In this world, the lives of the people are defined by their ability to perceive color. Each person in the Collective is subject the "Ishihara test" upon turning 20 years old. Once their color perception is measured and documented by a representative from National Color, they are ready to begin serving the Collective in whatever capacity is determined by the test. High perception of the primary colors will earn you a place as a prefect in your village. Exceptional color perception could even lead to a position with National Color! Those very unfortunate to be unable to see any color at all are consigned to the Grey zone and given all the unsavory work that keeps the Collective running. Marriage choices are limited to same color unions or unions within the same color family and marriages between complementary colors are prohibited. So a Red could marry a Purple or an Orange, but never a Green. And of course a Grey is entirely unsuitable, although not prohibited. They also have a very rigid set of Rules that all must follow, including styles of dress, mealtime etiquette, and a strict set of protocols for virtually every occasion or situation. Oh, and they aren't allowed to make new spoons, so all existing spoons are highly prized and passed down from generation to generation. This is all due to the "Something That Happened" but no one knows what that Something was.
Eddie Russett is our protagonist. He is sent to live with his dad in the Outer Fringes after his dad is reassigned as the local "swatchman" due to the abrupt absence of the previous swatchman. Eddie is in trouble with his local council for a prank he pulled and is given the task of a "chair census" to teach him some humility. On the way to their new village they make a stop to see some sites in the nearest large town and while sight-seeing they stumble across an accident in a paint shop and Eddie's dad is called in to help. This is just the beginning of a series of strange occurences that happen as Eddie and his dad make their way in a very strange town. Things are very much not as they seem and Eddie has just enough curiousity to get himself in big trouble.
This is such an interesting world! The use of chromatics as a basis for society and government is so novel; I very much admire Mr. Fforde's creativity. I will be looking for the next in this series, for sure!