Friday, December 7, 2012

Shades of Grey by Jasper Fforde

Normally around here we like to like to focus on color in architecture, homes, science and history but this week we wanted to show you our nerdy side. We admit it. We are bookish color nerds. Conveniently for us this particular Venn diagram of conditions is perfectly covered by a wonderful book, Shades of Grey by Jasper Fforde. 

Shades of Grey Cover via Fforde's site

The book description begins with the intriguing:

"It's summer, it's hot, it's our world, but not as we know it. Entire cities lie buried beneath overgrown fields and forests. Technology from another time litters the landscape, and there is evidence of great upheaval  Welcome to Chromatacia, where for as long as anyone can remember society has been ruled by a Colorocracy. From Underground feed pipes that keep the municipal park green, to the healing hues viewed to cure illness, to a social hierarchy based upon one's limited color perception, society is dominated by color. In this world you are what you can see."
What a Green Citizen sees via Bob Stewperson

The wonderfully odd spelling of his name aside this book is a joy to read. It begins with the premise that in the alternate future everyone's color vision has been reduced to one color of the spectrum, leaving everything else grey scale. The color you can see determines which strata of social class you belong to.  The Greys who see no color all  are on the bottom strata while the class structure moves through the spectrum all the way to the   elite Purples. The whole society is structured by and obsessed with color. Character names come from hues and CMY color is piped in to keep the cities bright. Why? Because while their vision for natural color is rudimentary for some unexplained reason everyone can see synthetic color.

Can you imagine being a purple? Sure it comes with the highest social status but you would see so little natural color in the world. Fforde does a great job of taking all the implications of this colorless and also color dominated society to their logical extremes. The system of laws is intricate and wonderful, the marriage contracts, the technology, the habits of daily life all feel richly steeped in the color mythology. For a mostly grey world Fforde painted a bright and colorful picture. We highly recommend a read for our fellow color obsessed readers out there.

- Emily Eifler, Writer, Colour Studio
- Jill Pilaroscia, Principal, Colour Studio


  1. Oooh, this books looks great, thanks for pointing it out. Yet another book to add to my collection, yikes!

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