Thursday, March 18, 2010

Shades of Grey -- Great Book, Not So Great Ending

I just finished reading Shades of Grey, the newest book by one of my favorite authors, Jasper Fforde. When I originally heard it would not be a new Thursday Next novel, I was a bit disappointed, but I was soon thoroughly absorbed in its dystopic tale of a future society that forbids most technology and yet retains eBay’s feedback system and Facebook’s friending process.

While I am looking forward to reading the sequels, I am reluctant to recommend Shades of Grey to others because of its disturbing ending. Eddie’s (the hero’s) ultimate choice flows naturally from the plot line and seems noble at first, but it also makes him a far lesser hero.

(Spoiler alert!) Reasoning that maintaining his position in society will allow him to save the lives of many and bring freedom to everyone, Eddie chooses to feign ignorance of the horrors that sustain his society and allows innocent people to be sent to their deaths. In making this choice, he becomes guilty of the same sin as those he is trying to overthrow – placing a higher value on “the greater good” than on an individual life. He is not much better than a coward who allows Jews to be sent to a concentration camp so that he may someday overthrow Hitler.

An act of self-sacrifice on Eddie’s part may have made Shades of Grey sequels difficult, but it would have provided a much more satisfying ending.