I have my favourites, but I don't keep track of when the next book is coming out and what they're working on at the moment and so on - in short, I don't keep up with the news. So when I for the first time in ages go into the library (because I was so depressed and wanted something escapist to read) and find a new (to me) Jasper Fforde - well it's an enormously pleasant surprise. And a new series even! Published in December 2009 according to Wikipedia, it has not come to my attention at all. You may all laugh now at my ignorance. I find that this casual approach saves me a lot of tense expectation. Anyway, a new Jasper was just what I needed in my current state.
The Shades of Grey series (so far consisting of one book only) is set in some sort of distant future, where society as we know it has collapsed and been replaced by a Chromatic one, with strict colour hierarchy. People have limited ability to see natural colour, and this ability determines their rank on the Chromatic scale. The lowest are the Greys, who are essentially over-worked working-class. Everyone can see synthetic colour though, so mining the remnants of previous civilization for colourful scraps that can be processed into synthetic pigment for the Colour Gardens and other paint jobs is praiseworthy and lucrative work. The Rules of Munsell govern all. These regulate every aspect of people's lives, and are based sort of on an Edwardian tea-and-cricket kind of politeness and title obsession.
Eddie Russet arrives in a village on the outer fringes for a Humility assignment - to conduct a chair census - with his father, who is going to fill in as Swatchman (doctor) until a permanent one is found to replace the previous medical man. East Carmine proves more challenging to Eddie than he has suspected, and he finds himself learning more about the truth of what is behind the Chromatic hierarchy and status quo than makes him comfortable. This is mostly thanks to a young Grey called Jane, who doesn't seem to care one bit about the Rules and following them.
It has the making of a great series, and I'm thoroughly hooked already. It's rich in detail but manages to toe the line nicely between said detail and the author getting too pleased with himself over his inventive abilities - this is what happened in First Among Sequels, if I'm not mistaken. (Off topic: I just wrote tow the line, and sat here staring at it trying to figure out what was wrong. Ha. Tow the line would be an entirely different sort of expression - I wonder what it would mean?) I could sink so deep into the Ffordish universes and communities if I let myself you know, it's quite dangerous for an escapist like myself. Probably one reason why I keep myself a little aloof. Sadly, only one person I know shares my Fforde love, and that is my youngest sister. My husband hasn't even tried. Maybe it's too Anglocentric in style and humour, I don't know? I wish I could spread the love somehow.