Please note that there is no number in the title. This is Shades of Grey: The Road to High Saffron, not to be confused with that other book (I think some confusion between the two may have been why this book did not take off).
This book is a clever and witty sci-fi story that is at once entertaining and thoughtful. In a post-“Something That Happened” world, citizens of Chromatacia are placed into castes based on which color(s) they can see, and there are many rules that govern their behavior.
Eddie Russett, who can see quite a lot of red, is ready to take his place in society, when he finds himself distracted by a mystery involving a Grey girl with a cute nose, a wheelbarrow in the middle of the road, treasure troves of spoons, and several dead people. It doesn’t really go well for him. As he opens the novel:
It began with my father not wanting to see the Last Rabbit and ended up with my being eaten by a carnivorous plant.
So there’s that. But of course, the answers Eddie finds lead him to the truth that not all is as well as it seems in the Colortocracy.
The story takes place over four days, but honestly it seems like a lot longer. The first half or so of the book is a bit slow and leans heavily on clever writing (which is enough for me!) as it dribbles out pieces of the mystery. It really picks up about 2/3 of the way though, when the trip to High Saffron begins to take shape, and the end is really excellent, with some twists that give the story nuance and complexity.
I think anyone who likes dystopian sci-fi, with some British humor thrown in, will really enjoy this story. There were supposed to be some sequels coming out (they’re listed in the back of the book), which would be really excellent, but the story functions in a self-contained fashion as well. The author is busy with his other popular series, including Thursday Next, so I don’t know if sequels are still in the cards or not.
For more info on Shades of Grey, check out the website.