As long as anyone can remember, society has been ruled by a Colortocracy. From the underground feedpipes that keep the municipal park green to the healing hues viewed to cure illness to a social hierarchy based upon one's limited color perception, society is dominated by color. In this world, you are what you can see.
Young Eddie Russett has no ambition to be anything other than a loyal drone of the Collective. With his better-than-average red perception, he could well marry Constance Oxblood and inherit the string works; he may even have enough red perception to make prefect.
For Eddie, life looks colorful. Life looks good.But everything changes when he moves with his father, a respected swatchman, to East Carmine. There, he falls in love with a Grey named Jane who opens his eyes to the painful truth behind his seemingly perfect, rigidly controlled society.
Curiosity - a dangerous trait to display in a society that demands total conformity - gets the better of Eddie, who beings to wonder: Why are there not enough spoons to go around? Why is everything - and everyone - barcoded? What happened to all the people who never returned from High Saffron? And why, when you begin to question the world around you, do black-and-white certainties reduce themselves to shades of grey?
Part satire, part romance, part revolutionary thriller, this is the new world from the creative and comic genius of Jasper Fforde.
If you have not yet listened to one of the hundred stories voiced by award-winning narrator John Lee, or looked into one of the dozen books by best-selling author Jasper Fforde, you have been seriously missing out. If you are already a devotee of Lee or a fan of Fforde, the opening volley in this brave new series will not disappoint in the slightest. A dystopian vision in the vein of Orwell with the trademark comic sensibility Ffforde developed in his Thursday Next detective series, Shades of Grey introduces Eddie Russett: a naïve young man whose devotion to the Collective of the Colortocracy is upset by his sudden love for the cynical Jane Grey.
Jane’s grey status put her at the bottom of their society’s totem pole, and although Eddie’s red status doesn’t put him much higher, he has an above-average red color-perception that keeps him in the running to marry the snooty Constance Oxblood. In a world where you are what you see, Jane’s mysterious knowledge and headstrong attitude are a revelation. As Eddie winds his way through the color ranks on the fringes of the Collective, he learns that things are not always what they seem.
It takes a very versatile narrator to give voice to this broadly unusual society, and Lee narrates the cast of diversely colored characters with shocking ease and consistency. There are a dozen different English accents in here and twice as many tones, from the sly villainy of the Gamboge family to the whimsical librarian, Mrs. Lapis Lazuli, to the overbearing teen princess, Violet deMauve. Lee leaves no silly stone unturned as he dances around the often hilarious and exclamatory dialogue with precision. He is undoubtedly up to the task of steering Eddie through the challenges that he will face as this new series progresses, having already brought to light and life a number of strange citizens, arbitrary rules, and paradoxical happenings. Thanks to John Lee, getting to know Jasper Fforde’s new world is a completely non-stop delight what will be painful is waiting for the next installment. Megan Volpert
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Slow, weird... but a good set-up for sequels.
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- Thom Dodd "Forester in Maine for nearly 40 years and love to listen to books in my travels."