Erin's Latest Pick

West End Library

Erin's Latest Pick

"Shades of Grey" by Jasper Fforde

Shades of GreyColor is everything in 20-year-old Eddie Russett's world. Everything.  

In a country of the far future known as Chromaticia (but distantly recognizable to the reader as England), a succession of Great Leapbacks has destroyed access to most technology, and a complicated set of rules governs every aspect of life. This has created some unusual problems--for instance, there is a national spoon shortage because no new spoons are allowed to be manufactured!

Society is divided into castes based on which colors a person can see.  Purples are of a higher rank than Yellows, for example, and Greys, the lowest caste, are treated as little more than serfs.  Towns have "color gardens," where flowers and shrubs have brilliant artificial hues, and National Color, the company that creates them, controls the government. 

Things are looking pretty good for Eddie, though.  He has an unusually strong ability to see Red, which has gained him an (almost) engagement to the prettiest and wealthiest girl in his village. Sure, he has a few small problems--like a fondness for pranking higher-ups, a proclivity for coming up with new ideas, and an embarrassing tendency toward curiosity. 

But until the results of a particularly ill-timed prank get him sent to the middle-of-nowhere (and possibly dangerous) village of East Carmine, he's pretty happy with his life. Then, he witnesses a mysterious death, meets a pretty-yet-angry servant girl named Jane who seems to know too much, and discovers that he's sharing his new home with a man who officially doesn't exist, even though everyone can see him. Eddie just can't help himself; he starts asking questions.  And pretty soon, his safe, comfortable life back home doesn't seem so attractive any more--if he even lives that long.

Jasper Fforde is already well-known for his wacky, genre-bending mysteries, including the Thursday Next series and the Nursery Crimes series, but I predict that this book will gain him a new audience, as he uses his trademark wild humor to tackle a serious subject--1984-style dystopia. From the first line ("It began with my father not wanting to see the Last Rabbit and ended up with my being eaten by a carnivorous plant. It wasn't really what I'd planned for myself..."), you know you're in for something really different.

You'll find this one in the adult section, but it should also appeal to teens who enjoy science fiction and/or satire, particularly fans of authors like Neil Gaiman, Terry Pratchett and Douglas Adams.