Jasper Fforde - Shades of Grey series


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Staff member
Jan 5, 2001
Way on Down South, London Town
There is already a thread here on his Thursday Next series but I thought Shades of Grey: The Road to High Saffron was so brilliant (pun intended) that the series deserves it's own thread + I have lots of questions that need answers.

From the other thread:
Hell yeah!! I love Jasper Fforde and have read all his books apart from the last two, 'First Among Sequels' and 'One of our Thursdays is Missing', mainly because I don't want to finish them and have none left to read.....


....I would also HIGHLY recommend 'Shades of Grey' as well! I literally couldn't put it down, it's more sci-fi than his other books and is set in a post-apocalyptic future where people have limited colour perception.

Sorry to harp on but the man is a genius in my opinion and everyone should at least give one of his books a go!
I'm in the same position as aboyes. I have yet to read TN4 and TN5 but have just read the first book of Shades of Grey and was knocked out. Clearly influenced by 1984 and Brave New World but unlike anything else.


Hundreds of years in the future, after the Something that Happened, the world is an alarmingly different place. Life is lived according to The Rulebook and social hierarchy is determined by your perception of colour. Eddie Russett is an above average Red who dreams of moving up the ladder by marriage to Constance Oxblood. Until he is sent to the Outer Fringes where he meets Jane - a lowly Grey with an uncontrollable temper and a desire to see him killed. For Eddie, it's love at first sight. But his infatuation will lead him to discover that all is not as it seems in a world where everything that looks black and white is really shades of grey ...If George Orwell had tripped over a paint pot or Douglas Adams favoured colour swatches instead of towels ...neither of them would have come up with anything as eccentrically brilliant as Shades of Grey.

He plans two more books: it says in my copy that Brunswick & deMauve will return in:
  • Shades of Grey 2: Painting by Numbers
  • Shades of Grey 3: The Gordini Protocols

Unfortunately, Jasper is so busy with various other books the next Shades of Grey is not going to be published until 2013!!! All I can ask is "Why so long?" He says in another interview that he wrote half of book 2 first, then realised that he really needed to write about how Eddie got to be a National Colourman first and that is the basis behind book 1. However, if half is already written why the 3 year gap?

I've read several comments that the start of the book is too slow and the only in the second half does it become a gripping page-turner. That was also my experience too, but I enjoyed the first half all the same. It has his same trademarked word play, but also what I would describe as "colourplay" and lots of jokes around books and paintings and popular culture. In any case, it is all necessary background towards his world-building.

I read a Guardian newspaper review that said die-hard SF fans would guess the ending. I'm not sure what was meant by that exactly. I was already spoilered myself on Jane being tested a Green and so being incompatible with Eddie. The Perpetulite (Organoplastoid self-maintaining building compound) eating humans was not a great leap once the Giraffe was found in the roadway. The destination of night train to "Emerald City" wasn't such a leap either. Eddie is a typical reluctant hero, but he isn't stupid, just ignorant of the real world. What marks him out is his curiosity. Edit: Probably meant that Mildew was caused by looking at a colour, but the blind people had already gave that away.

I'd recommend the Jasper Fforde website for extra information http://www.jasperfforde.com/grey/grey1.html Unfortunately, his Fforum is not as good and I am still waiting to be able to join it, so I'll ask some of my queries here:

Quite a few of my questions were already answered: we did find out where all the spoons went, and how a tree goes Purple, and why the Green Room is better than the Mildew. We learn why nobody comes back from High Saffron, why there is a Caravaggio in the Greyzone and what Jane put in the Prefect's scones.

1. Jasper Fforde has also given away some pre-epiphanic names of places:
  • Vermillion City is Hereford (Frank Oz was born there explaining the bronze plaque, it holds the "Badly Drawn Map" (Mappa Mundi) in it's map museum, and has the Green Dragon Hotel.
  • East Carmine is Rhayder. When Jane unlocks the Perpetulite the road there was the A470 and the 'Heol Canolfan Cymru' means 'Central Wales Road' in Welsh. There are also some GPS co-ordinates.
  • Rusty Hill is Builth Wells. It is roughly 14 miles from East Carmine in a Southerly direction.
However, he doesn't say where High Saffron is. My guess was Aberystwyth, it being on the coast beyond the Elan dams, and Wikipedia agrees, but does anyone else think differently?

And would Head Office still be London? the deMauves do have a Kensington and Chelsea SW3 postcode. Or is it Cardiff?

2. How long in the future are we?
The book is set is about 400 years after 'Something that Happened'. But we have no idea of the date of 'Something that Happened'. There are actually three CE dates in the book: the Ovaltine ad date of 2083, the 2136 that appeared on the Perpetulite control panel and XCIV Olympiad' (94th Olympiad) date on the medals that Eddie sees in his Father's lodgings which would equate to 2276. So we are looking at a date at the very least 700 years henceforth.

3. Clearly before 'Something that Happened' there was extensive genetic engineering. There are bouncing goats that seem part kangaroo, ratfinks that seem part reptile, and man-eating Yateveo trees among many other things. The website includes a bestiary. Everything has a bar code, including animals, and humans (on their nail beds.) Obviously, the lack of colour perception and night vision, and the possible ultra-violet and infra-red vision in others, is all part of this. And Baxter being over 500 years old. However, I wanted to talk about the Swans. Clearly the larger Cygnus Carnivorum Giganticus is nothing but a high altitude aircraft and not a swan or beast at all. It is from these "swans" that the men in metal seats have ejected. This begs the question of where they came from, and the possibility of another part of the world (much like John Wyndham's The Chrysalids) where the leapbacks in technology have not taken place. Do you think that we are going to see Eddie and Jane find these people?

