Synopsis: Welcome to Chromatacia, where the societal hierarchy is strictly regulated by one’s limited colour perception. And Eddie Russet wants to move up. But his plans to leverage his better-than-average red perception and marry into a powerful family are quickly upended. Juggling inviolable rules, sneaky Yellows, and a risky friendship with an intriguing Grey named Jane who shows Eddie that the apparent peace of his world is as much an illusion as colour itself, Eddie finds he must reckon with the cruel regime behind this gaily painted façade.
My Thoughts: Don’t worry, this book has nothing to do with the story of a similar name by E.L. James. Essentially a dystopian sci-fi novel, you can get a taste of just how weird and wonderful this book is simply by reading the blurb. Eddie Russet is a humble Red seeking to improve his social standing by marrying into the Oxblood family when he decides to investigate a man who has seemingly been murdered, and he begins to see that the society he lives in is hiding dark secrets. And what a society it is; from “chasing the frog” to laws forbidding the manufacture of spoons, Chromatacia is an intricately-painted world with lots to uncover. Any writers of sci-fi and fantasy who want an example of good world-building should absolutely pick up a copy of this.
Despite a plot line that sounds pretty serious, it’s an incredibly witty story and there were many moments that really made me smile. I particularly loved reading the National Colour Association’s strange rules at the start of each chapter. My favourite is probably “unicycles are not to be ridden backwards at excessive speed”. The characters are just as wacky as the world they live in, and I love the colour-related names and places (who wouldn’t want to visit High Saffron?). It’s hard to really do this book justice but I just couldn’t put it down. There’s something addictive about the sheer originality of it, and it reads a bit like Douglas Adams (except slightly easier to understand than what I’ve read of his stuff). By the end of it I was eager to read more… but unfortunately despite being published in 2010, Saffron’s sequel isn’t out yet.
The next book in the trilogy will be called Painting by Numbers. I did some Googling and found that Jasper Fforde is currently spreading his time between the several different book series he’s working on. Book two might not be out until 2015, but apparently he is working on a standalone novel set in the Shades of Grey universe set some 700 years before and is about the Something That Happened (a mysterious historical event mentioned throughout the book). It may be a while until we see anything new in this series, but after being totally blown away by book one, I think it’s safe to say that it’ll be well worth the wait.
In Short: A wonderfully original book with a humorously quirky dystopian world and characters to match. Could not put it down. World-building is awesome; easily the best sci-fi book I have ever read. Now where’s book two…? 10/10