in society. When Eddie meets up with a young, grey woman (greys being the lowest caste in society since they do not see color) with a horrible temper and no respect for the establishment, he not only finds himself in the middle of several shocking mysteries, he also begins to question the values he has been taking for granted all his life.I loved this book! It was clever, imaginative, and compelling. As a lover of dystopian fiction, I appreciated the fact that while the society was, on the one hand, horrific, the comedy relief saved it from becoming oppressive. The characters were intriguing and extremely enjoyable. It took me a few pages to get accustomed to the language, and I'm still not certain I understand every nuance about the setting, but the story and characters have firmly embedded themselves in my mind.Shades of Grey ends with a cliffhanger, but luckily there are more books in this series. I will definitely be reading on to find out what happens with Eddie Russet and Jane Grey.
Something different to the Thursday next novels and the nursery crimes. Quit elaborate work, I'm looking forward to the next part
As a fan of Jasper Fforde I eagerly started this title. With a setting that uses the restriction of natural colour only being limitedly visible to its inhabitants and a society governed by a strict but often irrational set of rules, with rank determined by colour perception it is truly a black and white world at all levels. The revelation of the real shades of grey in society, brilliant characters and the tantalising glimpses into the future that led to this world made this my favourite Jasper Fforde to date, with elements reminiscent of Flatland by Edwin Abbott Abbott and Counter Clock World by Philip K Dick.
A dystopian world where social standing is determined by people's ability to see different colours of the spectrum, most technology as we know it has been banned and spoons are prized possessions. This is the world of Jasper Fforde's latest flight of fancy. I had high hopes for this as I liked the wit of The Eyre Affair and I love a dystopian novel. But I'm sad to say I was disappointed. It is certainly inventive and amuse, but it was neither quite funny nor clever enough to work consistently on a comic level and nor was it serious enough to ever make me feel that this society was a hellish place.
I'm a bit biased when it comes to Ffordian novels - I can't help but love them all, and refuse to look at any of them in a critical light. Perhaps this attitude would fit in well with the residents of Chromatacia, where questioning at all is really frowned upon. The entire society is separated by color perception, which made it seem all almost Dark Ages. Of course, Eddie Russett of the lower class of Reds becomes gradually poised to help change all that. He was a likeable enough character who you start to have high hopes for without being portrayed as "the One" like so many dystopian stories rely on. Shades of Grey is the first in a planned trilogy, which was encouraging because, much as I loved this book, Jasper Fforde usually outdoes the first in the sequels, so I've got much to look forward to. And I didn't give away the ending!
Can I just say that I love this man's twisted mind? Where does he come up with this stuff? For those of you who love the Thursday Next series, you will not be disappointed by the first of this planned trilogy.Eddie Russet lives in a dystopian world in the future. Some cataclysmic event has happened in the past and the world has lost a lot of important technology. Class status is now determined by your ability to perceive color; most humans can now see only one color or at best two and have no ability to see in the dark. The world is ruled by arcane and tragically wrong rules. For instance, it is no longer permissible to manufacture spoons. (?!)Eddie's life might have continued on its socially proscribed path, if he and his father had not been transferred to a new town on the outskirts of civilization. There, he meets Jane, a lower class girl who only sees in grey. She provokes Eddie to question the status quo and his ordered world quickly descends into chaos.Fforde moves the plot along quickly and uses this strange world order to examine several issues of our world in a new light: racism, prearranged marriage, government interference, social hierarchies, etc. This is a tightly crafted mystery, social commentary, spoof and romance. While there are lots of deep thoughts to contemplate, this book is quite humourus and never dull. It did take me about 30 pages to get my head wrapped around this new color-coded world, but then I loved looking at the world through Fforde's new prism. Five stars.
I've enjoyed every Jasper Fforde book I've read and this one was no different. I always enjoy his slightly off sense of humor and the way the worlds he presents are like ours and yet not. Although the main character of this series is not as instantly endearing as Thursday Next, Eddie grew on me. I also appreciated that Fforde didn't wrap everything up in a neat happy ending, but trusted the reader to appreciate the complexity of the situation he had placed his characters in. I will for sure be looking forward to the sequels.
