Shades of Grey: the Road to High Saffron
Viking Penguin, 2009
Excerpt from the dust jacket: “It’s summer, it’s hot, it’s our world, but not as we know it. Entire cities lie buried beneath overgrown fields and forests. Technology from another time litters the landscape, and there is evidence of great upheaval. Welcome to Chromatacia, where for as long as anyone can remember society has been ruled by a Colortocracy. From the underground feedpipes that keep the municipal park green, to the healing hues viewed to cure illness, to a social hierarchy based upon one’s limited color perception, society is dominated by color. In this world, you are what you can see. … In a world of enforced simplification, answers are in short supply, and every question begets another: What was the “Something That Happened”? Why does no one ever return from the long-abandoned village of High Saffron? Where did all the spoons go? Is there more to color than just color? … Utterly original, bizarre, entertaining and thought-provoking, the world and characters in this new work confirm Fforde’s place as one of the most brazen and original literary fantasists of our time.”
So, tell me, did you even understand any of the above? This reading has been the 3rd time I’ve read this book (my first review of it, however) and I still have questions. There are also subtleties I picked up on for the first time during this reading. Maybe to make it easier, let me explain: society is divided by the color you can perceive. Everybody sees in shades of grey with the exception of one color, either primary (red, blue, yellow) or complementary (green, purple, orange). For those unlucky enough to not see any color at all (or minimal color), those folks are the worker-drones of society and are called Greys. The more of your familial color you can see the higher up in society you are – meaning more powerful, more money, more of everything. Marriages are not based on love but on enriching the family hue (the ability to see color fades with each generation unless one of the partners can see a lot of color).
But all is not well in this post-apocalyptic utopia (as few utopias actually are) and the main character, Eddie Russet (a Red) is turning 20 and about to have his whole life planned for him – marriage, career, residence, etc. until he meets a Grey named Jane and she alters his whole life and his perception of society in four short days.
I love this book – as I love all Jasper Fforde’s books. He has a brilliant imagination and he’s the kind of writer that if you like your fiction firmly rooted in reality, you might as well skip him. I finished the book the other afternoon and am still pondering it days later. If you liked Margaret Atwood’s Oryx and Crake series and The Handmaid’s Tale, you’ll probably like this book. My only disappointment is that there are two follow-up books planned but they haven’t been published yet. It’s been a long wait since 2009. But don’t let that stop you from checking out this book. It can stand just fine on its own.
Rating: 5 out of 5 paws. It’s a totally awesome read!!