Sunday, April 25, 2010
"Shades of Grey" by Jasper Fforde
Musings: I'm a big fan of Fforde's Thursday Next series, and I really loved Shades of Grey. In fact, as difficult as it is for me to say this--considering my devotion to literature and grammar--I think I may have even liked Shades better than the Thursday Next books.
The idea of color as a commodity is really interesting. We take our ability to see a full range of color for granted, but in this society, when at best people can see most of one type of color, all resources and money are spent towards artificial colorings. The color-ability affects a range of things, from people's emotions to their inability to see at night.
Shades of Grey has the same absurdist and flippant tone as Fforde's earlier series, and that style works particularly well for this world, which is governed by strict adherence to the rules, regardless of their effectiveness or relevance. For example, spoons are a huge underground commodity as no spoons are permitted to be manufactured; regular Leapbacks have ensured no new access to cars; citizens must have 1000 merits to marry and are not, under any circumstances, allowed to marry a complementary color. For anyone who's worked in an office or other environment guided more by protocol and tradition than common sense, the book is especially funny. But the humor of the rules also belies a more insidious process by which complacency is gained through social pressure.
In fact, what I really liked about the novel was its dystopian feel and message. It's still silly a lot of the time, but there is also a sincere look at class privileges and ruling through subjugation of dissident ideas (think 1984) that the Thursday Next series doesn't have. In fact, the ending of the novel was surprisingly serious, and I cared significantly more for the characters as individuals than I did for Thursday or her eradicated husband.
Even though I missed the grammar jokes a bit, I'd highly recommend Shades of Grey to anyone looking for a light style with a serious undertone.