Reason for Reading: I haven't read Jasper Fforde before. I really want to but just never find the time to start his Thursday Next series so I jumped at the chance to get in at the beginning with a new series.Summary: I don't really feel capable of doing this justice but I'll make an attempt. This is a satirical dystopian novel. Set 500 years in the future after Something Happened, this new world is ruled by a Colortocracy. People are born being able to see only one colour or perhaps a mixture of primary colours thus making greens, oranges, etc. Those at the top of the class system are Purples and those at the bottom are Greys, the working class who are colourless. Increasing one's family's colour heritage is of utmost importance and marriages are arranged to produce children who will climb further up the class system. It is here we find Eddie Russet, half promised to marry into the Oxblood family, who finds himself wearing a humility badge, sent to the Outer Fringes, a town called East Carmine, to conduct a chair census supposedly because of a prank he pulled but in reality because he asks too many questions and shows too much curiosity, a dangerous quality in this society. But it is in East Carmine that he realizes the banality of the heavily rule dependent government and the oppressiveness that is wrought upon society. He meets Jane, a Grey revolutionary, who he loves at first sight and while her ideas seem fanatical at first, the more he experiences the more he starts to agree with her.Comments: This was a fabulous book. Fforde has created an utterly unique and fascinating dystopian society that is believable but is full of satirical comments that reflect upon our own society that one can take the story seriously and with tongue in cheek at the same time. I became immersed in this world from the first page, and while I'd never want to live there, I enjoyed every detail of it from government policies to recreation requirements. The characters are wonderful. Eddie and his group of friends each are distinctly real and flawed persons. The entire cast of characters is enormous and entirely eccentric from the librarian Mrs. Lapus Lazuli who has memorized the barcode of every book that has been removed from the library to the Apocryphal man, a 400 year old historian who everyone must pretend does not exist. The plot itself is a slow unraveling of Eddie coming to terms with the hidden reality of his society and the unsettling realization that the few must be sacrificed for the many. The story is quite dark and while I haven't read any other Fforde books, from what I've read about the Thursday Next series, it would appear that this is a different move for the author. The themes and atmosphere are dark, there is a lot of satire making for plenty of humour but even the humour is dry and biting at times. There is so much going on within the pages of this book that I could simply go on and on about it. Suffice to say, I am utterly enamored with this world and its mythos and can't wait for the next book.
Another wonderful tale by Fforde exploring a world not so far from our own, but bent in his own imaginative way. Can't wait for the rest of this trilogy.
Summary: Eddie Russet lives in a colortocracy, a futuristic world where a mostly colorblind society is stratified by color perception ¿ you are what you see. Eddie is a Red, but when he meets the irritable Jane, a lowly Grey, he is pulled into subversive thoughts and worse.Review: I got this book as an ARC from the Early Reviewers program, so thank you for the copy! I was looking forward to reading this since Fforde is a popular author, known for his quirky characters and humour. I own one of his other novels but I haven¿t read it yet, so Shades of Grey is my introduction to Fforde. And it was great! The absurd world of the colortocracy came into life vividly in the first few chapters. I had thought it might be boring to read about color perception, but Fforde creates an entire society out of it, considering the ways it affects technology, marriage, and communities. I cracked up and marveled at several points in the book, pausing to read choice passages out loud to my sister. This is a world that I¿d like to read more about, so I¿m glad that this is only the first book in a promised series.I mean it. I love Eddie¿s world, as mixed up as it is. I have a fondness for dystopic fiction about totalitarian governments. Most dystopic fiction takes its subject matter much more seriously than Fforde. Yet I appreciated the way Fforde tackled a serious issue with humour and satire. It made for a book that isn¿t afraid to be entertaining, which is my favourite kind.With that said, there were a few things that didn¿t work for me. Jane, mostly. I liked her as a character but I saw almost no chemistry between her and Eddie. That they would fall in love and so quickly was forced and unbelievable to me.I was also put off by the ending, which was too fast-paced. Characters died, were sent off to die, broke up, got back together, and got pregnant so suddenly that I was left reeling. The languorous pace that marks the first part of the novel as Eddie travels to East Carmine is broken too dramatically.Still, it¿s a great book. Funny and satirical. I¿m excited to read more.Conclusion: How does Fforde even think of these things?
What a delightful book! I wasn't sure what to expect as I had read The Eyre Affair previously and hadn't enjoyed it very much. However, Shades of Gray was a lot of fun! I loved the pop-culture references from before the Something That Happened and Fforde's amazing world-building. This world, a colourtocracy, where one's trajectory in life is determined by what colours can be perceived, as well as by the Word of Munsell and its Rules or risk going to Reboot, is so precise in its details that I couldn't help but be sucked in. The story kept me wondering what had happened before to spawn such a way of life, what facets of everyday life I was next going to be privy to and how the pieces of the bigger mystery all fit together.One complaint is that most of the characters were rather black or white, if you'll pardon the pun, almost clichéd, in that you have the mean, greedy Prefects, the wise Apocryphal man, the obnoxious love interest and the naive but smart protagonist. That said, I did find the latter, Eddie Russett, very likeable.All in all, Shades of Gray is a book I'd recommend wholeheartedly, especially to those who enjoy comic novels by the likes of Terry Pratchett, Tom Holt, etc.
