Shades Of Grey: A Novel

Paperback | March 1, 2011

byJasper Fforde

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The New York Times bestseller and "a rich brew of dystopic fantasy and deadpan goofiness" (The Washington Post)

Welcome to Chromatacia, where the societal hierarchy is strictly regulated by one's limited color perception. And Eddie Russet wants to move up. But his plans to leverage his better-than-average red perception and marry into a powerful family are quickly upended. Juggling inviolable rules, sneaky Yellows, and a risky friendship with an intriguing Grey named Jane who shows Eddie that the apparent peace of his world is as much an illusion as color itself, Eddie finds he must reckon with the cruel regime behind this gaily painted façade.

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The New York Times bestseller and "a rich brew of dystopic fantasy and deadpan goofiness" (The Washington Post) Welcome to Chromatacia, where the societal hierarchy is strictly regulated by one's limited color perception. And Eddie Russet wants to move up. But his plans to leverage his better-than-average red perception and marry int...

Jasper Fforde traded a varied career in the film industry for staring vacantly out of the window and arranging words on a page. He lives and writes in Wales. The Eyre Affair was his first novel in the bestselling "Thursday Next" series. He is also the author of the "Nursery Crime" series.

other books by Jasper Fforde

The Eyre Affair:
The Eyre Affair:

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Last Dragonslayer

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One Of Our Thursdays Is Missing: A Thursday Next Novel
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Format:PaperbackDimensions:400 pages, 7.8 × 5.2 × 0.6 inPublished:March 1, 2011Publisher:Penguin Publishing GroupLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0143118587

ISBN - 13:9780143118589

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Rated 5 out of 5 by from 1984 meets Monty Python Not to be mistaken for the, uh, romance novel of similar name. This one has an interesting take on post-apocalyptic fiction (the relevant apocalypse was 700 years ago, and has as much bearing on the lives of the characters as the middle ages have for us). I'd describe this book as a light-hearted cross between 1984 and Monty Python. This book is one of my favourites! I loved the world-building, snarky humour and that this book is just sheer fun to read.
Date published: 2014-12-22
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Intelligent and thoughtful! Absolutely loved it! So I picked up this book after seeing the cover and thinking “Oh hey, that looks interesting!”. I read the back summary and I was really intrigued. Then I posted a couple of bits for Teaser Tuesdays and it was even more interesting than when I bought it. After reading the entire thing I have to say that it was better than I expected. The characters are interesting and the way that society works in the charmingly colour-named towns and cities is even more interesting. (Apparently I like that adjective. . .) I have to admit that it was slightly more difficult than most of the books I read to get into, but once I was used to the language I was delighted to realize that there are many mentions to things that I take for granted. The society has a deeper appreciation of these things and a silly misinterpretation of the importance of different things. Like the Wizard of Oz, for instance. The references to today’s world are hilarious and the straight-faced comedy is delightful. What’s more, the book (and the series) contend with a darker meaning and outcome, but there is a slight bit of romance to keep it light. I adored this book, and I love that Jasper Fforde treats his audience as if they are intelligent and doesn’t stop the laughs and mystery.
Date published: 2014-02-25
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Very creative! After an unknown event in the old ways of life, Colortocracy started ruling society. Social classes are designated by which colour people can see and there are many rules set upon societies. It's quite different from life as we know it! Eddie Russett is a red and is sent to the fringes because he wants to improve the queueing system. He travels with his dad, who heals people through colour. When Eddie and his dad arrive in East Carmine, everything changes for them. The citizens of East Carmine tend to bend the rules a bit and there's a certain Grey who has caught Eddie's eye. Eddie is a bit too curious for his own good. Trying to figure out why a man pretended to be a purple instead of the grey he was and what happened to the last swatchman of East Carmine.  This book is one of the most creative books I've read. Building a society based purely on colour perception is such an interesting concept. Fforde goes beyond that and creates many additional ways of life different from current day. For example, spoons are a premium as they are no longer allowed to be made.  I found myself wondering if I could only see one colour which would it be? Purple is my favourite colour so I'd like to see that, but I think that blue would probably be my colour. I would want to be able to see the natural colour of the sky and bodies of water.  Having only read a few books in Fforde's Thursday Next series, this book exceeded my expectations. It is whitty, imaginative, humourous, and endearing.  
Date published: 2014-01-12
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Prefect Book! In a world where colour hierarchy means everything, you better hope your hue is prefect.   This book has changed all previous opinions I had on what a brilliant book should be. It was simply everything I want in a book. A unique world, fun character perspectives, brilliant & quirky writing, it made me laugh and I could not put it down. I've spent hours after thinking and trying to imagine myself in a world where I could only see 24% red or 72% yellow. I found this book by chance and after finishing it I discovered this is only book one in a trilogy. Thank God for that because after finishing I was excited, but also disappointed that the adventure was over. I will re-read and then re-re-read and then re-re-re... you get the point, this book... and I cannot wait for the next one.   Favorite Quote: "The cucumber and the tomato are both fruit; the avocado is a nut. To assist with the dietary requirements of vegetarians on the first Tuesday of the month a chicken is officially a vegetable."
Date published: 2014-01-07
Rated 4 out of 5 by from 1984 meets Monty Python This is very different from his Thursday Next series. Fforde does a terrific job of dangling clues to the underlying mystery, while keeping us entertained by the unusual world he has created. While the tone boarders on darkness, the lead characters are engaging and the pacing good. Shades of caste systems, concentration camps, witch trials, Logan's Run, and Bradbury color the book. The writing, the interesting premise and curiosity have me wishing the next book would come out!
Date published: 2013-10-12
Rated 5 out of 5 by from An explosion of colours "Shades of Grey" has an interesting concept: a dystopian world where its inhabitants are classed on their colour perception. Colourtocracy rules in Chromatacia. We have the high-born Purple snobs, the mid-range Yellows, then the Reds, where our protagonist, Eddie Russett falls under, and a whole bunch of other colours in between. Down at the very bottom rung of this social ladder, are the Greys, the hardworking workforce doing the bidding of the higher colours. If like me, you are no colour expert, the colourtocracy can be quite overwhelming initially, especially with cross-marriages and whatnot, but it slowly becomes so engrained in you that you can proudly call yourself a citizen of Chromatacia! That is besides the point. The world Jasper Fforde has created is so outrageous with the ridiculous rules set by Munsell's word of law since the beginning of the New Order. And what about the Collective's bestiary, weird wild animals roaming the lands with barcodes on them, or about how spoons are so scarce and therefore valuable, yet are no longer produced? Part of a trilogy, this novel has good humour, action and romance. There are many tidibits about the world to know that it fills up the pages and I never once found the story monotonous. Now that Chromatacia and its mechanics have been worked out, and, if the conclusion of "Shades of Grey" is any indication of the possibilities to come, the two sequels will be an explosion of colours with the continuing adventures of Eddie and Jane. I would not say this is the greatest literary piece of writing, but it is whimsically splendid. If quirky fiction is your kind of read, then this book is the one for you.
Date published: 2011-04-27

