by Jasper Fforde – I love Jasper Fforde’s imaginative leaps and his attention to detail in making even the most seemingly outrageous premise seem almost plausible. It is obvious that he loves these worlds he creates and that he has thrashed out the nuts and bolts to make sure the story and its elements are consistent and believable (once the initial suspension of disbelief has been accomplished by the reader). The plot complications arise quite naturally out of the world as he has set it up. And the characters (good and bad) are plausible, with foibles and weaknesses and strengths that make them individual and interesting.
In the Shades of Grey series (please, Mr. Fforde, write books 2 and 3 soon!!), society is based on one’s color perception, with no one able to see in full color. An ability to see in the purple end of the spectrum is most highly prized and thus highest on the societal order; full colorblindness is the lowest, with those afflicted being consigned to worker-bee status. This society has been relatively stable for 500 years, and it is the “relatively” part that leads to the story’s central conflicts. The setting is Earth, but perhaps a millenium or more in the future. No one is certain and the exact timing is considered unimportant, perhaps even seditious to pursue. The most important thing is to contribute to the stability of society, as the status quo is considered officially as perfect as possible, given that humans are involved.
In this setting, a young man (Eddie Russert) who is troubled by questions and (gasp!) ideas that might make society more convenient and efficient is sent with his dad to an outlying town (East Carmine) for a temporary stay, the son to learn humility and the father to fill in for the local healer, who has gone missing. The village has secrets and Eddie must make his way through them if he wants to survive and get back to his hometown.
Fforde is a master at playful language, double entendre, puns and twists on current society. I love his writing and had a great time with this book. His next in the series is due out next year, which means a four-year lag between the first and second books… and who knows when book three will be printed. No matter, as I will read anything and everything Fforde writes. He’s just that good. (finished 4/21/2012)