I read Shades of Grey because I've enjoyed Fforde's other books. It was fantastic! I liked it a lot better than his other novels. Suspenseful and playful.
Interesting in concept, but lacking in execution. Eddie was too bland for me to really get invested in him, and while the Colortocracy is intriguing, the explanations come at far too slow a pace. The Eddie-Constance-Jane triangle is pretty much like Romeo-Rosalind-Juliet. I found the bones of the story very interesting, but there was too much filler.
Absolutely brilliant! I've been a fan of Jasper Fforde for ages and this is one of his best yet. It's hands down one of the most original books I've read in ages, and has his usual flair for mixing the wit of the absurd with observations on life and our society, as reflected in the fictional world. I can't wait for him to write the other two books in the trilogy.
Jasper Fforde is at the top of his game with Shades of Grey. In this glimpse into the future our world has become Chromatacia and land ruled by the Colortocracy. Social standing, jobs, and marriages are all decided based on what color and how much of it you can see. The story follows Eddie Russett, a Red on his way up in the world until he makes a mistake and gets sent to the Outer Fringes. There he meets Jane, a sarcastic Grey, who questions all the Rules and soon has Eddie looking at the world in a whole new way.Fforde has created a stunningly complete new world with no detail lacking. His imagination has no bounds! The wit and sarcasm are hilarious, but there is a darker side to this book that gives the story an interesting depth. I enjoyed Shades of Grey at least as much as Fforde's other books. If you are already a fan you will like this latest novel, if you've never read Jasper Fforde you are in for a treat! It definitely has its laugh out loud moments and I'm anxious to see where Eddie and Jane go next.
In the future following an unnamed catastrophe, the remnants of society have been realigned by color. Rank in society is determined by which color you can see, and how well you can see it. Then Eddie's eyes are opened to the inequities by one of the drone greys.
I loved reading this book, I think its even better than Jasper Fforde Thursday Next series. This book does have a few faults in its logic, which I suspect might be explained by future books. What I like best about this world is how tightly it is written - Chromaticia is dystopia type world, where everything is tightly controlled by Munsell's rules, from what a person can wear, to how marriages are handled. Eddie is a typical person in this world, wanting to get the best marriage possible, looking forward to his future career, and generally accepting things as they are. Eddie lives in a world where the population is color blind - that is everybody is classed by what color they can see, and how much of that color. Jane is a grey, one who sees no color. Greys in this society are the laborers, the one who do all the work. Eddie meets Jane and starts seeing the world differently.Fforde has created a world where the population keeps the population in line - where most authors go for an us against them sort of approach, most people in this world are happy, agree with the rules (even those that don't make sense). The rules even give a sense of purpose, the quest to produce children that will be at the top of the color spectrum. This is a fully developed world and it is believable within the scope of the book.Our Hero Eddie is a full character. His motivations make sense. He reacts properly. Even the supporting characters are well written, and act in context with the world of Chromaticia. Because marriage is such an important part of this world, the characters are similarly to Victorian England, with moving up in the world the primary motivation of parents with marriageable children. Jane is probably the least fleshed character of the book, we don't know her history, or why she acts the way she does. I expect that her history will be covered in the next book.Other things, I really enjoy Ffords plays on today's society - for example, social networking. People in this world keeps a friends list. As far as I can tell, it really doesn't mean much without an online network, but it is limited to only 438 people. Or giving positive feedback? The book is full of stuff like this. To end things, I really enjoyed this book. It takes a different take at a dystopian society and you don't realize just how bad things are until the end. There are a number of unfinished plot lines and a few plot holes. Jasper Fforde is a good writer, so I expect that these will be completely filled by the end of the series.
As I waited so long for this I must have built it up in my mind to something greater than it was. Frankly, it did not live up to my expectations (which, admittedly were high). I found the world in the novel interesting, the characters a bit less so. The storyline was good, but it did not have the backbone that the Thursday Next series had. I found it an entertaining read overall, but I did not love it. Edward Russett was a bit annoying as a protagonist, Jane was definitely more interesting, but we did not see enough of her until the end of the novel. The cliffhanger ending will certainly ensure that readers buy the next installment, which of course is the purpose, but I will not be waiting with quite the same avidity.
What would happen if the world changed, lost or abandoned its technology, and people lost the ability both to see at night and to see the full spectrum of colour? Fforde considers the implications in the first in a series, introducing a world where invididuals' worth is judged by what colours they can see - our protagonist is Eddie Russett, who can see a range of reds. Top of the heap are purples, at the bottom are greys, and relationships are caste-like: individuals are encouraged not to marry 'down-spectrum', and marriage is forbidden between people are (i.e. who can see) complementary colours. This reminded me of life in the pre-glasnost Soviet Union, except there the colour red would have been ranked higher, I suppose. I can't wait for the next book in the series.