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Read from the Book

A Morning in Vermillion2. Males are to wear dress code #6 duringinter-Collective travel. Hats are encouraged but notmandatory.It began with my father not wanting to see the Last Rabbit and endedup with my being eaten by a carnivorous plant. It wasn’t really whatI’d planned for myself— I’d hoped to marry into the Oxbloods andjoin their dynastic string empire. But that was four days ago, before Imet Jane, retrieved the Caravaggio and explored High Saffron. So insteadof enjoying aspirations of Chromatic advancement, I was wholly immersed within the digestive soup of a yateveo tree. It was all frightfullyinconvenient.But it wasn’t all bad, for the following reasons: First, I was lucky tohave landed upside down. I would drown in under a minute, which wasfar, far preferable to being dissolved alive over the space of a few weeks.Second, and more important, I wasn’t going to die ignorant. I had discoveredsomething that no amount of merits can buy you: the truth. Notthe whole truth, but a pretty big part of it. And that was why this was allfrightfully inconvenient. I wouldn’t get to do anything with it. And thistruth was too big and too terrible to ignore. Still, at least I’d held it in myhands for a full hour and understood what it meant.I didn’t set out to discover a truth. I was actually sent to the Outer Fringesto conduct a chair census and learn some humility. But the truth inevitablyfound me, as important truths often do, like a lost thought in need of a mind. I found Jane, too, or perhaps she found me. It doesn’t really matter. We foundeach other. And although she was Grey and I was Red, we shared a commonthirst for justice that transcended Chromatic politics. I loved her, and what’smore, I was beginning to think that she loved me. After all, she did apologizebefore she pushed me into the leafless expanse below the spread of theyateveo, and she wouldn’t have done that if she’d felt nothing.So that’s why we’re back here, four days earlier, in the town of Vermillion,the regional hub of Red Sector West. My father and I had arrivedby train the day before and overnighted at the Green Dragon. We hadattended Morning Chant and were now seated for breakfast, disheartenedbut not surprised that the early Greys had already taken the bacon,and it remained only in exquisite odor. We had a few hours before ourtrain and had decided to squeeze in some sightseeing.“We could always go and see the Last Rabbit,” I suggested. “I’m toldit’s unmissable.”But Dad was not to be easily swayed by the rabbit’s uniqueness. Hesaid we’d never see the Badly Drawn Map, the Oz Memorial, the colorgarden and the rabbit before our train departed. He also pointed outthat not only did Vermillion’s museum have the best collection of Vimtobottles anywhere in the Collective, but on Mondays and Thursdays theydemonstrated a gramophone.“A fourteen- second clip of ‘Something Got Me Started,’ ” he said, as ifsomething vaguely Red- related would swing it.But I wasn’t quite ready to concede my choice.“The rabbit’s getting pretty old,” I persisted, having read the safetybriefing in the “How Best to Enjoy Your Rabbit Experience” leaflet, “andpetting is no longer mandatory.”“It’s not the petting,” said Dad with a shudder, “it’s the ears. In anyevent,” he continued with an air of finality, “I can have a productive andfulfilling life having never seen a rabbit.”This was true, and so could I. It was just that I’d promised my bestfriend, Fenton, and five others that I would log the lonely bun’s Taxanumber on their behalf and thus allow them to note it as “proxy seen”in their animal- spotter books. I’d even charged them twenty- five centseach for the privilege— then blew the lot on licorice for Constance anda new pair of synthetic red shoelaces for me.Dad and I bartered like this for a while, and he eventually agreed tovisit all of the town’s attractions but in a circular manner, to save on shoeleather. The rabbit came last, after the color garden.So, having conceded to at least include the rabbit in the morning’s entertainment,Dad returned to his toast, tea and copy of Spectrum as I lookedidly about the shabby breakfast room, seeking inspiration for the postcardI was writing. The Green Dragon dated from before the Epiphany and, likemuch of the Collective, had seen many moments, each of them slightlymore timeworn than the one before. The paint in the room was peeling,the plaster molding was dry and crumbly, the linoleum tabletops wereworn to the canvas and the cutlery was either bent, broken or missing.But the hot smell of toast, coffee and bacon, the flippant affability of thestaff and the noisy chatter of strangers enjoying transient acquaintancegave the establishment a peculiar charm that the reserved, eminentlyrespectable tearooms back home in Jade- under- Lime could never match.I noticed also that despite the lack of any Rules regarding seat plans in“ non- hue- specific” venues, the guests had unconsciously divided theroom along strictly Chromatic lines. The one Ultraviolet was respectfullygiven a table all to himself, and several Greys stood at the door waitingpatiently for an empty table even though there were places available.We were sharing our table with a Green couple. They were of matureyears and wealthy enough to wear artificially green clothes so thatall could witness their enthusiastic devotion to their hue, a proudfullyexpensive and tastelessly ostentatious display that was doubtlessfinanced by the sale of their child allocation. Our clothes were dyed ina conventional shade visible only to other Reds, so to the Greens sittingopposite we had only our Red Spots to set us apart from the Greys, andwere equally despised. When they say red and green are complementary,it doesn’t mean we like each other. In fact, the only thing that Reds andGreens can truly agree on is that we dislike Yellows more.