Thursday, January 30, 2014

Shades of Grey - Not to be Confused with the Uninspired Twilight Fanfiction

Publicity shot: Jasper Fforde

Shades of Grey
By Jasper Fforde
5/5 stars

How can you not like a book that was published in a color by number, limited edition hardback?

Okay, so I have been in a bit of a book slump.  It’s not that I haven’t been enjoying the novels I’ve been reading, but nothing has shocked me.  Most of the novels I’ve read have been good but not page turners in the sense that I actually want to read. In fact, reading has been more of a chore lately.  While I enjoyed The Once and Future King (I’ll blog about it soon) it was predictable in the sense that I am a King Arthur girl and knew the gist of the story arc already.  And while I love my Gentleman Bastard series, I will painfully admit that I was left a little empty with Lynch’s latest installment.

Shades of Grey asks us to consider the idea that color is far more important than this series of light beams that enter our pupils when we look at an object. While we take the hues that we see for granted, this book presents the idea that each individual can only see a certain amount of color and thus is limited on the amount of the world they organically experience.  A hierarchical order is constructed around this thought process.  The more color you can see, the better off you are, and vice versa.

Originally, I wasn’t keen on this book.  I picked it up on a whim while I was at Powell’s over the summer, based a suggestion from a certain Australian.  It wasn’t that I wasn’t open to the concept, but it seemed almost bland.  There was something about this hierarchy that I kind of shrugged at because I simply assumed that the world in the novel would be like our own and honestly, I hate reading about our own world.  I tried reading this novel a few months ago and quickly set it down in dismay, thinking that it was going to be yet another long and tedious process for me to get through a book that didn’t even exceed four hundred pages.

In better spirits, I picked this book up again last week in an attempt to give it another go.  I’m so happy/angry that I did.  The happy, I can tell you about… the angry? 

Jasper Fforde created something that isn’t necessarily original, but is refreshing.  With themes reminiscent of Orwell’s 1984 (one of my favorites) the world created in this book (which I am told is set in South Wales. Huzzah!) is so distant from our own that I even question if the people populating this novel are meant to be the future human race or if they are simply a leftover construct of our own race, and have gained some intelligence.  The characters, except for one, aren’t really described and when they are, they tend to be more of an anamorphous figure or some sort of worker drone.  Our kind is nowhere to be seen though, having apparently died off in what is known as the Previously.  Little is known about what happened leading up to this new Chromatic point and whatever is given to us through the dialogue of the characters is horribly misconstrued.  Think of playing telephone as a kid and you have the type of information that this society has now.

In a world where you marry to increase your color percentage, where if you can’t see color, you are practically a slave, and where you die for the slightest infraction, Jasper Fforde has combined the Big Brother idea with the whimsy and hilarity of old style fairy tales

I will admit that I spent a good portion of this book feeling off kilter simply because the concepts aren’t explained to us in detail.  Though, that might be what I love about this book.  These themes and these rules are a part of this world.  The people here know them instinctively.  The fact that they aren’t explained to us makes this society more believable.  After all, Eric Kripke once put it best when he said you don’t really describe events to people who already known what you are referring to.  By doing this, the author has created a dystopian world inside a bubble that we have to actually pay attention and learn about.  This book is smart. The writing is smart. The clever pop culture references that are slightly construed so as to distance itself from our time period are threaded throughout the text in such a way that make you giggle and also foreshadow things to come.  Yes, Jasper Fforde may have just became one of my new favorites to read and I was relieved beyond belief to learn that this is a series and that I will not be left sitting in my living room, feeling incomplete.

My critique of this book? It did get a bit tedious for me in the middle.  I felt like once I had established the world and its rules, there was a lag time where there was more establishing that I didn't feel was all that necessary.  While I love the cast of zany characters we encountered, I did feel a bit tired in the middle of the novel.  I can guarantee that the last hundred and fifty pages makes up for this though.  I sat down today to simply read a chapter or two and ending up finishing the book and ignoring the dirty dishes and the hyper active cats demanding food they for some reason think they need. 

Not my cat but you get the idea
(Side note: I’m not starving my cats.  They are small little whales in the making.)

Now, that was the happy on my scale of emotions. I did mention there was some negative feelings as well.  But, as for them…?


Read this novel.  If nothing else, it is entirely refreshing from the other mass market fiction that is plaguing our bookstore shelves.  Too often, it seems that literature is written simply to sell quickly and widely and not be remembered.  Thankfully, Shades of Grey does not suffer from this fate.

Has anyone else read this one? I don’t feel like it’s as widely known as I want it to be.  Are the next in the series just as good?  Also, who out there didn't like it? I can easily see where this book would alienate people pretty quickly and I’m curious to hear the downfalls that I am looking over simply because I’m a giddy school girl again and am memorized by pretty words and imagery.

Random shout out to my people that have liked me on my Facebook page over the past few months.  You guys made me pick this up again.

I know it's been a while but remember to like me on Facebook and follow me on Google + . Both links are in the sidebar and are craving your attention.  Also, drop me a line.  Would love to hear what you guys have been up to.
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