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Book Review: Grey by Jon Armstrong (Audiobook narrated by Macleod Andrews)

April 23, 2012 3 comments

Man in a suit looming over a woman.Summary:
In the near future capitalism has entirely taken over, and the world is ruled by a few families….and their corporations.  People from all walks of life are also completely obsessed with fashion.  Michael Rivers is the heir to the River Corporation and is being sent on worldwide-aired dates with Nora, the heir to another company.  Just when they are about to announce their engagement, however, a freeboot shoots at Michael leaving the families blaming each other for the incident.  Michael refuses to accept his father’s demands that he marry a different woman, however, and his quest to figure out a way to Nora leads to some deep dark scandals hid on all levels of the company.

Review:
I have to say that this is the first time I was sorely disappointed by a read I originally discovered via Little Red Reviewer’s blog.  I was intrigued by the idea of fashionpunk, which is what this book is supposed to be.  Fashionpunk is a new genre.  Think scifi with a heavy focus on fashion.  It’s unfortunate that the fashion aka world setting was the best part of the book.

Armstrong richly presents the near future he has imagined.  People’s tendencies to reflect their world views via their fashion choices is completely exploded in this world.  Michael identifies as a Grey.  He wears only shades of grey and chooses everything from what bands he likes to what restaurants to eat in based on the grey fashion’s magazine.  Every other type of fashion is similar.  Even the Rivers security team are referred to by the type of clothing they wear–the Satins.  I know!  This sounds awesome and delicious to be in, and it was. But…..the story, you guys. The story.

This book’s plot is like the Kardashian show if it was written down and entirely sympathetic to Kim Kardashian. I know, right? Even reading that sentence is painful.  It’s not that I’m saying someone wealthy can’t be a main character, but it helps if some aspect of them is sympathetic, and Michael is just not.  He’s whiny and wimpy and sooooo obsessed with inane things and his “love” of Nora completely squicks me out.  It reads more like an unhealthy obsession than star-crossed lovers.  And he never really changes!  No matter what he learns or what happens he’s still the same Michael by the end as he is at the beginning.  There’s just….no character development.  No underdog to root for. No nothing.  I liked seeing Michael’s world, but I really would have preferred to wander off and follow the life of the director or a chauffeur or even the inane girl he goes on a date with who has pink fur growing out of her skin.  See what I’m saying?  Someone with a more interesting perspective.  The problem with Michael is that grey truly is the best way to describe him.  He’s dull and annoying.  Like a grey, rainy day.

So why did I continue listening to it and finish it so quickly?  The audiobook narrator, Macleod Andrews, is completely brilliant.  It was like listening to a one-man show.  He somehow managed to breathe some life into the dull plot.  For that I thank him, and I also will be checking out what else he’s narrated on Audible.

Overall, the concept of fashionpunk that Armstrong has worked out is intriguing and makes for a visually and culturally rich world.  Unfortunately, I found his plot completely unappealing.  Perhaps people who enjoy the lives of the rich and famous would feel differently, however.

3 out of 5 stars

Source: Audible

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