Shades of Grey

Shades of Grey

by Jasper Fforde

I’m Kim Alexander and this is Fiction Nation, with smart reviews for modern readers on Sirius XM Book Radio. The book is Shades of Grey by Jasper Fforde.

Disclosure — I could not love this author more. I’ve been a rabid fan for years, and if you’ve never read any of his novels about Thursday Next, literary detective, your life is lacking for it. Beyond what a pleasure it is to spend time with Thursday, beyond how startlingly smart and clever the plots are, and that they make you feel smarter when you read them, beyond Fforde’s enormous skill at telling a story, perhaps my favorite thing about his work is the sheer audacity of his inventiveness. He creates a conceit — in the Thursday Next books, for instance, you can buy a ticket to visit the inside of a book — Jane Eyre, say — and interact with the characters as the story unfolds. And it’s so fully realized that it feels like you’re suddenly privy to an extra sense, like you can smell color. It’s truly something new. And he does it every time in every one of his books.

And that’s certainly true in the first book of his new series, Shades of Grey. What’s the hook? In this far future yet tightly-regimented England, society is neatly stratified based on color blindness. Those who can see Red are a better class of folk than the Yellows, and everyone looks down on the Greys. And so on. And our tour guide, Eddie, is just an average Red, looking to marry a nice but rather out-of-his-league girl (she’s an Oxblood, while he’s only a Russett) and settle down. Plot spectacularly intervenes. And there are so many more questions! Where did all the spoons go?  What exactly was the Something That Happened, and how long ago? Will Jane Grey stop trying to kill Eddie long enough for them to get together? So much more.

For some reason the most exciting part of my chat with Jasper was when he casually mentioned he had been working on the next Thursday novel when I called.


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