Shades of Grey: The Road to High Saffron, by Jasper Fforde – In some ways, the story resembles others about futuristic bureaucratic nightmare societies. It kind of reminded me of the movie Brazil, what with the plot involving the main character falling in love with a rebellious woman who’s initially cold to him, and the insistence on following rules to the letter even when they make no sense. I guess the more obvious reference is to 1984, but I never finished that book. Fforde’s twist on the idea, however, is that the people in this society have limited color vision, and the class structure is based on what colors people can see. The nation of Chromatacia has also had a series of Great Leaps Backward, which explains why they have self-cleaning pavement, but no vehicles more technologically advanced than early Fords. There are plenty of other bizarre ideas as well, like long-lived genetically engineered historians and giant geese. Not my favorite of Fforde’s books, but a good read, and I do appreciate that he’s branching out into other sorts of novels.
As an Oz fan, I was interested in knowing if there was any meaning behind the mention of the “Oz Memorial” in Vermillion. Actually, as explained here, the joke is that the post-apocalyptic society has confused The Wizard of Oz with Muppeteer FRANK Oz, who was born in Hereford, the town that had become Vermillion in the story. There’s also an Emerald City that’s the administrative center of Chromatacia. Incidentally, in Anansi Boys, which I checked out from the library at the same time, Neil Gaiman compares Rosie to “Glinda the Good,” a title she has in the books but not in the movie. I’m always interested in how much modern authors are familiar with L. Frank Baum’s work, especially British authors, as the Oz series is even less popular in the United Kingdom than here in the States. Fforde specifically references Baum on the page I linked to, and also refers to Dorothy as a resident of the BookWorld in the Thursday Next series, but I don’t recall anything specific suggesting he’s familiar with any more than the first book and the movie. He MIGHT be, but it’s not clear.