“You,” said the Green woman, pointing her spoon at me in an exceptionallyrude manner, “fetch me some marmalade.”I dutifully complied. The Green woman’s bossy attitude was not atypical.We were three notches lower in the Chromatic scale, which officiallymeant we were subservient. But although lower in the Order, we werestill Prime within the long- established Red- Yellow- Blue Color Model,and a Red would always have a place in the village Council, somethingthe Greens, with their bastard Blue- Yellow status could never do. It irritatedthem wonderfully. Unlike the dopey Oranges, who accepted theirlot with a cheery, self- effacing good humor, Greens never managed torise above the feeling that no one took them seriously enough. The reasonfor this was simple: They had the color of the natural world almost exclusively to themselves, and felt that the scope of their sight- gift shouldreflect their importance within the Collective. Only the Blues could evenbegin to compete with this uneven share of the Spectrum, as they ownedthe sky, but this was a claim based mainly on surface area rather than avariety of shades, and when it was overcast, they didn’t even have that.But if I thought she was ordering me about solely due to my hue, I wasmistaken. I was wearing a NEEDS HUMILITY badge below my Red Spot. It relatedto an incident with the head prefect’s son, and I was compelled to wear itfor a week. If the Green woman had been more reasonable, she would haveexcused me the errand due to the prestigious 1,000 MERITS badge that I alsowore. Perhaps she didn’t care. Perhaps she just wanted the marmalade.I fetched the jar from the sideboard, gave it to the Green, noddedrespectfully, then returned to the postcard I was writing. It was of Vermillion’sold stone bridge and had been given a light blue wash in thesky for five cents extra. I could have paid ten and had one with greenedgrass, too, but this was for my potential fiancée, Constance Oxblood, andshe considered overcolorization somewhat vulgar. The Oxbloods werestrictly old- color and preferred muted tones of paint wherever possible,even though they could have afforded to decorate their house to thehighest chroma. Actually, much to them was vulgar, and that includedthe Russetts, whom they regarded as nouveau couleur. Hence my status as“potential fiancé.” Dad had negotiated what we called a “half promise,”which meant I was first- optioned to Constance. The agreement fell shortof being reciprocal, but it was a good deal— a concession that, despitebeing a Russett and three generations from Grey, I might be able to see agoodly amount of red, so couldn’t be ignored completely.“Writing to Fish- face already?” asked my father with a smile. “Hermemory’s not that bad.”“True,” I conceded, “but despite her name, constancy is possibly herleast well- defined attribute.”“Ah. Roger Maroon still sniffing about?”“As flies to stinkwort. And you mustn’t call her Fish- face.”“More butter,” remarked the Green woman, “and don’t dawdle thistime.”We finished breakfast and, after some last- minute packing, descendedto the reception desk, where Dad instructed the porter to have our suitcasesdelivered to the station.“Beautiful day,” said the manager as we paid the bill. He was a thin man with a finely shaped nose and one ear. The loss of an ear was not unusual,as they could be torn off annoyingly easily, but what was unusual wasthat he’d not troubled to have it stitched back on, a relatively straightforwardprocedure. More interesting, he wore his Blue Spot high up on hislapel. It was an unofficial but broadly accepted signal that he knew howto “fix” things, for a fee. We’d had crayfish for dinner the night before,and he hadn’t punched it out of ration books. It had cost us an extra halfmerit, covertly wrapped in a napkin.“Every day is a beautiful day,” replied my father in a cheery manner.“Indeed they are,” the manager countered genially. After we hadexchanged feedback— on the hotel for being clean and moderately comfortable,and on us, for not bringing shame to the establishment by poortable manners or talking loudly in public areas— he asked, “Do youtravel far this morning?”“We’re going to East Carmine.”The Blue’s manner changed abruptly. He gave us an odd look, handedback our merit books and wished us a joyously uneventful future beforeswiftly moving to attend someone else. So we tipped the porter, reiteratedthe time of our train and headed off to the first item on our itinerary.“Hmm,” said my father, staring at the Badly Drawn Map once we haddonated our ten cents and shuffled inside the shabby yet clean maphouse,“I can’t make head nor tail of this.”The Badly Drawn Map might not have been very exciting, but it wasvery well named. “That’s probably why it survived the deFacting,” I suggested,for the map was not only mystifying but mind- numbingly rare.Aside from the Parker Brothers’ celebrated geochromatic view of the PreviousWorld, it was the only pre- Epiphanic map known. But somehowits rarity wasn’t enough to make it interesting, and we stared blankly forsome minutes at the faded parchment, hoping to either misunderstandit on a deeper level or at least get our money’s worth.“The longer and harder we look at it, the cheaper the entrance donationbecomes,” Dad explained.I thought of asking how long we’d have to stare at it before they owedus money, but didn’t.He put his guidebook away, and we walked back out into the warmsunlight. We felt cheated out of our ten cents but politely left positivefeedback, since the drabness of the exhibit was no fault of the curator’s.“Dad?”“Yes?”“Why was the hotel manager so dismissive of East Carmine?”“The Outer Fringes have a reputation for being unsociably dynamic,”he said after giving my question some thought, “and some consider thateventfulness may lead to progressive thought, with all the attendantrisks that might bring to the Stasis.”It was a diplomatically prescient remark, and one that I had cause toconsider a lot over the coming days.“Yes,” I said, “but what do you think?”He smiled.“I think we should go and see the Oz Memorial. Even if it’s as dullas magnolia, it will still be a thousand times more interesting than theBadly Drawn Map.”We walked along the noisy streets toward the museum and soaked in thehustle, bustle, dust and heat of Vermillion. All about us were the traders whodealt with daily requisites: livestock herders, barrow boys, water sellers, piemen,storytellers and weight guessers. Catering for more long- term needswere the small shops, such as repairers, artifact dealers, spoon traders andcalculating shops that offered addition and subtraction while you waited.Moderators and loopholists were hirable by the minute to advise on mattersregarding the Rules, and there was even a shop that traded solely in floaties,and another that specialized in postcode genealogy. Amid it all I noticed astronger- than- usual presence of Yellows, presumably to keep an eye out forillegal color exchange, seed trading or running with a sharp implement.Unusually for a regional hub, Vermillion was positioned pretty muchon the edge of the civilized world. Beyond it to the east were only theRedstone Mountains and isolated outposts like East Carmine. In theuninhabited zone there would be wild outland, megafauna, lost villagesof untapped scrap color and quite possibly bands of nomadic Riffraff.It was exciting and worrying all in one, and until the week before, Ihadn’t even heard of East Carmine, let alone thought I would be spendinga month there on Humility Realignment. My friends were horrified,expressed low- to- moderate outrage that I should be treated this way andproclaimed that they would have started a petition if they could havetroubled themselves to look for a pencil.