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3.93 out of 53.93 out of 53.93 out of 53.93 out of 53.93 out of 5 3.93 (30 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Jasper Fforde Narrator: John Lee Publisher: Penguin Random House Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date: December 2009 ISBN: 9781101145890
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Part social satire, part romance, part revolutionary thriller, Shades of Grey tells of a battle against overwhelming odds. In a society where the ability to see the higher end of the color spectrum denotes a better social standing, Eddie Russet belongs to the low-level House of Red and can see his own color—but no other. The sky, the grass, and everything in between are all just shades of grey, and must be colorized by artificial means.

Eddie's world wasn't always like this. There's evidence of a never-discussed disaster and now,  many years later, technology is poor, news sporadic, the notion of change abhorrent, and nighttime is terrifying: no one can see in the dark. Everyone abides by a bizarre regime of rules and regulations, a system of merits and demerits, where punishment can result in permanent expulsion.

Eddie, who works for the Color Control Agency, might well have lived out his rose-tinted life without a hitch. But that changes when he becomes smitten with Jane, a Grey Nightseer from the dark, unlit side of the village. She shows Eddie that all is not well with the world he thinks is just and good. Together, they engage in dangerous revolutionary talk.

Stunningly imaginative, very funny, tightly plotted, and with sly satirical digs at our own society, this novel is for those who loved Thursday Next but want to be transported somewhere equally wild, only darker; a world where the black and white of moral standpoints have been reduced to shades of grey.

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Quotes & Awards

  • “It’s all brilliantly original. If his complex world building sometimes slows the plot and the balance of silly and serious is uneasy, we’re still completely won over. In our own willful myopia, we sorely need the laughs.”

    Booklist (starred review)

  • “Can the postapocalypse be funny? If the author is Fforde, then yes…Fforde has built a complex, engaging, and unique world full of surprises, serious ideas, and serious fun.”

    Library Journal

  • “A rich brew of dystopic fantasy and deadpan goofiness…Fforde has now created his most original story, an elaborate social satire about a weird but oddly familiar world almost 500 years in the future…Lewis Carroll madness tinted with steampunk. The palette of Fforde’s comedy is immense.”

    Washington Post

  • The world of the near future is anything but an ashen wasteland in theimpish British author’s refreshingly daft first volume of a new fantasyseries.
  • Already cult-worshipped for his popular Thursday Next and NurseryCrimes novels (First Among Sequels, 2007, etc.) Fforde is somethinglike a contemporary Lewis Carroll or Edward Lear. He’s a shamelesspunster with a demonic flair for groan-worthy parodies and lampoons,and it’s just too much bother to try to resist his greased-pignarratives. In this one, which does take place in a possiblypost-apocalyptic world, a repressive Colortocracy ranks and separatescitizens according to their ability to perceive particular colors. Forexample, haughty Greens and dictatorial Yellows (“Gamboges”) deemRed-ness hopelessly lower class. It’s as if 1984 were ruled by CocoChanel. Our hero, Eddie Russett (a Red, naturally), is an affable youngman who hangs out with his father Holden (a healer known as aswatchman), killing time until his arranged marriage to fellow RedConstance Oxblood. But when son and father resettle in the odd littlehamlet of East Carmine, the lad’s eyes are opened to a confusion ofstandards and mores, and the realities of sociopolitical unrest. Whileserving his punishment for a school prank by compiling a “chaircensus,” Eddie visits fascinating new places, enjoys the wonders of theUnLibrary and the organized worship of Oz, and decides thatconscientious resistance to entrenched authority probably won’t bringabout the ultimate ecological catastrophe—Mildew. He’s a little lesssure about his wavering infatuation with Jane, a militant, pissed-offGrey (they’re the proles) who rather enjoys abusing him. Eventually,the best and brightest prosper, while characters of another color endup in the relational red (so to speak).
  • All this is serenely silly, but to dispel a black mood and chase awaythe blues, this witty novel offers an eye-popping spectrum of remedies.A grateful hue and cry (as well as sequels) may be anticipated.—STARREDKirkus
  • In Eddie Russett’s world, color is destiny. A person’s perception ofcolor, once tested, determines their rank in the Colortocracy, withprimes ruling “bastard” colors and everyone lording it over theprole-like grays. No one can see more than their own color, and no oneknows why—but there are many unknowns ever since Something Happened,followed by the deFacting and successive Great Leaps Backward. Due toan infraction against the Collective’s rule-bound bureaucracy, Eddie issent to East Carmine, in the Outer Fringes, where manners areshockingly poor, to conduct a month-long chair census. In short order,he falls in love, runs afoul of the local prefects, learns a terriblesecret, and is eaten by a carnivorous tree. This series startercombines the dire warnings of Brave New World and 1984 with thedeevolutionary visions of A Canticle for Leibowitz and Riddley Walker,but, Fforde being Fforde, his dystopia includes an abundance of teashops and a severe shortage of jam varieties. It’s all brilliantlyoriginal. If his complex worldbuilding sometimes slows the plot and thebalance of silly and serious is uneasy, we’re still completely wonover. In our own willful myopia, we sorely need the laughs.—STARRED Booklist
  • “Fans of the late Douglas Adams or, even, Monty Python, will feel at home with Fforde.”

