Shades of Grey

  • by Jasper Fforde
  • Narrated by John Lee
  • 13 hrs and 34 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

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.

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Audible Editor Reviews

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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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

Slow, weird... but a good set-up for sequels.

It isn't as quick, funny, or easy to like as his earlier novels. Yet I have great expectations of the sequels. As far as I can understand, this book is called "Shades of Grey 1: The Road to High Saffron and will continue in two (as yet unwritten) novels called Shades of Grey 2: Painting by Numbers and Shades of Grey 3: The Gordini Protocols.

This book is the exposition, the set-up for other books and, is therefore, ...as a single book, a bit lame. And so, if I were you, I might listen to this book when the others come out. It reminded me a bit of Brave New World or 1984... at first it seems just weird and arbitrary that the author has a society based upon what colors people can see. There is injustice and unfairness and brainlessness among the people in the "system." It seems a bit of a retread of other older satires... but slowly it comes into focus and starts to bends off-kilter in new ways. I want to know more about this book's world and the characters in it.

The main character is smart but not very thoughtful... at one point another character looks into his eyes to find out if he really has no depth and she decides, that yes, he is empty headed. (Readers will agree at that point.)
It is slow but I was never bored ... I kept listening to discover if the author might finally takes us somewhere and by the end, I think we are set up and teased for some really interesting sequels.



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- Roger

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Fforde has written a humorous book in his quirky and other-worldish style on a serious topic. First I thought it was a critique of the British aristocracy but decided towards the end that it is Orwell's "1984" done in a far less dark style. It is very entertaining and will keep you glued. It is a love story and a David against Goliath story in the style of his character, Thursday Next, (from other books), as she battled against the Goliath Corpoaration.

I finished this book and then immediately listened to it again. I had missed so many clues to what would happen and got a lot out of it the 2nd time. Clearly Fforde has written a 3 part series and couldn't release the first one until he was sure that he had set things up properly.

This has the potential to become a literary classic. I cannot wait for the subsequent books.

John Lee is also recognized for his outstanding ability to voice different characters.
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- Thom Dodd "Forester in Maine for nearly 40 years and love to listen to books in my travels."

Book Details

  • Release Date: 12-03-2009
  • Publisher: Penguin Audio