“The Fringes are the place of the slack- willed, slack- jawed andslack- hued,” remarked Floyd Pinken, who could comfortably boast allthree of those attributes, if truth be known.“And be wary of losers, self- abusers, fence leapers and fornicators,”added Tarquin, who, given his family history, would not have seemedout of place there either.They then informed me that I would be demonstrably insane to leavethe safety of the village boundary for even one second, and that a trip tothe Fringes would have me eating with my fingers, slouching and withhair below the collar in under a week. I almost decided to buy my wayout of the assignment with a loan from my twice- widowed aunt Beryl,but Constance Oxblood thought otherwise.“You’re doing a what?” she asked when I mentioned the reason I wasgoing to East Carmine.“A chair census, my poppet,” I explained. “Head Office is worriedthat the chair density might have dropped below the proscribed 1.8 perperson.”“How absolutely thrilling. Does an ottoman count as a chair or a verystiff cushion?”She went on to say that I would be showing significant daring andcommendable bravery if I went, so I changed my mind. With the prospectof joining the family of Oxblood and of myself as potential prefectmaterial, I was going to need the broadening that travel and furniturecounting would doubtless bring, and a month in the intolerably unsophisticatedOuter Fringes might well supply that for me.The Oz Memorial trumped the Badly Drawn Map in that it was bafflingin three dimensions rather than just two. It was a partial bronze of agroup of oddly shaped animals, the whole about six feet high and fourfeet across. According to the museum guide, it had been cut into piecesand dumped in the river three centuries before as part of the deFacting,so only two figures remained of a possible five. The best preserved wasthat of a pig in a dress and a wig, and next to her stood a bulbous- bodiedbear in a necktie. Of the third and fourth figures there remained almostnothing, and of the fifth, only two claw- shaped feet truncated at theankles, modeled on no creature living today.“The eyes are very large and humanlike for a pig,” said my father,peering closer. “And I’ve seen a number of bears in my life, but none ofthem wore a hat.”“They were very big on anthropomorphism,” I ventured, which waspretty much accepted fact. The Previous had many other customs thatwere inexplicable, none more so than their propensity to intermingle fact with fiction, which made it very hard to figure out what had happenedand what hadn’t. Although we knew that this bronze had beencast in honor of Oz, the full dedication on the plinth was badly eroded, soit remained tantalizingly unconnected to any of the other Oz referencesthat had trickled down through the centuries. Debating societies hadpondered long and hard over the “Oz Question,” and published manyscholarly tracts within the pages of Spectrum. But while remnants of TinMen had been unearthed by salvage teams, and Emerald City still existedas the center of learning and administration, no physical evidence ofbrick roads had ever been found anywhere in the Collective, either ofnatural or synthetic yellow— and naturalists had long ago rejected thepossibility that monkeys could fly. Oz, it was generally agreed, had beena fiction, and a fairly odd one. But in spite of that, the bronze remained.It was all a bit of a puzzle.After that, we paused only briefly to look at the exhibits in themuseum, and only those of more than passing interest. We stopped andstared at the collection of Vimto bottles, the preserved Ford Fiesta withits obscene level of intentional obsolescence, then at the Turner, whichDad thought “wasn’t his best.” After that, we made our way to the floorbelow, where we marveled at the realistic poses in the life- size Riffraffdiorama, which depicted a typical Homo feralensis encampment. It wasall disturbingly lifelike and full of savagery and unbridled lust, and wasfor the most part based upon Alfred Peabody’s seminal work, Seven Minutesamong the Riffraff. We stared at the lifeless mannequins with a smallcrowd of schoolchildren, who were doubtless studying the lower orderof Human as part of a Historical Conjecture project.“Do they really eat their own babies?” asked one of the pupils as shestared with horrified fascination at the tableau.“Absolutely,” replied the teacher, an elderly Blue who should haveknown better, “and you, too, if you don’t respect your parents, observethe Rules and finish up your vegetables.”Personally, I had doubts about some of the more ridiculous claimsregarding Riffraff. But I kept them to myself. Conjecture was a dishmostly served up wild.As it turned out, the phonograph would not be demonstrated, becauseboth it and the music disc had been put “beyond use” with a very largehammer. This wasn’t a result of mischief, but a necessary outcome ofLeapback Compliance issues, as some fool hadn’t listed the device onthis year’s exemption certificate. The staff at the museum seemed a trifle annoyed about this, as the destruction of the artifact reduced the Collective’sdemonstrable phonographs to a solitary machine in Cobalt’sMuseum of the Something That Happened.“But it wasn’t all bad,” added the curator, a Red with very bushy eyebrows.“At least I can lay claim to being the last person ever to hearMr. Simply Red.”After giving detailed feedback, we left the museum and headed offtoward the Municipal Gardens.We paused on the way to admire an impressive wall painting of greatantiquity that was emblazoned across the gable end of a brick house.It invited a long- vanished audience to “Drink Ovaltine for Health andVitality,” and there was an image of a mug and two odd- looking buthappy children, their football- sized eyes staring blankly out at the worldwith obvious satisfaction and longing. Although faded, the red componentsin the lips and script were still visible. Pre- Epiphanic wall paintingswere rare and, when they depicted the Previous, creepy. It was theeyes. Their pupils, far from being the fine, neat dot of normal people’s,were unnaturally wide and dark and empty— as though their headswere somehow hollow— and this gave their look of happiness a peculiarand contrived demeanor. We stood and stared at it for a moment, thenmoved on.Any colorized park