SHADES OF GREY by Jasper Fforde

Book Quote:

“I looked into the darkness and tried to visualize where Travis might be. Although I couldn’t see anything, the road in front of me led past the flak tower, through the empty grassland, past the bridge and, beyond that, to the linoleum factory.

And then I heard him. A series of short cries as the night terrors began to take hold. No one was immune, not even the wisest prefect or sagest Colorman. We all knew what it was like – even indoors the absence of light has an effect upon the senses that brought forth a multitude of terrifying apparitions. But only if you panicked, and let the terror get a hold. Once you were in the grip of a night terror, it would take nerves of steel to get you out.

Without thinking, I slipped off my shoes and socks and felt the warmth of the Perpetulite on my feet. If I didn’t stray from the roadway, I would have nothing to fear.”

Book Review:

Review by Ann Wilkes (JAN 1, 2010)

Reading Shades of Grey requires a shift in perspective. In this fantasy world of Jasper Fforde’s one’s place in society is based on their perception of color and which colors they can perceive. People wear a small badge or “spot” to indicate their hue perceptivity.

The Word of Munsell, or the Rules, governs everything in this grey world. Even what you wear, how you tie your tie, what you may say, where you may go, etc. They also forbid, without explanation, counting sheep, making new spoons and using acronyms, among other crazy things. The Previous, the people who lived before the Something That Happened left their technology behind, but none of their history survives intact. The Collective of the Colortocracy is ignorant of its own history. Every living creature is bar-coded – even the people. Much of the technology from before the Something That Happened gets “Leaped Back,” or rendered unusable because it doesn’t fit into the new order for reasons the Colortocracy doesn’t explain.

The protagonist, a young man by the name of Eddie Russet is sent to the Outer Fringes to conduct a chair census to learn humility after playing a prank on the prefect’s son. His swatchman father is invited to fill in for East Carmine’s swatchman so accompanies Eddie to that village in the Outer Fringes. Instead of doctors, this backward future Earth has swatchmen who heal their patients by showing them a swatch of the prescribed hue for their particular ailment.

On the way to East Carmine, Eddie and his father happen on a man in a paint shop who dies while wearing the wrong color spot and Eddie meets and takes a fancy to Jane who will later leave him for dead, hanging upside down over the maw of a man-eating plant.

“The last time you smiled at me I found myself under a yateveo.”

She laughed. The sound was lovely – yet quite out of character. It would be like hearing a fish sneeze. “Honestly,” she said, “are you going to drag that up every time we meet? So I threatened to kill you. What’s the big deal?”

“How can you not think it’s a big deal?”

“Okay, I’ll demonstrate. You threaten to kill me.”

“I’d rather not.”

“Come on, Red, don’t be such a baby.”

“All right: I’ll kill you.”

“You have to say it like you mean it.”


And she punched me in the eye.

Once in East Carmine, Eddie’s curiosity, his desire to improve things, his ambition to marry up the color wheel and his love for Jane lead him into one adventure after another.

Fforde’s wit and unmatched talent for satire make this first book of his newest trilogy another winner. Layers upon layers of intrigue and betrayal move the story toward revelation after bizarre revelation. I will miss Eddie and his grey world, but I wish Fforde had not left so many new questions unanswered in the end. I will, of course, pounce on the next volume as soon as it’s available.

AMAZON READER RATING: stars-4-5from 121 readers
PUBLISHER: Viking Adult (December 29, 2009)
REVIEWER: Ann Wilkes
MORE ON MOSTLYFICTION: Thursday Next series:

Nursery Crime series:


Thursday Next Series:

Nursery Crimes:

Colors Trilogy:

The Dragonslayer Series:

  • The Last Dragonslayer (2010 UK; October 2012 US)
  • The Song of the Quarkbeast (2011 UK; 2013 US)
  • The Return of Shandar (2012 UK; 2014 US)

January 1, 2010 · Judi Clark · No Comments
Tags: ,  · Posted in: 2009 Favorites, Humorous, Speculative (Beyond Reality), Unique Narrative

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