Review: Grey

Grey - Jon Armstrong

Originally read February 10, 2014


This book was not at all what I had expected.  Grey is a dystopian novel, and I haven't read all that much dystopian fiction, so I have no idea if this book is typical of the genre or not.  I was expecting something with a more serious tone, but instead I found it to be quite bizarre.  There was a glimmer of an interesting story in there somewhere, but the insane characters populating the story kept trampling over that glimmer and spitting on it with disdain.


The book started off ok.  The main character, Michael, was somewhat likeable and his girlfriend Nora seemed interesting.  But, as soon as other characters started entering the picture, things got really weird.  Michael’s father had a tendency to start randomly singing and dancing mid-conversation and doing “pelvis thrusts”.  Nearly everybody was obsessed with outrageous fashion trends and songs with violent, nasty lyrics.  And most of the characters spoke as if their brain hadn’t developed past that of a five-year-old.  They used an adult’s vocabulary, not to mention plenty of vulgarity and adult themes, but their actual attitudes and their ways of expressing themselves were that of young children. 


Just as a point of clarification, I'm not particularly squeamish about adult language or themes, so that isn't precisely what bothered me.  (However, anybody who is squeamish about those things would detest this book.)  It was the unrealistically bizarre and childish behavior of the characters that turned me off.  A story about self-absorbed people with weird interests and messed-up priorities could have been interesting to me, but the characters were just so over-the-top that I couldn’t take the story seriously. 


I also felt like this was practically a romance novel disguised as science fiction.  Michael is constantly obsessing over Nora.  He’s crazy about her even though they’ve only had four dates, all of which were conducted on camera for public viewing.  This book has some unique (if not to my tastes) world building, and there was a bit of a mystery in the plot regarding who was responsible for the incident that occurred at the beginning of the book.  There was also an unexpected -- and rather disturbing -- twist toward the end.  However, despite the fact that the book had some different elements to it, it mostly just felt like a romance novel.  Michael was so obsessed with Nora that his determination to be with her overshadowed anything else that was going on.


Despite the fact that I didn’t care for the book, I did finish it within a reasonable time frame so I guess somehow it held my interest.  But I was definitely rolling my eyes a lot, especially when I got to the final sentence in the book.