was a must- see for visitors, and Vermillion’s offeringcertainly didn’t disappoint. The color garden, laid out within the citywalls, was a leafy enclave of dappled shade, fountains, pergolas, gravelpaths, statuary and flowerbeds. It also had a bandstand and an ice creamstall, even if there was no band, nor any ice cream. But what made Vermillion’spark really special was that it was supplied by color piped directfrom the grid, so it was impressively bright. We walked up to the maingrassed area, just past the picturesque, ivy- gripped Rodin, and stared atthe expanse of synthetic green. It was a major improvement on the parkback home, because the overall scheme was tuned for the predominanceof Red eyes. In Jade- under- Lime the bias was more toward those whocould see green, which meant that the grass was hardly colored at all andeverything red was turned up far too bright. Here the color balance waspretty much perfect, and we stood in silence, contemplating the subtleChromatic symphony laid out in front of us.“I’d give my left plum to move to a Red sector,” murmured Dad in arare display of crudeness.“You already pledged the left one,” I pointed out, “in the vague hopethat Old Man Magenta would retire early.”“Did I?”“Last autumn, after the incident with the rhinosaurus.”“What a dope that man is,” said Dad, shaking his head sadly. OldMan Magenta was our head prefect and, like many Purples, would havetrouble recognizing himself in a mirror.“Do you think that’s really the color of grass?” asked Dad after apause.I shrugged. There was no real way of telling. The most we could saywas that this was what National Color felt the color of grass should be.Ask a Green how green grass was and they’d ask you how red was anapple. But interestingly, the grass wasn’t uniformly green. An area the sizeof a tennis court in the far corner of the lawn had changed to an unpleasantbluey- green. The discordancy was spreading like a water stain, andthe off- color area had also taken in a tree and several beds of flowers,which now displayed unusual hues quite outside Standard BotanicalGamut. Intrigued, we noticed there was someone staring into an accesshatch close to the anomaly, so we wandered over to have a look.We expected him to be a National Color engineer working on theproblem, but he wasn’t. He was a Red park keeper, and he glanced at ourspots, then hailed us in a friendly manner.“Problems?” asked Dad.“Of the worst sort,” replied the park keeper wearily. “Another blockage.The Council are always promising to have the park repiped, butwhenever they get any money, they spend it on swan early- warning systems,lightning protection or something equally daft.”It was unguarded talk, but we were Reds, too, so he knew he was safe.We peered curiously into the access hatch where the cyan, yellow andmagenta color pipes fed into one of the many carefully calibrated mixersin order to achieve the various hues required for the grass, shrubs andflowers. From there they would feed the network of capillaries that hadbeen laid beneath the park. Colorizing gardens was a complex task thatinvolved matching the osmotic coefficients of the different plants withthe specific gravities of the dyes— and that was before you got started onpressure density evaporation rates and seasonal hue variation. Coloristsearned their perks and bonuses.I had a pretty good idea what the problem was, even without lookingat the flow meters. The bluey- green caste of the lawn, the grey appearance of the celandines and the purplish poppies suggested localized yellowdeficiency, and this was indeed the case— the yellow flow meter wasfirmly stuck on zero. But the viewing port was full of yellow, so it wasn’ta supply issue from the park substation.“I think I know what the problem is,” I said quietly, knowing fullwell that unlicensed tampering with National Color property carried afive- hundred- merit fine.The park keeper looked at me, then at Dad, then back to me. He bit hislip and scratched his chin, looked around and then lowered his voice.“Can it be easily fixed?” he asked. “We have a wedding at three.They’re only Grey, but we try to make an effort.”I looked at Dad, who nodded his assent. I pointed at the pipe.“The yellow flow meter’s jammed, and the lawn’s receiving only thecyan component of the grass- green. Although I would never condoneRule breaking of any sort,” I added, making sure I had deniability ifeverything turned brown, “I believe a sharp rap with the heel of a shoewould probably free it.”The park keeper looked around, took off his shoe and did what I suggested.Almost instantly there was an audible gurgling noise.“Well, I’ll be jaundiced,” he said. “As easy as that? Here.”And he handed me a half merit, thanked us and went off to packageup the grass clippings for cyan- yellow retrieval.“How did you know about that?” said Dad as soon as we were out ofearshot.“Overheard stuff, mostly,” I replied.We’d had a burst magenta feed a few years back, which was excitingand dramatic all at the same time— a cascading fountain of purple allover the main street. National Color was all over us in an instant, andI volunteered myself as tea wallah just to get close. The technical languageof the colorists was fairly obfuscating, but I’d picked up a bit. Itwas every resident’s dream to work at National Color, but not a realisticprospect: Your eyes, feedback, merits and sycophancy had to be beyondexemplary, and only one in a thousand of those who qualified to takethe entrance exam.We ambled around the garden for as long as time would permit, soakingin the synthetic color and feeling a lot better for it. Unusually, theyhad hydrangeas in both colors, and delicately hand- tinted azaleas thatlooked outside of the CYM gamut: a rare luxury, and apparently a bequestfrom a wealthy Lilac. We noted that there wasn’t much pure yellow in the garden, which was probably a sop to the Yellows in the town. They likedtheir flowers natural, and since they could cause trouble if not accededto, they were generally given their own way. When we passed the lawnon our way out, the grass in the anomaly was beginning to turn back tofresh lawn green, more technically known as 102-100-64. It would beback to full chroma in time for the wedding.We stepped out of the color garden, and walked back toward the mainsquare. On the way we passed a Leaper who was seated by the side of theroad, covered entirely in a coarse blanket except for his alms arm. I putmy recently acquired half merit in his open palm, and the figure noddedin appreciation. Dad looked at his watch.“I suppose,” he said with little enthusiasm, “we should go and havethe rabbit experience.”

