Over the years I’ve read a number of Jasper Fforde’s books: Several of the Thursday Next novels, and the first of the Nursery Crimes. And any time I find myself contemplating another one, I think, is it worth it? Not that I didn’t enjoy them, but that’s about as much enthusiasm as I can muster. They’re all amusingly absurd and nonsensical, and not much more than that.
Still, when BookBub serves a Fforde up for $1.99 it’s hard to say no; at that price, amusing is good enough. So I picked up the nearly decade-old Shades of Grey recently and just finished reading it.
And, well. Something of a surprise. It was, hands down, the best Fforde book I’ve read.
It’s unmistakably Fforde, absurd and nonsensical. But while those qualities have left me with little emotional investment in the characters or the story in his other books, somehow or another that isn’t the case here. Maybe it’s the dystopian underpinnings, maybe it’s the more intriguing world building, I don’t know. I just know I really wanted to find out what happened, and wanted Eddie and Jane to come through triumphant. Which they do, sort of.
In a way I was disappointed to see, at the end, mention of the next two books in the series. I kind of felt this was a story that doesn’t need sequels, and that they’d be likely to disappoint after the first book. And then in a way I was disappointed to find no such sequels appear to have been published. All right, so I’m inconsistent. Were they a gag, or did he really have plans for two more books that never came to fruition? Well, either way, it’s a standalone book, and that’s fine.