Weeks ago, I borrowed a friend's advance copy of Shades of Grey, Jasper Fforde's latest book. A huge fan of everything Fforde, I then went to see him talk at a local bookstore, bought the book, and stood in line to have him sign it. Big fangirl. Done that twice now. (Different books, obviously.) There are very few authors I care enough about to wait in line for a signature -- in fact, most autographed books I have were either professors of mine or guest speakers at a community event I attended. So Jasper Fforde is a big deal. (Twice!)
Like the Thursday Next series (time- and book-travelling and pure genius) and Nursery Crime books, this new Fforde world blows your mind! In Shades of Grey's post-apocalyptic society, the colors people can see determine their social standing -- what jobs they have, who they can marry, where they can live. Industries are built around manufacturing synthetic colors; people can get high and overdose on seeing certain forbidden colors; good members of society get merits, and bad ones are sent off to re-education facilities if they get enough demerits. The underlying intricacies for this colortocracy are highly innovative, and yet highly disarmingly parallel to our own society.
The entire plot hints at subversion and fomenting revolution and messing with the dominant paradigms, so naturally I'm pre-inclined to like it. There's a murder. There's a sassy, radical girl. It's awesome. The last chapter, however, was truly disturbing, and its cliffhanger ending definitely did not sit well with me. (I was so disturbed, I rushed across town to return the book to my friend and vent about it.)
Luckily, there will be a sequel. And I trust Fforde to resolve some of the unanswered issues!
Best book of the year so far!