Published in 2009 and classified under the genres of fantasy fiction / science fiction, Shades of Grey by Jasper Fforde is a far cry from other books with similar titles. Fforde is best known for his ongoing Thursday Next series and fans will find his standard flair in this dystopian tale. The story takes place in Chromatacia, where your social status and standard of living is dictated by your ability (or lack of ability) to see natural colour. As an example, Eddie Russet can only see red; meaning that every other natural colour appears grey to him and he only sees other colours (blue, yellow, purple, etc) by means of artificial enhancements to those items as produced by the national colour grid.
Chromatacia exists at least 500 years in the future after some sort of disaster wipes out current civilization. The population is governed by the rules of Munsell, which include some truly bizarre decrees such as a ban on spoon manufacturing. The entire place is highly complicated and convoluted, making for much more entertaining reading then it would reality. Protagonist Eddie Russet gets sent to the outer fringes to perform a chair census and in the process enters into a plot to break down the colour boundaries and work towards a more cohesive society.
Fforde incorporates wit, whimsy, revolution, and more into this engaging piece of fiction. With two more books slated to pick up where Shades of Grey ends, there is sure to be plenty more to look forward to from Jasper Fforde in the future.
I read The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins in one day. I enjoyed reading it so much that I had to go out and read the other two books in the trilogy, Catching Fire and Mockingjay. While neither lived up to the original book, they were also good, quick reads.
The Hunger Games trilogy tells the story of Katniss Everdean. She lives in what used to be North America. In the past, the thirteen districts rebelled against the Capital and lost. As a result, every year a boy and a girl are chosen from the remaining twelve districts to fight in the Hunger Games. The winner, who is the lone survivor, becomes a wealthy celebrity who is exempt from future Games.
Katniss and her best friend Gale are hunters from the poorest district, District 12. They trade what they catch for the supplies their families need to survive. But their hunting isn’t enough. In exchange for their names being placed multiple times into the draw for the Hunger Games, they also get a monthly allowance of grain and oil. Katniss’s sister Prim offers to put her own name into the draw for the Hunger Games but Katniss won’t hear of it. So it is quite a shock when Prim, who only has one entry for the Hunger Games, is called; she is to be the female tribute from District 12.
Immediately Katniss steps forward to take her sister’s place. Asking Gale to watch over her family, Katniss bravely goes to battle the other tributes to the death. And so she finds herself on a whirlwind journey to the Capital with Peeta, the kindly boy who is the male tribute from her District, and Haymitch, one of the only two people to have ever won the Hunger Games from District 12.
The books are by no means perfect. Collins constrained herself by making each book exactly 3 parts of 9 chapters each. For me I felt like the first book needed to be a little bit longer than this, and the final book went on a bit too long. But as I said above, all three books are quick reads and they really are quite interesting. If you’ve been curious about all the hype surrounding these books, definitely give the first one a try.
In need of a really good suspenseful piece of fiction, well then I have the books for you. Peter Straub stories are indeed suspenseful mysteries, but I should add that a majority are also downright terrifying. The first Straub book I had read was Koko which was amazing. What I didn’t know at the time was that Koko was the first of three related novels called the Blue Rose Trilogy; the second in the series titled Mystery and the final named The Throat. Even though all three novels are intertwined with each other, they can also be read as standalones. While, each novel is extremely complex and the lines between past and present can sometimes blur the reader, or at least it did me, the stories told are just so captivating and the writing truly unique. Koko deals with the surviving members of a Vietnam War platoon and the horror that they had faced during that time. As the veterans reunite years later, they discuss the significance of the word Koko and killings associated with it. They then agree to track down a member of their former platoon who they believe was the perpetrator of these crimes. However, in their attempt to uncover the missing member of their unit, the killer is starting his killing spree again. Straub’s second book Mystery tells the tale of a brilliant up and coming amateur sleuth who just happens to have a famous, eccentric retired detective and mystery writer living next door. Both embark on a journey to solve two mysteries; one, a recent murder in their own Caribbean island setting and another, a twenty year unsolved murder which took place in a summer resort style area for the rich. Finally, the third book in the trilogy, The Throat, finds a main character from Koko teaming up with a main character from Straub’s second book Mystery. The two protagonists find themselves together attempting to solve the true identity of the Blue Rose killer who has struck again after 40 years. However, the man originally thought to be the Blue Rose killer committed suicide 40 years previous. Straub is a master storyteller who involves amazing characters in all his stories. These three novels are a must for anyone wishing to read a mystery that will most definitely entertain and keep you on the edge of your seat (I know, I know, enough with the clichés). Bottom line: these books are good! Peace!
Before Stieg Larsson’s death in 2004, he had written three mystery novels that are now known as the Millennium series. Larsson’s first novel “Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” was originally published in Swedish and has only recently been translated and published in English. After being published in English, Larsson’s first novel has quickly become a bestseller, winning both the 2009 Anthony Award and 2009 Macavity Award. This is one truly original novel that will hold your wandering attention from cover to cover. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo has quickly become one of my favourites for 2009 and as of right now, I’m about three quarters of the way through Larsson’s sequel “The Girl Who Played with Fire” and so far it is just as good. It should be noted that Larsson’s final Millennium novel “The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest” will not be out until May, this year. Larsson’s Girl with the Dragon Tattoo follows the tale of disgraced journalist Mikael Blomkvist and socially unstable genius Lisbeth Salander. As Blomkvist enters a self imposed exile, he is contacted by one of the most powerful industrialists in Sweden to assist with solving a near 40 year old mystery that has haunted him up until the present. 82 year old industrialist Henrik Vanger suffered an unimaginable lost in 1966 that has gone unsolved and has plagued him throughout his later life and before he dies, he is desperate to achieve peace through the awareness of the truth. After agreeing to assist Vanger, Blomkvist hires as his assistant Lisbeth Salander and the two attempt to make any kind of sense of this perplexing mystery. This bad boy is definitely a great read that will keep you entertained for many a night. Also, for you movie buffs out there, last year a 2 ½ hour movie adaption of “Tattoo” was made in Sweden (warning: it’s a foreign film with subtitles) and was nominated for two European Film Awards.