My rating: 4 of 5 stars
How does one summarise a Jasper Fforde novel? This is such a tricky task! To simply run down the plot, would, I fear, vastly undersell his work.
Fforde has, again, crafted a new world. This one, vaguely resembling our own, but with a spoon shortage and people-eating swans. A world with a strict social hierarchy based on your perception of colour, and a rulebook crammed with instructions for almost every occasion.
To read only on face value, this novel is a vastly entertaining read, brimming with the ridiculous antics of Eddie Russett as he sets out to redeem himself, and marry into a prestigious String Factory-owning family. However, peeling back the layers of the weird and wacky, there lies a powerful and biting satire. Shades of Grey houses a vicious totalitarian regime, willing to dispose of any citizens who fall out of line with their guidelines.
Fforde’s trademark dry humour, and unique wit drives this novel. His originality is unparalleled in mainstream literature, especially in dystopian novels. He has drawn comparisons to Douglas Adams, which, on the side of absurdity, definitely hold up. However, Adams was seemingly bizarre for the joy of being bizarre. Fforde’s absurdity serves to highlight the almost 1984ish level of ruthlessness displayed by the governing body of Chromatica.
While Shades of Grey took a little longer for me to get my head around, I thoroughly enjoyed this novel. It is undoubtedly eccentric, but herein lies the charm of the novel and the characters. I especially loved the unpredictability and strength of Jane, and the ride she takes Eddie on.
Shades of Grey really has everything you could ask for in a novel; adventure, romance, mystery, humour, creativity – undercut by biting social satire, an investigation into government, gender and class roles. It is, overall, probably the most enjoyable, least soul-destroying dystopia I’ve read. I can’t wait for the sequel, although anything is yet to be announced.