    Herald

  • “Full of brilliantly inventive wordplay and quirky fabrications.”

    Mail on Sunday

  • “There are distinct shades of Orwell’s 1984.”

    Daily Express

  • “Full of colourful characters and amusingly bizarre plot twists…Shades of Grey is a clever and enjoyable read.”

    SFX

  • Selected for the January 2010 Indie Next List
  • A New York Times Bestseller
  • Winner of an AudioFile Earphones Award

Listener Opinions

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Andrea | 2/20/2014

    " I've read almost everything else Jasper Fforde has written and I really love his zany but intellectual style. I had been warned that this book was probably one of the hardest to follow, so I was ready for a challenge. This is a dystopian novel in which the main character, 20 year old Edy, must decide if he will use his considerable natural talents to serve the repressive state or work with the underground freedom movement. Along the way, however, there is much humor and wit. It's a fun book, but I was disappointed that by the end, it seemed less a self-contained tale than a set up for a sequel. Although I've read two other series by this author, I have never felt that with his other books. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Carrie Robison | 2/16/2014

    " Because the story takes place in a fantastical world, run by rather odd and very precise rules and with a strict hierarchy based on which color people can see (red, blue, yellow, etc.), there is a lot of explaining to do in the first part of the book. Thus, the plot takes a while to unfold. Once you get into the book, its thoroughly engaging (as Fforde's work usually is), and I look forward to the next book in the series. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Enid | 2/12/2014

    " I was interested in the description but literary fantasy is not usually my genre. I started reading and was surprised at how much I enjoyed it. a funny, disturbing and interesting society and a nice little story line. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Moonit | 2/11/2014

    " The concept behind this book (a type of Chromatocracy in which social status is determined by what limited range of color you can see) is so creative, and the story is tightly crafted. Social satire. I didn't find the protagonist to be particularly likable in the beginning, but I get the sense that I wasn't supposed to. His likability increases as his character becomes more aware and critical of his own society. I look forward to reading the rest of these books whenever they eventually are published. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Casey Bowman kralik | 1/29/2014

    " Very excited to read this as I haven't read him for a while and missed his writing style and humor. Loved it! "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Stephanie | 1/21/2014

    " Even better the second time. I'm really looking forward to the next installment of this series. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Abby | 1/10/2014

    " The premise of this book is interesting but I'm just not sure how I feel about the plotline. Also, it is really mean of an author to name the rest of the books in the series and make you wait years for it. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Jane Rowan | 12/25/2013

    " A clever satire on the prejudices of our world, spun out as a very funny fantasy of a world where most technology is banned due to "leapbacks" and status is governed by the hues one can perceive. Fforde has a wicked imagination. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Karen Richards | 12/9/2013