Bookclub Guide

INTRODUCTION"Choice is overrated." (p. 274)Purple, Blue, Green, Yellow, Orange, Red, and—the lowest of the low—Grey. Such is the descending social hierarchy in Chromatacia, a postapocalyptic dystopia in which the natural color you can see determines your destiny. Eddie Russett is a Red of modest means and high ambitions—until an incident at home causes him to be sent to the Outer Fringes for Humility Realignment. En route, he meets a Grey named Jane whose brusque disregard for the Rules causes Eddie to question everything he has staked his future on believing. (Eddie is also attracted to Jane's very retroussé nose, but she is known to react violently at its mere mention.)Like twenty-year-olds of every hue, Eddie is soon to take his Ishihara, the color test that will measure the precise degree of Eddie's color perception, and thus establish his permanent place in Chromatacian society. He has always suspected that he is a high-level Red, but Eddie has also hedged his bets by wrangling a half-promise of marriage from Constance Oxblood, a prominent and wealthy string heiress.Although Eddie hopes to better his rank through marriage and a prestigious job with National Color—the governing body that oversees the production of universally visible artificial colors—he is not a total conformist. In addition to playing a trick on the local Head Prefect's son, he once "suggested a better way to queue… [and] was fined thirty merits for 'insulting the simple purity of the queue'" (p. 29).Once in East Carmine, Eddie finds life in the Outer Fringes even more challenging than he'd imagined. A de Mauve appropriates Eddie's Open Return ticket, an Ochre is dead from a suspicious overdose of Lincoln (125 – 66 – 53), and his meals are regularly stolen by the Apocryphal man who doesn't exist and therefore cannot be stopped. To top it all off, Eddie's rival back in Vermillion is taking advantage of his absence to win Constance's affections.Things finally start to look up when Jane downgrades her hostility toward him to a mild contempt. And then His Colorfulness, Matthew Gloss, turns up in East Carmine—ostensibly for "a Magenta feed-pipe leakage" (p. 200)—and Eddie sees an opportunity to finagle a coveted recommendation to National Color.Yet, Eddie can't stop himself from asking questions—even after Jane's warning that "cozy ignorance is the best place for people like you" (p. 110). Who were the "Previous," and what was the "Something That Happened"? How is it that a Red might marry a Grey, but not a Green? Why is it forbidden to produce new spoons? And has anyone actually read all "seven hundred and eighty-two volumes of The Word of Munsell (unabridged)" (p. 267)?As Jane's impudence leads her closer to Reboot and Eddie's plums suddenly become coveted property, the two find themselves undertaking an expedition beyond the Outer Markers to High Saffron, where a dark secret lies buried.Rich with the inspired wordplay and sly cultural references for which Jasper Fforde is famous, Shades of Grey conjures a bleak vision of humanity's future and transports readers to an utterly original world—one full of outward color, but pitch black at heart.ABOUT JASPER FFORDEJasper Fforde was an enthusiastic member of the film industry for nineteen years before being published. Author of the New York Times bestselling Thursday Next and Nursery Crime series, he says that writing is the same as filmmaking—only you do all the jobs, not just one. He currently works and lives in Wales.Shades of Grey is his eighth novel.A CONVERSATION WITH JASPER FFORDEQ. What is National Color?National Color is the Chromatic elite who supply the synthetic hues available—at a price—to the citizens. Although one might be Red and never able to witness "the alleged splendor of a bluebell spring," that Red can see a synthetic blue, as supplied by National Color. Although a poor copy of the original, the Univisual shades do permit a tantalizing glimpse of what the world might actually look like if you could see all the colors. Synthetic hues, however, are limited in scope (mock-hued daffodils, lemons, bananas, and melons are all the same shade) and cost a lot more. Mind you, they do impress at dinner parties—unless one of your guests is a Yellow, in which case it would probably give him or her a headache.The communal color gardens, the boast of any village, are fed by an intricate network of capillary beds beneath the ground which are supplied from the CYM feed pipes that crisscross the country as part of the National Colorization Program. It is the fervent wish of every village that they will be connected to the grid and thus have an endless variety of hues on tap—full gamut, full pressure. Needless to say, East Carmine, the village our hero finds himself in, is neither on the grid nor particularly wealthy. And that's a cause of much consternation.Q. Do you think readers will agree with National Color's enforcement of politeness? Everyone agrees that people should be more polite!I agree—in any regime there is always something that one should agree with, and in Shades there are quite a few notions that, on the face of it, seem like a good thing—the strict adherence to good manners, the fact that learning a musical instrument is compulsory, as is dancing, performing musicals, and an hour's Useful Work every day in order to properly discharge your duty to society. But a cage is still a cage, irrespective of the nature of its bars.Q. What is a Chromaticologist?Eddie's father is a Swatchman, or Chromaticologist. In Eddie's world, health issues are dealt with by viewing "healing hues." If you have a skin condition, a bald patch, or tuberculosis, the cure can be accomplished by the viewing of a color specifically blended to engender the necessary effect. In fact, there is only one fatal illness, The Mildew, and if you catch that, there