Twenty-Fifteen: I’m doing something I’ve been putting off for far too long. I’m getting serious about reading, again. I’ve dusted off my paperbacks and charged up my Kindle. It’s time to take the time to feed my poor television-adled brain with a selection of healthy, nourishing fiction. So, read on, little brain. Read on. We’re going Book to the Future!
Having the day off I found myself having a quiet morning of sipping coffee and feeling the need to finally scratch “Shades of Grey” by Jasper Fforde from my reading list.
I had the last quarter of the novel lingering in my mind, having been plucking through its pages in a methodical, fitting-in-it fashion and (honestly) not quite finding the motivation or compulsion to press out an urgent interest in the fate of these characters.
That sounds like a damning review of the book, but not entirely. It was a slow build: the characters, in particular the protagonist Eddie Russett were methodically climbing out of a pool of colour-blinded, post-dystopian ignorance and the loosening of the layers that described this curious society was seemingly as deliberate and intentional as to urge the reader into the frustration our hero must have felt in a world that was designed, literally, around helpless compliance to unquestioning adherence to the most idiotic rules.
Readable, and as the action picked up to a frustratingly cringe-inducing climax I flipped to the final page to see the titles of the two sequels listed. I guess, in 2016, I’ll need to track down book two. In the end I’ll offer it a four star, better than I thought a week ago when I was only half through, review.
I think the best way to sum up the tongue-in-cheek-ish ridiculousness of the universe created by Mr. Fforde is to say it’s all about the spoons; As a metaphor, they are the most striking to me. And as a bit of a spoiler, imagine a world where an arbitrary rule, perhaps even a misinterpreted rule to boot, enforces a post-dystopian society where the manufacture of new spoons is forbidden. For no real good reason… just because someone wrote it down in the rule book: a rule book that contains thousands of seemingly random rules (many of them prefacing the chapters of this novel.) The metaphorical spoon becomes a symbol of the arbitrary idiocy of the society, where a black-market in the few remaining spoons is a kind of symbol for a clambering for something still utterly useful to daily life but forbidden for no reason other than unseen control by unquestioning compliance.
The colour-factor plays in, of course, and though it is never satisfactorily explained (at least not in the first of this apparent trilogy of books) it is entrenched so thoroughly in the life of the created world that after a while the reader just accepts that this is the way things are, no explanation really required. A bit like the characters themselves, I suppose.
But ultimately the spoons are the symbol of an irrationally broken system that seems to resonate with a reader like me, bending my mind towards trying to find currency in the dark currency of traded cutlery, as weird and random as that likely seems to someone who hasn’t read the book.
But do. It’s got so many more shades than fifty to draw your interest.