    " I read this book by after several people told me to read "Fifty Shades of Grey." But to my surprise I really liked this science fiction story about how in a future world where the class system is based on your color perception. I guess as an artist this was really interesting to me! "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Jacq | 12/6/2013

    " I love his writing, his mind and imagination is fascinating. Take the world of colour! With the same tongue in cheek attitude that he displayed with his series on books. This takes a bit of concentration, but is definitely worth it. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Nyla | 9/20/2013

    " I really enjoyed this book, despite being generally disinterested in distopian SciFi. There are enough clever Fforde-isms to keep you distracted from the bleak vision of the future he is presenting. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Peter | 8/16/2013

    " I would have given this five stars, but the first two-thirds of the book are pretty slow going. When it gets good, though, it really gets good. The end is so good, in fact, that it made me completely forget about how long it took to get there. I'm excited for the next installment. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Sharon Tanner | 6/14/2013

    " Really unusual book, took some time to get used to the colours and hierachy, but enjoyed following the story. Different. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Andy Mills | 12/3/2012

    " Not as instantly hooked on it as Fforde's other books, but by the time you get to the end the characters have grown on you and you want to know how the story ends, shame it will take a few years to get there "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Katie | 11/1/2012

    " Okay, okay. Not stellar. But I certainly wasn't going to miss it! "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Ray | 10/31/2012

    " This book is excellent :) best book I've read in a while. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Tessa | 10/18/2012

    " It reminded me of both Fahrenheit 451, which I liked a lot, and The Hunger Games. I liked Shades of Grey more than the Hunger Games and less that Fahrenheit 451. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Robgould | 4/4/2012

    " A departure from the usual Fforde. but I'm curious to see how it continues. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Blaise | 5/22/2011

    " A good new Jasper Fforde - and a nice new premise (I need a break from Thursday Next from time to time). Very recognizably one of his for the sense of humor and the absurd premise built into a self-consistent world. I'm very anxious to see the sequel - I need to find out where this goes! "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Mandy | 5/20/2011

    " I had a real hard time getting into this book and I found myself getting confused a lot because I was just not focusing on the point. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Jamez | 5/17/2011

    " A very clever and well crafted book that deserves a happier ending than it got. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Rick | 5/13/2011

    " I didn't care so much for the Nursery mysteries that Fforde wrote, cute and trite, I thought. But this title was excellent, original, thought provoking AND funny. I'm looking forward to the next one in the series. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Lindsay | 5/12/2011

    " This is a wonderful book to get your imagination flowing. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Margaret | 5/11/2011

    " As per usual Jasper Fforde creates a vivid and bizarre world.I hope that there is a follow up to this book.Slightly easier to read than the Thursday next series. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Jane | 5/9/2011

    " A clever satire on the prejudices of our world, spun out as a very funny fantasy of a world where most technology is banned due to "leapbacks" and status is governed by the hues one can perceive. Fforde has a wicked imagination. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Toni | 5/9/2011

    " I often thought of the Christian right when I read this book. Denial of facts mostly like evolution science etc. I enjoyed the main character's transition to freedom fighter and I look forward to the next book when it comes out "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Sally | 5/4/2011

    " This book was awesome - a quirky mix of mystery and post-apocalyptic SF and silliness and sly British humor and interesting characters and rampant creativity. IIt reminded me of To Say Nothing of the Dog. I love it when I stumble on someething original. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Marcus | 5/2/2011

    " One of my most favourite books EVER- genius plot and general premise! "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Lenore | 5/1/2011

    " Such a great introduction to Fforde's work. I picked it up on a whim and I am so happy I did! "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Richard | 4/30/2011

    " After the disorienting beginning, I found this to be among his most ambitious books. "

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About the Author
Author Jasper Fforde

Jasper Fforde traded a varied career in the film industry for staring vacantly out the window and arranging words on a page. He is the author of the Nursery Crime and Thursday Next series.

About the Narrator

John Lee, a stage actor and writer and a coproducer of feature films, has narrated more than one hundred audiobooks of every conceivable genre, earning some three dozen Earphones Awards and the prestigious Audie Award.