Wednesday 28 December 2011

'Shades of Grey' by Jasper Fforde

I’ve been interested in trying a Jasper Fforde book for quite some time, they appealed to me greatly, I do know some people who don’t get on with them, but thought I’d give Shades of Grey a go. The first couple of pages were somewhat bamboozling, the kind of feeling you get at the beginning of a novel such as Nineteen Eighty-Four, Brave New World, or Oryx and Crake. It takes a little while to settle into the new world being portrayed in the novel, and get used to its various quirks.

Once I’d got past the initial disorientation, I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book. It introduces you to a world where the hierarchy is based on colour perception, and everything is quite strictly regulated. Some of the moral code may seem a bit historic, and the strict hierarchical concerns which decide who can marry who certainly seems to hark back to a previous era.

There have been a series of ‘Leapbacks’ whereby things have been lost, and the number of facts deliberately reduced. The library no longer holds many books, but the librarian proudly knows where they would all have been placed. This leads to some amusing confusion, Catch-22 being part of a series of fishing books, and such, which I’m sure many book fans will enjoy.

The utter dependence on the Word of Munsell raised some interesting ideas to me. In one of the Leapbacks the production of spoons was banned. Eddie, the main character, questions this, and is told that sometimes you just have to accept that Munsell knows best. As a Christian, I have often been faced with the idea that we don’t understand everything, and that a lot of it just comes down to faith. Reading this it seemed somewhat ridiculous, but it made it more apparent why so many people find it absurd when explanations of belief rest merely on the notion of trusting that you don’t know, but that there is a bigger purpose.

This book does suck you in, though it takes a while for the core of the plot to become apparent, it’s an enjoyable journey. There are moments that will make you laugh, but also parts which will cause strong feelings about the injustices being laid on some of the characters. The world in which it is set proves to be a lot more corrupt than initially seems to be the case, and it’s not until the very end that you discover the truth about which characters are to be trusted.

All in all a fantastic book which I would definitely recommend. Apparently the next one in the series is not out until 2013, which just seems too far away. In the meantime I will have to keep myself amused with some of his other novels, but I eagerly await his next offering in this series.

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