>> Friday, November 12, 2010
TITLE: Shades of Grey
AUTHOR: Jasper Fforde
Shades of Grey starts a new series, set in a world were people are organised hierarchically by which colour and how much of it they can see. Some colours have more cachet than others, with Greys being practically untouchables. It's a bit of a dictatorship, where The Rules, arbitrary and nonsensical as they are, must not be broken. The hero is a young man who's completely oblivious to this, until he meets a Grey woman who leads him down a dangerous path.
It was all very funny and ingenious, with lots of wordplay and oblique references that make you feel proud of yourself when you get them (although you wonder what you're missing, too). Typical of Fforde, and I loved the intrincacy of the world-building. While this, maybe because it's the first book in the series, spends quite a lot of time setting out the world, we still get really interesting characters, including a protagonist who's a bit of an antihero. And he's not an antihero in the usual way. Rather, he's quite complacent and disinclined to question what's around him until he's pretty much slapped in the face by it. I had a blast reading this, and only disliked that we get an extremely open and quite unsatisfying ending.
MY GRADE: A B.
TITLE: The Sweetness At The Bottom of the Pie
AUTHOR: Alan Bradley
This is a mystery, set in an idealised (think Enid Blyton) 1950s English village. The narrator is the outrageously precocious 11-year-old amateur (but don't call her that) chemist Flavia de Luce, who is determined to find out the truth behind the dead body found in the cucumber patch behind her house.
It sounded very good to me, and I've seen some excellent reviews, but I just couldn't get into it. The big problem was Flavia, who never rang true to me, not at all. An unrealistically and exageratedly precocious character is not a problem per se (the obvious comparison is to Ramses, in Elizabeth Peters' Amelia Peabody series, and I LOVE Ramses), but there's precociousness, and then there's precociousness, and Flavia's voice didn't feel real to me. There were some funny moments, especially Flavia's outrage when she's treated by adults as the 11-year-old she actually is, but not enough to keep me engaged. I might well come back to this at some point in the future, but for now...
MY GRADE: A DNF.
TITLE: Whisper of Sin (from Burning Up anthology)
AUTHOR: Nalini Singh
Nalini Singh's Psy/changelings series is one of my favourites, but even though this short story was part of it, I found it pretty blah. The action takes place some time before the first book in the series, and features Ria, whom we've met as Lucas' personal assistant. Ria lives in an area claimed by the DarkRiver leopards, but which a gang is trying to take over. When she's attacked by a gang member, DarkRiver send Emmett to protect her.
Both Ria and Emmett are nice enough, but they didn't really capture my imagination, and I wasn't too interested in the gang vs DarkRiver fight, either. Also, the heroine's family, who have quite a large role in the plot, I found quite shouty and annoying. All in all, not a bad story, but not one I'd particularly recommend to someone wanting to try Nalini Singh's books, either.
MY GRADE: A C+.