4. And I'm interested in your thoughts on the technology. There is clearly wireless energy and information grids still in operation that can be tapped into with the right equipment, but what is the function of the ball lightening that appears every month (or was it 37 days?)

Now I'm off to look at some Lime.
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Then you will also enjoy this Stephen:


I'm currently re-reading this book (and still puzzled at the lack of replies here - this is one of the best books written in the last 20 years IMHO.) I'm also puzzled why Jasper won't write the sequels. Now, he says that we have to wait until 2015! Yes, 2015! AND he has gone all George Lucas on us and is instead writing a sequel first. That will explain more about the 'something that happened' but it hardly cures our thirst for what happens to Eddie and Jane in the future.

Jasper Fforde - please put a hold on everything else and write these sequels!

There is so much small detail that I missed the first time around or have forgotten. There is definitely a 'Chrysalids'-type of society across the water - not only do we have the Cygnus gigantica doing figures of eight in the sky, and the 'fallen man', but men come from the sea and take people away.

Also, there is much more genetic engineering on humans than just the eyes. Teeth usually grow back for a start. And Eddie appears to be mind-reading during the Ishihara. And Baxter's age. And how can our minds access Heralds and heal diseases simply by seeing colours and using the Gordini Protocols?

I'm still intrigued by the purpose of the exploding ball lightning and how it is linked to the harmonics.

Edit: A few more things I missed last time -
  • The lights seen on the unlit side of the crescent of the Moon by Jane.
  • And Eddie's real father (who gave him his high red%) - could it actually be the 'evil' National Colourman, his cousin Matthew Gloss? I could see that becoming a 'Luke, I am your father' moment in one of the sequels he isn't writing yet.
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I am half way through this book and things are starting to pick up. I also don't understand why you haven't received any responses to this post, but I was pleased to find your musings on this book. I hope to finish it this weekend and may have some feedback for you!
I'm planning my first Jasper Fforde read somtime this year with The Eyre Affair. So currently not really in a position to comment.
Vertigo - The Eyre Affair is very good, but the sequels, like most sequels, decrease in proportion to their numerical value. And he is on number 8 now, I think. I haven't read the last few.

This book is very different. It still has his particular brand of humour, but it is in no way a comedy. This is a stark post apocalyptic novel that ought to up there with Fahrenheit 451, 1984 and Brave New World. Which is why I can't understand why he writes more Nursery Crimes, Tuesday Next and Last Dragonslayer.

Lisa - yes, it starts slowly with a lot of infodumping. Then half-way through it takes off. Maybe that is what puts people off.
Floaties, harmonics and ball lighting every 37 days??? All clearly associated with either the Previous or perhaps another culture that find themselves exploring the geography of Chromatacia from the vantage point of "swans". Why do floaties move to the ocean and settle at the lowest place? Why do harmonics increase in High Saffron? What is the correlation to ball lighting and why does it happen at a predetermined frequency? These questions are clearly linked to secrets behind the Collective.
I'll definitely be re-reading this to further develop my theories. However, I must first read the Fourth Bear and Last Dragonslayer.
Hello everyone,

I have just signed up because I love Jasper Fforde's books and have read all of them. (ditto Sir Terry)

My theory about why he is putting off publishing the sequels to Shades of Grey is to put lots of time between his book and those numbered books with more or less the same name. In fact, this afternoon I went on a very well known website and typed in Shades of Grey, and the first book offered to me was not Jasper's, but one beginning with a number. Shock & horror!

But I found you and your threads, admittedly somewhat late, but, apparently, it's never too late to learn.

I wondered if the Honeybun Peninsula might be Cornwall? I was thinking of Torquay, but that's a TQ postcode; there isn't a TO one, but still there could be, in a book, where people wouldn't confuse Os and zeroes. There's Totnes, Torcross and Topsham, if I remember rightly, all on the coast. It's a long time since I was down that way!

Dave, in your first post on this thread, you mention that you found out what Jane put in the prefects' scones. I haven't picked up on that, probably because I read too fast and miss things, which I find in another reading. Could you please enlighten me? Many thanks.
Dave, in your first post on this thread, you mention that you found out what Jane put in the prefects' scones. I haven't picked up on that, probably because I read too fast and miss things, which I find in another reading. Could you please enlighten me? Many thanks.
I'm afraid it has been so long that I've forgotten. The good news is that he is writing one sequel and it is being published soon, apparently. However, we've been waiting 9 years! I'm going to have to read it again.

As for the scones and such. There used to be things hidden on his website and there are some answers here: Shades of Grey - sleuth and here: https://jasperfforde.com/grey/images/cheat.pdf

And then there were chat rooms talking about these things. That's where I picked stuff up. Now, they will have closed down and I'd doubt you'll find answers on social media. I found this Penguin Books guide with book-club type questions: Shades of Grey by Jasper Fforde - Reading Guide: 9780143118589 - PenguinRandomHouse.com: Books

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