Review of Grey by Jon Armstrong


Seems a lot of people are doing reveiws on this forum now so I'd like to write about a book I read about two months ago.

Grey by Jon Armstrong is a formidable first effort. I read this book very quickly and I can see it as being one of those 'genre-transcendent' classics like Dune or Neuromancer.
The story revolves around Michael Rivers, the heir to his Corporation Family, RiverGroup. Michael is into grey, meaning he is opposed to the garish and loud Ultra scene. (that's Ultra with an umlaut over the U). Michael was once the golden boy, literally, of Ultra when he would dance at his father's all night rage parties.
Michael has, at the beginning of the story, been dating Nora. Nora is of another Corporation Family and their marriage would coincide with the merger of their families' companies.But following a suspicious attempt on Michael's life his father, the king of the Ultra scene, nixes the wedding plan and forces him into one horrible scheme after another. Michael spends a deal of time and effort trying to see Nora in secret. She is the only woman in the world that Michael can look at 'eye to eye'. Both of then have had the cones burned from one eye each, so they can see in black and white.
It's a wierd future, to say the least. Everyone has a fashion magazine they adhere to. The magazine of Grey people like Michael and Nora is Pure H. It's a strange magazine full of cryptic photography and copy. There are dozens of fashion magazines in the world of Grey and some of them are very strange.
The best thing I can say about this book is that it is, under all the crazy, over-the-top future stuff, it is a touching story. Michael Rivers comes off like a Holden Caulfield of sorts. The whole thing is like J.D. Salinger meets William Gibson.
The surprise here is that this is a first novel by Mr. Armstrong. It's full of hilarious Ultra bands with munitions percussionists and in the same breath there's something important being said here.
The most I can say for it, at least to the striaght SF fan, is that it presents a pleasingly bizarre but probable future. To the casual SF reader this book is very accessible because of the depth of Armstrong's characterization. I thing Jon Armstrong is an author to watch. This novel, incidentally, was shortlisted for the Philip K. Dick award and the John W. Campbell award for best new writer.
I hope to read more of Mr. Armstrong in the future. And I recomment you grap up a copy of Gray ASAP. Here's Jon Armstrong's official site with podcasts of the novel. Enjoy Home - Jon Armstrong

-Alex M.