Friday, February 26, 2010

Shades of Grey: The Road to High Saffron

From Good Reads:
In a society where the ability to see the higher end of the color spectrum denotes a better social standing, Eddie Russet belongs to the low-level House of Red and can see his own color—but no other. The sky, the grass, and everything in between are all just shades of grey, and must be colorized by artificial means.

Eddie's world wasn't always like this. There's evidence of a never-discussed disaster and now, many years later, technology is poor, news sporadic, the notion of change abhorrent, and nighttime is terrifying: no one can see in the dark. Everyone abides by a bizarre regime of rules and regulations, a system of merits and demerits, where punishment can result in permanent expulsion.

Mrs. Gamboge replied that this was just the sort of "fanciful nonsense" that librarians are apt to speak, and professed her opinion that if it weren't for the Rules, she would long ago have relocated Lapis Lazuli's band of librarians to "somewhere they might benefit the community," an opinion that caused Mrs. Lapis Lazuli to go so red with anger that I think even the Ochres noticed.
Eddie's world runs very much like a boarding school with demerits and merits and prefects.  There is shaming instead of punishment and everyone is expected to be nice and polite and the Rules are infallible leaving the residents with no choice and no thought of misbehaving.  It just doesn't seem to occur to Eddie to do something wrong.  And then he moves to the Outer Fringes where they think a little differently and all the moral training he's received conflicts with their actions.  But as he moves around in East Carmine, his natural curiosity takes over and he begins to see how the world is really run until the shocking truth comes out.

I've been contemplating how to describe this book. I've been thinking about what I even think about this book. I must say that out of all the Jasper Fforde books I've read, this one is the quirkiest and the most serious and the most unbelievable and the most fantastic. There are so many elements that I could talk about because Fforde builds a world that is real in this book. It is intricate and sound and alive. The thing I love about a Jasper Fforde book is that he shows and doesn't tell. This concept, in the hands of a less author, would have fallen flat. He doesn't set up a great deal of exposition, but rather allows the reader to find out how this world works on their own. Not to say that there is no explanation, but it only comes when it is natural. There is no forced description or dialogue. It made for a confusing book til I got the hang of the slang and the language and what was going on.

There is so much mystery involving the Something that Happened and where the Previous went and why there are roads that are alive and metal that floats and lightning balls that travel around looking for targets.  The government does its best to keep everyone in ignorance, but no one questions why since they are ignorant and believe in the Rules.   There are also lots of funny jokes and some great moments over all.  This is first in a series so I'm sure the answers will come in time.  If you've never read a Jasper Fforde, then this is a great place to start.  And if you have, then let me know what you think.


  1. Like I said on twitter yesterday, i read about 40 pages of this before taking it back to the library. I thought they were excellently written. I loved the world-building and i love Fforde's no-nonsense way of immersing the reader in it. The characters already know what's going on - they don't have to explain it. It's up to the reader ot figure things out. But as I said, I've just been too stressed the last 4 months or so to read dystopia. I can only handle mild, mild dystopia (like Galapagos which I'm slowly reading now). I do hope to pick this up again in a few months and finish it!

  2. I've been waiting to hear your thoughts on the book before buying it. I think this is what will put me over the edge into purchasing it. I fell in love with Fforde's writing in The Eyre Affair, for the exact same reasons you describe. I love that he shows rather than tells. It makes the re-reading process that much more rich when you can go back at catch things you didn't see the first time!

    When I read it, I'll let you know!

  3. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  4. I've really enjoyed all of fforde's books! I will have to check this one out!

  5. Gofita - You should! It was excellent.

  6. I haven't read Fforde before. I would be wary of this concept but since you say it is executed well I am willing to try it. I was just thinking while I was reading the description that this was going to probably either be really good or really bad.


Comments are so awesome. Thanks for taking the time. I do reserve the right to remove any comments that are offensive and/or spam.