book review: shades of grey

Shades of Grey, by Jasper Fforde, is a decent little novel about a rule-following Colortocracy. Since the Something That Happened, people can only perceive different amounts of the colour spectrum. This determines your rank in society. Purples are high ranking leaders, Yellows are snitches and spies, et cetera. There are a lot of Rules by which society functions smoothly, and there’s a lot of concern with marrying well to ensure your next generation is a better, purer colour-perceptor so their status is haigher. The hero, Eddie Russett, is an overly curious young adult sent to a new town with his father to learn some humility.

The world-building in this book was the key. The rules of Munsell are funny and nonsensical. Manufacture of spoons is outlawed and have been for hundreds of years. There’s synthetic colour that everyone can see but it’s garish. Greens tend to be jerks because they can perceive so much of the natural world. As a book it all works because the characters all accept it, because that’s how society works. If I were to wear my SF hat that demands some sort of rigour the whole thing would fall apart and I’d be missing the point. By the end it appears that there is an explanation behind the world that Eddie will spend future books trying to solve. That was the most disappointing part of it for me. I’m done for a while with secrets that will be revealed if you just stick with it, be it TV or books. That’s not really a tension I like. But in this book the dialogue is great and absurd and all around it’s a pretty worthwhile read.

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