The world of the near future is anything but an ashen wasteland in theimpish British author’s refreshingly daft first volume of a new fantasyseries.
Already cult-worshipped for his popular Thursday Next and NurseryCrimes novels (First Among Sequels, 2007, etc.) Fforde is somethinglike a contemporary Lewis Carroll or Edward Lear. He’s a shamelesspunster with a demonic flair for groan-worthy parodies and lampoons,and it’s just too much bother to try to resist his greased-pignarratives. In this one, which does take place in a possiblypost-apocalyptic world, a repressive Colortocracy ranks and separatescitizens according to their ability to perceive particular colors. Forexample, haughty Greens and dictatorial Yellows (“Gamboges”) deemRed-ness hopelessly lower class. It’s as if 1984 were ruled by CocoChanel. Our hero, Eddie Russett (a Red, naturally), is an affable youngman who hangs out with his father Holden (a healer known as aswatchman), killing time until his arranged marriage to fellow RedConstance Oxblood. But when son and father resettle in the odd littlehamlet of East Carmine, the lad’s eyes are opened to a confusion ofstandards and mores, and the realities of sociopolitical unrest. Whileserving his punishment for a school prank by compiling a “chaircensus,” Eddie visits fascinating new places, enjoys the wonders of theUnLibrary and the organized worship of Oz, and decides thatconscientious resistance to entrenched authority probably won’t bringabout the ultimate ecological catastrophe—Mildew. He’s a little lesssure about his wavering infatuation with Jane, a militant, pissed-offGrey (they’re the proles) who rather enjoys abusing him. Eventually,the best and brightest prosper, while characters of another color endup in the relational red (so to speak).
All this is serenely silly, but to dispel a black mood and chase awaythe blues, this witty novel offers an eye-popping spectrum of remedies.A grateful hue and cry (as well as sequels) may be anticipated.—STARREDKirkus
In Eddie Russett’s world, color is destiny. A person’s perception ofcolor, once tested, determines their rank in the Colortocracy, withprimes ruling “bastard” colors and everyone lording it over theprole-like grays. No one can see more than their own color, and no oneknows why—but there are many unknowns ever since Something Happened,followed by the deFacting and successive Great Leaps Backward. Due toan infraction against the Collective’s rule-bound bureaucracy, Eddie issent to East Carmine, in the Outer Fringes, where manners areshockingly poor, to conduct a month-long chair census. In short order,he falls in love, runs afoul of the local prefects, learns a terriblesecret, and is eaten by a carnivorous tree. This series startercombines the dire warnings of Brave New World and 1984 with thedeevolutionary visions of A Canticle for Leibowitz and Riddley Walker,but, Fforde being Fforde, his dystopia includes an abundance of teashops and a severe shortage of jam varieties. It’s all brilliantlyoriginal. If his complex worldbuilding sometimes slows the plot and thebalance of silly and serious is uneasy, we’re still completely wonover. In our own willful myopia, we sorely need the laughs.—STARRED Booklist
Remember that kid in middle school who sat off by himself during lunch reciting Monty Python skits? You must track him down (parents' house: basement) and send him a copy of Jasper Fforde's Shades of Grey. This insanely clever novel…sounds like a cult classic for people who crave a rich brew of dystopic fantasy and deadpan goofiness. Shifting away from his postmodern literary parodies…Fforde has now created his most original story, an elaborate social satire about a weird but oddly familiar world almost 500 years in the future…Lewis Carroll madness tinted with steampunk. The palette of Fforde's comedy is immense.
The Washington Post
This inventive fantasy from bestseller Fforde (The Eyre Affair) imagines a screwball future in which social castes and protocols are rigidly defined by acuteness of personal color perception. Centuries after the cryptically cataclysmic “Something That Happened,” a “Colortocracy,” founded on the inflexible absolutes of the chromatic scale, rules the world. Amiable Eddie Russett, a young Red, is looking forward to marrying a notch up on the palette and settling down to a complacent bourgeois life. But after meeting Jane G-23, a rebellious working-class Grey, and a discredited, “invisible” historian known as the Apocryphal man, Eddie finds himself questioning the hitherto sacred foundations of the status quo. En route to finding out what turned things topsy-turvy, Eddie navigates a vividly imagined landscape whose every facet is steeped in the author's remarkably detailed color scheme. Sometimes, though, it's hard to see the story for the chromotechnics. 10-city author tour. (Jan.)
Can the postapocalypse be funny? If the author is Fforde (The Eyre Affair; The Big Over Easy), then yes. All the hallmarks of dystopian fiction are here: a rigid collective with Kafkaesque rules, an oppressed underclass looking to revolt, and the moldering ruins of a technologically advanced civilization that perished long ago. But there is also humor, wit, and mystery in this wonderfully weird new world where color and people's ability to perceive it govern society. Eddie Russett is just trying to earn enough merits to marry well when he is sent with his father, Holden, to the Outer Fringes, where they find some questions—such as what exactly happened to the "swatchman" Holden is replacing, and why has no one ever returned from High Saffron? But curiosity is actively discouraged by the Collective, and Eddie is soon in trouble, with only one potential ally—if she would just stop punching him. VERDICT Fforde has built a complex, engaging, and unique world full of surprises, serious ideas, and serious fun that will appeal to those beyond the author's readers and sf fans. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 9/15/09.]—Devon Thomas, DevIndexing, Chelsea, MI
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 andbrightest 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.