I’m hoping to divert readers from the disaster that is Fifty Shades of Grey (movie coming soon, ack!) to books with plot and character development. Shades of Grey, by Jasper Fforde, sprang to mind as a sneaky way to divert readers into a genuinely great story, with lots of room for imagination on the part of the reader.
I just finished Fforde’s (it’s really hard to spell that correctly, my dictionary-like brain protests) first five novels in the Thursday Next series. This series is a thing of joy for the bibliophile, and if you don’t go out and read it, you’ll be kicking yourself – or I can do it for you. Literary references, terrible puns, time paradoxes, and dodos in sweaters. And literary references. A book-loving heroine who packs a gun. And literary references. Also explanations for bananas, platypuses (platypi?) and sea horses – finally. And literary references. As far as I’m concerned, these books are without flaw. Be forewarned: the footnotes in the book are fairly essential, much like a Terry Pratchett novel, so this is best read as an actual book, not on e-reader. E-readers’ achilles heel is the footnote. The first book is The Eyre Affair. Go get it now. I’ll wait.
Alrighty, now that that’s done, let’s move on to Shades of Grey. The setting for the book is a dystopian society where the social hierarchy is determined by your colour perception. You are not allowed to marry people who are opposite you on the colour wheel, e.g. reds and greens… can’t you see the tragic Romeo & Juliet love story coming? People who are colour blind are called “greys”, and are the untouchables of the story. Doctors cure people by showing them colours, and some shades of green are used recreationally as drugs.
I loved the absurdity of the setting, but Fforde does a good job of keeping the story going, not just focusing on the details of his bizarre world. You cheer on the young hero of the story, whilst simultaneously wondering why spoons are banned. One of the things Fforde is great at is plonking down characters in a ridiculous environment, and yet still having them act like people would, albeit people living in a really, really strange land.
Fforde is a fantastic writer, and a book-lover himself – which means he writes for readers, not other writers, if you know what I mean. So go get Shades of Grey. And the other Thursday Next books. Maybe if we all go buy good books, the people who buy books based on decor and popularity will actually start reading them.