Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Jasper Fforde - Shades of Grey

Finally a novel I loved! This is the first of Mr. Ffordes works I have ever read and even though it took some time to comprehend his style and go "aha! He is joking" it was great! I prefer to read the last published novel first (unless it's a series of novels) since I am quite sure the craftsmanship of a writer improves for each novel written.

Quoting the back of the book: "It's Britain, but not as we know it. Entire cities lie buried beneath moorland. Echoes of lost technology pepper the landscape, and there is evidence of conflict in abundance.

Democracy has been replaced by a Colourtocracy. Visual colour dominates society, from the feed pipes that keep the municipal park green to the healing hues you view to cure illness, to a social hierarchy based upon ones limited colour vision. You are what you can see. (Yakoni: This is true to the extreme, and very poetically put)

Eddie Russet has no ambition to be anything other than a loyal drone of the collective. With his better-than-average Red perception, he could marry an Oxblood, inherit the Stringworks, maybe even make Prefect. Life looks colourful. Life looks good.

But then he moves to East Carmine and falls in love with a Grey (Yakoni: someone with very little or no colour vision) named Jane who opens his eyes to the painful truth behind his seemingly perfect society.

Just some few additions to this summary/teaser: Eddie is not so perfect, he constantly gets himself into trouble, one of the reasons he and his father travels to East Carmine. The Greys are like slaves and society has gone through several "leap back in time" reforms forbidding manufacturing of technology such as cars. And all radical thinking is punished and if you cause enough trouble, you get sent off to reboot in order to correct your behaviour.

I'll make a list of what I like the most (in hopes of shortening my posts due to some criticism).

1: The story is great! A classical plot of boy meets girl and forbidden love fits well within this futuristic and confusing version of our world. There is loads of politics within this colour society which requires some careful manoeuvring. Eddie, being who he is, steps on a few toes of course and the plot thickens and draws me in. Enemies and friends, all perfected side characters that adds colour without being too dominant.

2: Jane the Grey is awesome! Having physically hurt almost every man in the village that has called her cute or commented upon her nose, she is fierce! She ads a lot to this novel and contrast the good-boy Eddie perfectly like when she puts laxatives in the cake she made for the village's prefects or when she trapped Eddie in a flesh-eating bush in order to question him about his inquiries or when she assaulted the female hockeyball team while teamed up with the guys. (I usually like spiteful girls)

3: This is a funny novel, maybe not in a Ha-ha way, but definitely in a snickery way. I couldn't stop myself from being amused, even in the more serious parts. The novel is full of satire of humanity and our (and our politicians) stupidity. The society is governed by laws that nobody remembers the purpose of, like the prohibition of manufacturing spoons. Every chapter is starts with a quotation of a rule, most which dictates details such as " Pocket handkerchiefs are to be changed daily, and to be kept folded, even when in the pocket. Handkerchiefs may be patterned."There even exists a "Leapback list" where all technology banned is listed, which is hysterical and shows how the world could become if extremist take over our world. I see the connections to the PTA panels in the US where the concerned mom's blame computer games and Marilyn Manson for the Columbine massacre. Let them lead the world and a leapback may occur in our world as well. Assumptions are a bad thing.

I think I will read this novel several times in the future. There are loads of sweet stuff left to discover, all cleverly hidden and intertwined in the story. I think that some more knowledge will do me some good in understanding all the satire. There have been several times where I understood that satire was used, without understanding what it was supposed to mock. Culture or age, I don't know, but as a reader I lack the ability to enjoy it for all it is worth.

Gores Truly, Yakoni

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