is nothing but The Green Room, a chamber of soothing shades that lead you comfortably, painlessly, and euphorically to a place where you are no longer a burden.Q. Institutionalized mercy killings are one aspect of the book readers may find disturbing. Are these included for shock factor?Not really. Aspects that we consider normal today could very well be repugnant in the future—eating animals, for one thing, or abundant choice, or invasive surgery. I was simply trying to demonstrate that what is acceptable today may not be acceptable forever, and vice versa. Social mores change with time, like fashion—who knows where it might all end up? I especially like the idea that waste, impoliteness, and overpopulation become "abominations," although I'm not sure recycling one's aunt will ever truly catch on.Q. Did the story change at all as you wrote or did you map it out ahead of time?My first draft was pretty much a travelogue—Eddie wandering around East Carmine and being introduced to Technological Leapbacks, the Janitor, the Apocryphal man, the lack of spoons, Mildew, bar codes, the Fallen Man, the Chromogencia evening, High Saffron, the Caravaggio, and Violet deMauve—not to mention the linoleum factory. The main thrusts of the story I added later. It's an odd journey, and a complex one, but one that I hope readers will enjoy.Q. Did you have any worries about writing such a bizarre world?Of course. But I've never been averse to a little risk—after all, writing without risk is not really writing at all. Sometimes one has to just let fly with a high concept piece and see where the pieces fall. As it generally turns out, the central story is familiar, just with different rules of engagement. Whether it is Eddie's quest to side with Jane when what he really wants is to have a quiet life married into the Oxbloods, or with Jack Spratt in my NCD (Nursery Crime Detective) series trying not to be a boring stereotypical detective, or even with Thursday Next trying to have her husband reactualized from nonexistence, my approach to writing has always been that of telling a conventional story, but in a wholly unconventional setting.Q. Which character do you feel most attached to?Eddie. He's a reluctant hero, someone who wants to lead a normal life but is called to step up and be counted. Without Jane he would have simply returned to his home village and Constance. But Jane changes all that. I think it is that sense of unrealized potential in all of us that I find most interesting. Ordinary people do exceptional things in exceptional circumstances.Q. What were the literary influences upon the work?1984 and Brave New World, to go back to primary sources. In both the afore mentioned books, there are large cities with a centralized government that is very much the dominating force. In Shades I wanted the forces of oppression to be much subtler and internal, so everything is more localized, but no less oppressive. The citizenry are dispersed, with communication and transport limited, and idle and seditious thoughts banished from the head by a cocktail of the compulsory staging of musicals, tea dances, and the minimum of one hobby. There is the fear of the dark to keep people bound to a home village, and the ever present possibility of Riffraff, lightning, and swan attacks. Keep them amused with ballroom dancing and entertainment, but keep them in line with fear.DISCUSSION QUESTIONSBased on the evidence left behind by "the Previous," what do you think the "Something That Happened" was? Did it cause humankind to lose its ability to see in the dark as well as most of the colors in the spectrum? Or did that occur separately?How did all the animals in Chromatacia come to have bar codes? And why does every human have a fragment of a bar code visible in his or her nail bed?If the Caravaggio that Eddie recovers in Rusty Hill is called Frowny Girl Removing Beardy's Head, how might some of our world's other masterpieces be renamed in Chromatacia?When Eddie first barters jam with the Apocryphal Man, he is told that history was eliminated because "in a world devoted to Stasis, there's no real need for it" (p. 208). Was its elimination necessary? Does our species benefit from its knowledge of history?Why is it that the Greys knowingly shelter blind Mrs. Olive and other "unlicensed supernumeraries" (p. 297), but the Colors also contribute to their sustenance—albeit as invisible pets?"Its function is to give life apparent meaning. It is an abstraction, a misdirection—nothing more than a sideshow at Jollity Fair. As long as your minds are full of Chromatic betterment, there can be no room for other, more destructive thoughts" (p. 304). What are the preeminent abstractions of our own time?At the Fallen Man tearoom lie the remains of a helmeted man who had fallen to earth thirteen years earlier. Who might he be? And why is it here that long-established custom "would find Carlos Fandango offering tea and scones to Bertie, and discussing potential dowries, feedback ratings and virtues" (p. 311)?In a world governed by free market capitalism rather than Munsell's Rules, who among the residents of East Carmine would thrive and who would fail?After Eddie's Ishihara, his "Dad" shows him Eddie's dead mother's ranking, and Eddie asks, "So who was the man who made me?" (p. 375). What is the secret of Eddie's paternity?It seems absurd that anyone would follow the dictates of a regime that outlaws spoon production. Yet aren't there Chromatician aspects to our own world? Does Eddie's epiphany inspire you to suggest a better way to queue, or otherwise question the status quo?Do you agree with Eddie's decision to remain quiet when the Colorman announces his decision to send Dorian and Imogen to High Saffron? Is it acceptable to sacrifice the few in order to benefit—or attempt to benefit—the many?Is ideology a good or bad thing?

