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Extended Audio Sample Shades of Grey: A Novel, by Jasper Fforde Click for printable size audiobook cover
4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 4.00 (12,670 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:
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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.
  • “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.”


  • 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.”


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

    Mail on Sunday

  • 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 by 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 by 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 by 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 by 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. "

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