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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

Red Side Story

Jasper Fforde

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To purchase Red Side Story

Title: Red Side Story
Author: Jasper Fforde
Genre: Novel
Written: 2024
Length: 438 pages
Availability: Red Side Story - US
Red Side Story - UK
Red Side Story - Canada
Rot - Deutschland
from: Bookshop.org (US)
  • The second in the Shades of Grey-series

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Our Assessment:

B+ : good colorful fun

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
The Guardian . 9/2/2024 Lisa Tuttle
The Observer . 19/2/2024 Alexander Larman
TLS . 23/2/2024 Philip Womack

  From the Reviews:
  • "Cleverly constructed, with engaging characters and lots of good jokes, this sparkling Wizard of Oz-inspired fantasy is the second book in an intended trilogy, and one of the quirkiest dystopias ever imagined." - Lisa Tuttle, The Guardian

  • "The jokes are excellent, the pacing breathless and the last line a classic." - Alexander Larman, The Observer

  • "It is an intriguing concept; but, overshadowed by the novel's reliance on other texts, Red Side Story's characters struggle to grow, while the prose is curiously bland. (...) It is unclear exactly what Jasper Fforde is targeting here, orthodoxly communist countries being thin on the ground these days. All societies' mores can seem as arbitrary as those of Chromatacia, he suggests, which is fair enough; yet, overwhelmed by its complex concept, Red Side Story never bursts into Technicolor." - Philip Womack, Times Literary Supplement

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       Red Side Story is the sequel to Shades of Grey (2012). Narrator Eddie Russett sums up the many adventures (and name-changes) ahead for him in this novel right at the outset, down to story's conclusion, but it takes the somewhat slower unspooling of it all that follows to really make sense of everything that happens. And a lot happens, in fairly quick succession -- beginning with Eddie and the woman he loves, Jane Grey, set to face a discipline hearing where it seems almost inevitable that they will be found guilty and consigned to the 'Green Room' -- essentially, a death chamber.
       Eddie lives in East Carmine, in a future Great Britain transformed into Chromatacia, with the 'Book of Munsell' -- Munsell's Book of Harmony -- as all-guiding text -- making for a very hidebound world. It is a caste society in which color -- and one's perception of it -- determines ones position. Eddie is a high-scoring Red -- his Ishihara test revealed: "86.7 percent red vision" --, while Jane is, after emerging from the Greyzone: "a very light Green", and the Rules dictate that, with their complementary Red and Green colours, they are: "expressly forbidden to fraternise with anything more than 'distant cordiality'". They don't actually let that stop them -- Jane: "didn't really do Rules" --, but they do have to try to tread somewhat carefully; regardless, as Eddie is a good color-catch, he's married off to the daughter of the local Head Prefect, Violet deMauve (though the two loathe each other).
       Red Side Story is set several hundred years in the future, but Chromatacia is anything but an advanced society; in fact, the Rules make for continuing demodernisation, with regular 'Technological Leapbacks', in which a variety modern conveniences are banned (during Leapback III, nearly a century earlier, automobiles were banned -- only the Model T surviving, as "museum exempted"). Few books remain, and with no new ones being printed, librarians now outnumber books five to one in libraries. All the locals know is that they have followed on 'the Previous', and believe the name of their Creator is 'Utopiainc' -- but Eddie comes to suspect that there is also a 'Somewhere Else' beyond Chromatacia, and that there is more to Utopiainc .....
       Everyone has a barcode on their index finger -- a 'Taxa number' -- and Eddie comes to realize that high-flying swans -- drones -- can scan these and thus identify and locate individuals, which comes to play a significant role in the story. Along with the identifying barcode, Eddie learns that they are 'subjects' who live on a 'Reserve' -- though only at the very end does he come to learn the full meanings of these terms, and the situation he and everyone in Chromatacia find themselves in.
       Even as Eddie and Grey face the hearing which will determine their future -- or rather, as everyone is almost certain, their lack of any -- they go about fulfilling their usual duties, allowing Fforde to present the bizarreness of life in this world. If they are not sentenced to death, Jane is also meant to compete in a cycling event at the Jollity Fair, upon which their future then also comes to hinge.
       Fforde keeps things moving in his elaborately conceived alter-world. Paragraph-long epigraphs, taken from Munsell's Book of Harmony and Ted Grey's Twenty Years Among the Chromatacians, allow him to explain and present various details of his world-building, complementing the text. The peculiarities of this society -- and the hints of what lies behind it -- make for an engaging read, with a good deal of entertaining adventure. The many literary allusions and references also add another nice layer to the novel -- and it is also a quite touching love-story.

- M.A.Orthofer, 29 April 2024

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Red Side Story: Reviews: Jasper Fforde: Other books by Jasper Fforde under review: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       British author Jasper Fforde was born in 1961.

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© 2024 the complete review

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