Editorial Reviews

The world of the near future is anything but an ashen wasteland in theimpish British author’s refreshingly daft first volume of a new fantasyseries.Already cult-worshipped for his popular Thursday Next and NurseryCrimes novels (First Among Sequels, 2007, etc.) Fforde is somethinglike a contemporary Lewis Carroll or Edward Lear. He’s a shamelesspunster with a demonic flair for groan-worthy parodies and lampoons,and it’s just too much bother to try to resist his greased-pignarratives. In this one, which does take place in a possiblypost-apocalyptic world, a repressive Colortocracy ranks and separatescitizens according to their ability to perceive particular colors. Forexample, haughty Greens and dictatorial Yellows (“Gamboges”) deemRed-ness hopelessly lower class. It’s as if 1984 were ruled by CocoChanel. Our hero, Eddie Russett (a Red, naturally), is an affable youngman who hangs out with his father Holden (a healer known as aswatchman), killing time until his arranged marriage to fellow RedConstance Oxblood. But when son and father resettle in the odd littlehamlet of East Carmine, the lad’s eyes are opened to a confusion ofstandards and mores, and the realities of sociopolitical unrest. Whileserving his punishment for a school prank by compiling a “chaircensus,” Eddie visits fascinating new places, enjoys the wonders of theUnLibrary and the organized worship of Oz, and decides thatconscientious resistance to entrenched authority probably won’t bringabout the ultimate ecological catastrophe—Mildew. He’s a little lesssure about his wavering infatuation with Jane, a militant, pissed-offGrey (they’re the proles) who rather enjoys abusing him. Eventually,the best and brightest prosper, while characters of another color endup in the relational red (so to speak). All this is serenely silly, but to dispel a black mood and chase awaythe blues, this witty novel offers an eye-popping spectrum of remedies.A grateful hue and cry (as well as sequels) may be anticipated.—STARREDKirkusIn Eddie Russett’s world, color is destiny. A person’s perception ofcolor, once tested, determines their rank in the Colortocracy, withprimes ruling “bastard” colors and everyone lording it over theprole-like grays. No one can see more than their own color, and no oneknows why—but there are many unknowns ever since Something Happened,followed by the deFacting and successive Great Leaps Backward. Due toan infraction against the Collective’s rule-bound bureaucracy, Eddie issent to East Carmine, in the Outer Fringes, where manners areshockingly poor, to conduct a month-long chair census. In short order,he falls in love, runs afoul of the local prefects, learns a terriblesecret, and is eaten by a carnivorous tree. This series startercombines the dire warnings of Brave New World and 1984 with thedeevolutionary visions of A Canticle for Leibowitz and Riddley Walker,but, Fforde being Fforde, his dystopia includes an abundance of teashops and a severe shortage of jam varieties. It’s all brilliantlyoriginal. If his complex worldbuilding sometimes slows the plot and thebalance of silly and serious is uneasy, we’re still completely wonover. In our own willful myopia, we sorely need the laughs.—STARRED Booklist