Thursday, 2 November 2017

Fforde, Jasper "Shades of Grey. The Road to High Saffron"


Fforde, Jasper "Shades of Grey. The Road to High Saffron" - 2009

A dystopian novel about a future where colour perception rules the world. I like colours, I like Jasper Fforde's style I read a few of his "Thursday Next" books (The Eyre Affair, Lost in a Good Book), so I couldn't resist when I saw this book even though the title surprised me a little. When my son saw it on my reading pile, he looked at it curiously and I said "It's not 50 Shades of Grey", and he laughed and said "I wouldn't think you'd step that low". Oh, my kids know me so well. ;)

Anyway, I think dystopian novels (or "disturbian" as my husband likes to call them) are great. They show our society in a different way. What kind of fears are there, how do we imagine the world would look like if some of them came true. Or something else happened that made us give up the ways we live now.

In this case, Something (always capitalized) happens and the world changes, the people change. Everyone is only able to see certain kinds of colour and even there is a difference in how well they perceive "their" colour. Families even have their last names showing what colour they can see, like our hero Eddie Russett, who - obviously - belongs to the Reds. Then there are the deMauves, the Ochres, the Magnetas, Mr. Yewberry, Mrs. Lapis-Lazuli, etc. The Greys don't see any colours and are therefore just given a number.

But here's the thing, people manage to get racism even into this, you are not judged by the colour of your skin but by the colour you can see. The ultra-violets are the highest, the Reds come second last, just above the Greys.

What I liked about this novel is not just the author's style, he does write interestingly and his novels always contain a lot of humour, but the way it makes you think about how we really perceive this world. That is my favourite part not just about this novel but of any dystopian one.

From the back cover:
"Hundreds of years in the future, after the Something that Happened, the world is an alarmingly different place. Life is lived according to The Rulebook and social hierarchy is determined by your perception of colour.
Eddie Russett is an above average Red who dreams of moving up the ladder by marriage to Constance Oxblood. Until he is sent to the Outer Fringes where he meets Jane - a lowly Grey with an uncontrollable temper and a desire to see him killed.
For Eddie, it's love at first sight. But his infatuation will lead him to discover that all is not as it seems in a world where everything that looks black and white is really shades of grey . . .
If George Orwell had tripped over a paint pot or Douglas Adams favoured colour swatches instead of towels . . . neither of them would have come up with anything as eccentrically brilliant as Shades of Grey."

According to Wikipedia: "Fforde's books contain a profusion of literary allusions and wordplay, tightly scripted plots, and playfulness with the conventions of traditional genres. His works usually contain elements of metafiction, parody, and fantasy."

4 comments:

  1. I've never read any of his books, but my daughter is a big fan of his.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I am sure he is loved even more by the younger generations than by us "oldies" but he has a great sense of humour and for that alone it is worth reading his books.

      Delete
  2. I read the same two of his novels that you did back in the day. I wonder why I stopped? I found them delightful fun. The British are possibly the best at satire. I like your point about dystopian novels making us think about how we perceive the world.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I might have stopped because I don't come across the other editions in bookshops around here and I have vouched not to order too many books until my TBR pile is smaller. Ha! If that will every happen. LOL.

      But I totally agree, the British are great at satire. Certainly the best! Can't think of any better ones.

      And that is why I love dystopian novels. They are not someone's fantasy (as in sci-fi or fantasy), they are real life. Our real fears.

      Delete