Jasper Fforde's books are intelligent and funny, but I think I enjoyed Shades of Grey (2009) the most given its dystopian leanings.
Length: 13h 34m; Grade: 4.5
Audio publisher: Penguin Audio, 2009
Shades of Grey follows Eddie Russet through the four days prior to his being eaten by a carnivorous plant. This is the first book in a planned trilogy and spends a lot of time setting up the world, which needs a lot of set-up since it is so different from our own. The introduction is both jarring and slow because the reader is thrown in to this crazy place that takes a while to describe. Shades of Grey has a lot going on and is carefully plotted, so it's not as frenetic and slapdash as other Fforde titles. I found I enjoyed the book much more on my second reading when I could put into context all of the items I didn't understand the first time around. Once things start moving the book was hard to put down. This is one of those stories where it's painful to wait for the next one. Unfortunately, Painting by Numbers isn't expected out until 2013.
Reading - With all of its plays on words, Shades of Grey was a difficult book to listen to. I found that I really needed to pay attention and several times had to backtrack to try and comprehend what was said. John Lee is one of my favorite readers with his smooth voice and huge range. The main character of this book is a bumbling idiot, and Lee's reading was almost too smooth and too competent. It didn't quite match up.
Final thoughts - Shades of Grey might be one of those books that's better to read than to listen to. With its invented language and plays on words, the audio version required all of my concentration, and I still missed a lot of what was going on.
More - Shades of Grey reminded me of Kurt Vonnegut's Galapagos, another apocalyptic farce.