2. Shades of Grey - Jasper Fford - 480 pages (3 stars)
My husband got an advance copy of this in November because he's one of the top five reviewers on Amazon (yay him!). I read it after he finished.
For some reason, it took me absolutely ages to finish this book. I started it in early December and didn't finish it until nearly mid-January. Going to California and moving had something to do with it, but still. I like the premise--supposedly, in the past, humans tried to explore the notion of the healing properties of colours. The plan ended up going awry and now humans see everything in monochrome, unless they can see one colour in varying degrees of strength. What colour you can see and how much of it determines your social status. If a person can see no colour, then they are a Grey on the lowest rung of the social ladder. Those on the highest rung are the Purples. They are trapped social castes wrapped in bureaucratic red tape and the ridiculous rules of a man named Munsell, who, when he wrote his massive rulebook, for some reason decided to ban spoons.
The novel follows the story of Edward Russet, a Red who can see quite a lot of his shade, although he is waiting the offical test to find out what his percentage is. He is trying to court a very shallow girl called Constance, because marrying her would mean moving up-colour and getting a better social standing. Loveless marriages are common. He has to journey with his father from the town Jade-Under-Lime to East Carmine to conduct a chair census to work up demerits from varying misconducts. In East Carmine, Edward gets himself into far more trouble than he anticipated by falling for a Grey, a cardinal sin, and uncovering a plot against the government.
The first half of the book dragged for me. My own personal problem may be that I lack a sense of humour, or that my humour is simply too American. If characters are unrealistic or very dim, I have difficulty following them. If things are too preposterous, I can't suspend my disbelief and I get cranky. I would pick up this book, read ten pages, and then set it down because I've lsot interest.
Two thirds of the way through, the book picked up and I devoured it in one sitting. The characters had developed and once I discovered just how seedy the government was, I was hooked.
...And then the book came to an open ending because it's a trilogy. Damn. I'll read the rest of the trilogy because I know my husband will buy them (he loved it, you can read his review of it here). I found it lukewarm, but I could easily see how others would like it.