Thursday, March 11, 2010

Shades of Grey

Shades of Grey: A Novel

I love Jasper Fforde, probably even more so because I discovered him at the City Lights book store in San Francisco, and I remember that each time I read one of his books. Shades of Grey got mixed reviews, so I lowered my expectations before reading it, which probably in part helped me enjoy it more.
Shades of Grey: A Novel
It is very different from Fforde's other novels, but it's still eccentric and satirical and funny and slightly absurd and mysterious. I do think his Thursday Next books are better, but of course those would be to any book lover since they feature so many much loved characters. I do feel like his writing might actually be stronger in this book though and that there was more of an overall plot instead of a lot of really weird instances that are tied together by a thread. But it didn't have quite the same charm, although I still really enjoyed it.

I noticed quite a few similarities between Shades of Grey and The Giver, which is one of my all-time favorite books. They are still very different books, don't get me wrong, but things just kept reminding me of The Giver.

For instance, the idea of color. In the future world of Shades of Grey, people only see one color. So, you have Reds who can only see shades of red, Purples who can only see purple (and blue or red depending on their percentage levels), and Greys who only get shades of grey. In The Giver, the people have forgotten how to see in color, and one of Jonah's memories that the Giver gives him is of color, especially red. The main character, Eddie, in Shades of Grey is a red, and both Jonah and Eddie see the girl they like has red hair at pivotal moments in their growth.

Also, the societal rules reminded of The Giver, and just the overall feeling more than a bunch of specific instances. Both books are about societies that have forgotten their pasts. I think that's one of the reasons why I like them both - I love history and think it's important to learn from the past. The societies in both books can't do that because they've forgotten their pasts. In Shades of Grey, they know that there was "Something That Happened" that caused the end of the Previous, but no one knows what that was now. In The Giver of course, all the memories are given only to the Giver because it would be too dangerous for everyone to know all of that information. I mean, we don't want people to potentially be sad or upset about anything right? Ignorance is bliss.

I'm glad I happened to flip to the back of the book before I started reading, and noticed that there will be a Shades of Grey II and III. If I hadn't known that going in, I might have been frustrated by the lack of answers. It's sort of like watching Lost. The more you read the more questions you have. So, hopefully we'll find out what the Something That Happened was. And why spoons are so stinking important. And hopefully we'll find out what the heck is going on with the Losties and have all 192 of our remaining questions answered in the next nine episodes.

Anyway, I do recommend this book if you're a fan of Fforde's, just know going in that it's quite different from his norm. If you're new to Fforde and maybe think he's a little too weird for you, you might actually like this one. And if you liked The Giver, and who doesn't, then give it a try. (Seriously, who doesn't like The Giver? I read it for the first time in English class when I was 14 and I've never seen a classroom of people debate something with such passion, not through my entire schooling, including getting my MA in English, and I can still discuss the ending with some of the same friends I read it with the first time. That's a powerful book.)

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