“Rule 2.1.01.05.002: All children are to attend school until the age of sixteen or until they have learned everything, whichever be sooner.”
I have no idea why have never read a Jasper Fforde book before this – and I am sure to be adding as many as I can to be Wish List as I absolutely loved this book.
Although firmly planted in the realm of Science Fiction, there is very little science in it, and the world in which the story is set is a very simplistic technology-bare world, even though it is about 500 years in the future , hundreds of years after the ‘Something That Happened’!
This is a colour-centric world, but not colour as in skin-colour as we know it. This is a world where people are judged by their sight. A world where people have lost their ability to dilate their pupils, so nighttime is scary, and people do not go out in it. A world where everyone can only see one predominant colour generally, and everything else is ‘shades of grey’. A world where their ability to see these colours and the degree of which they can see them dictates their class and social standing. A world without enough spoons.
Our hero is Eddie Russett, a low-level Red who has a half-promise of marriage to the up-hue Constance Oxblood, but has been sent to East Carmine on the Outer Fringes with his father as punishment for questioning the ‘Word of Munsell’ – a set of rules which is absolute, completely comprehensive and dictates all aspects of life. Eddie’s suggested ‘Numbered Queuing System” has no place in The Collective, so he has been cast out temporarily Jade-Under-Lime in order to do some ‘Useful Work’ in his case, a chair census.
But in East Carmine, Eddie meets Jane, a lowly Grey, and realises that there may be more to life than securing a good marriage. Jane could be more trouble than she is worth though, and when they start uncovering the truth of the world in which they are living, he wonders whether it would have been better to have remained ignorant.
It took a couple of chapters to get into the story as you are literally dumped into the middle of it. You have no idea what’s going on with all the colours, you can’t get your head round why spoons are so important to people, and the whole merit/demerit, reboot and Leapbacks are just a foreign language!
I’m not a great sci-fi reader, and sci-fi certainly wasn’t what I was epxecting from this book – but it was gentle, easily-accessible sci-fi. The world is so simplistic with its lack of technology that it doesn’t FEEL like sci-fi, even though it obviously is!
The last 15% of the book is absolutely amazing – when the explanation comes to some of the underlying mysteries, it is like a beam of light suddenly being shone, and suddenly it all makes sense. I raced through the final pages. And I didn’t want it to end. I didn’t want to leave these fantastically written characters, who seemed so real.
So, I rushed home to see when the next book in the trilogy is due to be out…and imagine my horro when I read ‘likely to be released in 2014’. 2014?? that’s at leats three years away!! and I am NOT liking the sound of that ‘likely’.
Please Mr Fforde – I need more Eddie & Jane. I need more East Carmine. Please!?
Other rules from the Word of Munsell:
Rule 220.127.116.11.102: The raising of one’s voice is permissable only at sporting events, and only from the spectators. At all other times, speech is to be kept to a polite volume.
Rule 18.104.22.168.025: The cucumber and the tomato are both fruit; the avocado is a nut. To assist with the dietary requirements of vegetarians, on the first Tuesday of the month a chicken is officially a vegetable.
Rule 2.3.02.62.228: Approved words to be used in oaths and chastisements can be found in Annexe 4 (permitted exclamations). All other Very Bad Words are strictly prohibited. fine for non-compliance: Prefect’s discretion, 100 demerits maximum.