Shades of Grey is the first of a series and it doesn't know whether it wants to be science fiction, parable, or mystery. As Fforde lives in Wales it is possible that the story is all three. The story begins innocently with the protagonist announcing that he is being eaten by a carnivorous tree. Then things get really weird. Although outwardly, like our own world, Something Happened an indeterminate time ago that changed everything. Where once everyone could see all colors almost equally, now everyone perceives only one color range (designated by their family name and an appropriate color spot on their lapel). Thus Blood, Russet and Pink all see the red spectrum in varying degrees while to others red is just varying shades of grey. The same is true of all the other colors. Because particular color balance is needed to keep each person sane and healthy, chromatocologists become the country doctors of their society with their licensed swatches restricted to their dispensing. The entire populace is ruled and predicated on the individual's ability to see color.
Then there is the problem of the roads that absorb anything that sits still too long (a few minutes unmoving) on the surface. And the lack of engines that stay working despite mechanics that try their hardest. (There hasn't been a new car or boat built in generations. Even the train is beginning to loose some tracks and parts.) Our narrator--Eddie Russet--wants only to conform, but his curiosity gets the better of him. He discovers that previously obvious rationale for some rules gradually become more absurd as he moves farther and farther from the center of the society. As he poses more questions, his life becomes more complicated and precarious. I find it difficult to easily summarize the story and its logic, but I enjoyed its humor so much that I can hardly wait for the sequel due out this year.
Fforde also writes the Nursery Crimes series (which cast various nursery characters as victims, investigators, and criminals) and the Thursday Next mysteries as well. I've not read any of those mysteries although they have been recommended to me. I have briefly looked at his blog www.jasperfforde.com/ which only reinforces my opinion that his absurdities rival those of Douglas Adams' Hitchhiker series.
Submitted by Leah @ Wisconsin Talking Book & Braille Library