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13 December 2009

Some Mysteries Part II

Jasper Fforde's new book Shades of Grey: The Road to High Saffron managed to be out before the holidays, so pay attention, fans of this creator of Thursday Next and their loved ones looking for a great gift idea.
Talk about genre-bending. Is it a mystery? Is it science fiction? Is it deliciously inventive wordplay? Or, is it a social commentary?
Set in a post-apocalyptic, chromatically-hierarchical, strict Rules-based world in which one's place in society is based on how much of a hue you can perceive (and really, you can only perceive one at the most without expensively artificial help sanctioned by National Color), we meet Eddie Russett whose uncomplicated existence of meticulously following the Munsell Rules and scheming to marry up is upset with a (hopefully) short lesson in humility: exile to The Outer Fringes. East Carmine is a town that lacks enough resources to be anything but small, drab and full of corrupt and petty officials, resources like a) merits or color scraps to be traded for color, b) residents who can perceive color in order to sort those color scraps, and c) greys -- those who have devolved to the point of not being able to see any color -- to do all the other important work.

Just like George Orwell's 1984, Fforde's world is full of chilling details of a iron-fisted, overreaching government impoverishing its people, culturally, intellectually and spiritually, forcing them to learn new things and enjoy simple pleasures illicitly, even hearing stories told through the hammering of Morse code on the heating pipe system, stories which have long ago disappeared from the library shelves. Ostensibly, the trigger for Eddie Russett's assignment to East Carmine to count chairs is his physical attack on a fellow student, but unbeknownst to him, the true reason is his initiative in and boast about thinking of an efficient system for issuing numbers to waiting room patients. Nevertheless, the reason for his banishment is very real -- he is to learn some humility, and like a scarlet letter, the reason is pinned on his chest for all to see and assist in achieving.

Conspiracy theories abound, Eddie begins to realize just how clueless he is while everyone else is thinking he can't be as clueless as he appears. Giving him a hint, a new friend says, "It makes the rest of us look bad when someone does something pointlessly worthy."

Even I, a novice at social media, can laughingly recognize a jab when the acceptable way to declare yourselves friends is to ask. Friend? Friend. Eddie has 436 friends, most of them Reds, although his connections begin to expand when he accepts friendship from a Green.

The description of an assigned address tortuously following the person as he moves, as an address is no longer applicable to a physical location, but also, that there are still addresses which are more prestigious than others ominously foreshadow the tense culmination of this story.

There's a mystery to discover, ponder and solve amongst all the wonders and pitfalls of a world introduced to us by Fforde.

I now want to learn all about the (Great) Munsell's Color Chart. And did I mention that Fforde is fantastic at wordplay as well as social commentary? The society keeps a tight rein on the populace, suddenly declaring "Great Leap Backwards," rendering things from yo-yo's to

Speaking of words, what is not a mystery to me is why "adnascentia" as a word is dying. Just how many times can one use such a word, meaning the spreading rootlets that a tree throws out? Nevertheless, I shall continue to Save the Word! I urge you to save one, too.

So, how does the world of published writing survive without Kirkus Review?

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