Scott Westerfeld

Book Review: Extras

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Extras by Scott Westerfeld (Uglies #4) – Paperback, 448 pages – Published September 1st 2012 by Simon & Schuster Ltd

An unexpected new protagonist is introduced in this novel, as opposed to the original Tally Youngblood. This is set around three years after the previous book where Tally becomes a Special. It is also based in a futuristic area supposedly in Japan – I assume, as they talk in Japanese.

“They” is mainly Aya, a fifteen-year-old girl who is desperate to become famous. Like her older brother Hiro, Aya kicks all the coolest things, using footage from her personal hovercam to keep her feed updated. She gets mixed up with the Sly Girls when trying to film their tricks, which results in an amazing discovery.

This is set after the “mind-rain” when Tally brought attention to the bubbleheadedness that cities bestowed upon their citizens. Since then, people have been going crazy – Tech Heads, Surge Monkeys, even NeoFoodies. In Aya’s home city, people can earn merits by completing good deeds or, more popularly, become a famous face. The city has learned to pick up when people mention your name, and if it got mentioned enough, you could become one of the Thousand Faces. However, most people – such as Aya – are stuck being Extras.

During the process of unravelling the mysteries of the “inhumans” that she sees, Aya drags Frizz, Hiro, Ren and even the Cutters into her world. They discover the plan of a different group of Extras – surged-up people who are preparing to make an orbital habitat for humankind.

I like Aya as a character, though her immature desperation for fame is somewhat annoying. Frizz and Hiro, although only secondary characters, are both very important in their own ways and also very interesting characters. Tally, however, seems surprisingly brutal and vicious in this novel.

Westerfeld has constantly used the appropriate (albeit fictional) slang throughout the book, again keeping you emerged in their world. I’m not sure about the second group of Extras having the same name as the first, though; I feel like Westerfeld just couldn’t be bothered to think of anything else. The title of the book, to me, should be based on the alien-like beings who cause so much confusion.

This was a very interesting addition to the series, rather different to the previous books. It maybe wasn’t crucial but wasn’t the worst fourth-in-series novel I’ve read. I think 3.5 stars is fair for this.

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Book Review: Specials

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Specials by Scott Westerfeld (Uglies #3) – Paperback, 372 pages – Published May 1st 2012 by Simon & Schuster Children’s

Now I’ve got just one more Uglies book to go!

If you’ve read any of these books, then you’ll probably know that the title of this book is referencing Special Circumstances – a terrifying, elite group of pretties. After Shay turned up at the end of the last novel, things with Special Circumstances get rather interesting…

The tables have turned and Shay and Tally are working with Special Circumstances to bring down the New Smoke – along with David. But the New Smoke is far more advanced than they ever expected, and someone among their group has been planning to help develop a cure for Specials all along.

Dr Cable, the leader of the Specials, has big things in mind. In fact, she decides to start a war with Diego – the New Smoke. The first war since the Rusty days.

Tally’s boyfriend, Zane, is suffering the aftereffects of the cure he tested. Can the New Smoke help him? Is it worth the risk?

Again, Scott Westerfeld writes exactly like Tally would (I imagine, anyway) which can actually get kind of annoying as Tally is rather shallow at times. Yeah, this is due to all the mental meddling the city does, but it still gets on my nerves occasionally. And I understand that Tally isn’t the same now that she is a Special, but I feel like she should have had a more emotional reaction after what happens with Zane in Diego. (I’m trying not to spoil anything!)

Also, the war just kind of… sizzles out. It seems so anti-climatic to me. The first war in centuries, and it just kind of… ends.

This series is really easy to read and is actually pretty exciting. I do enjoy it more than I really expected to. But it isn’t overly Special (hah! See what I did there?) and each book just seems to have a new element thrown in on top of everything else. I don’t know, I guess this series just doesn’t quite do anything for me. But I do like it, so I think I’ll give it 3.5 stars.

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Book Review: Pretties

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Pretties by Scott Westerfeld (Uglies #2) – Paperback, 368 pages – Published May 24th 2012 by Simon & Schuster

I just finished the sequel to Scott Westerfeld’s Uglies and was pleasantly surprised. I liked the first book, but it wasn’t quite different enough. This book includes tons of details, adding to the development of the plot and the hidden goings-on within the city.

After the last book, we know that Tally has given herself up to become pretty, even when she knows about the brain lesions that come with the operation. She joins a clique called the “Crims” along with Peris, Shay, Zane and Fausto, who share stories from back in their ugly days and perform tricks to stay “bubbly”. Croy from the Smoke, hidden by his costume, approaches Tally at a party. He bears a gift for her, but Special Circumstances arrives and ruins the plan. Instead, Tally is given a puzzle to complete, on the other side of which lies a note from her ugly self, as well as the cure to pretty-mindedness.

Zane and Tally go through a lot together, including taking the cure. They work with the other Crims to escape the city and pull through the haze that comes with being pretty. But one of Tally’s closest friends is creating her own little group in secret.

Although Tally feels no side-effects, Zane suffers excruciating headaches after taking the mysterious pill. Tally has to work as quick as she can to get Zane out of the city and to the Smoke.

Their breakout doesn’t go quite to plan, and Tally is separated from all her friends. She meets a new group of people, imprisoned within their own little “world” – an area of land only seven days across on foot. But how is she going to get out and find her friends?

Westerfeld captures the voice of the pretties fantastically, so well that I honestly got rather annoyed at the shallow narration featuring so many irritating words. Bogus, bubbly, pretty-making… Ugh. But it helped to get you submersed in the setting and the lifestyle, and as Tally became less and less pretty-minded, the language changed with her.

The prospect of becoming a Special is introduced in this book, and brings an exciting new issue toward the end of this book. I am now understanding what things may happen in the next two books…

This series is never going to quite be one of my favourites, but I am really enjoying it. I love how the plot is becoming more and more complicated, with little details coming out here and there. I think 4 stars is about right.

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Book Review: Uglies

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Uglies by Scott Westerfeld (Uglies #1) – Paperback, 425 pages – Published March 29th 2012 by Simon and Schuster

I’ve heard of this book before but never really thought about reading it. The sequel, Pretties, was one of the books of the month on Goodreads, which is what inspired me to finally give it a go.

The whole idea of this book is really rather clever, and honestly quite plausible. The world which Tally knows is split into uglies and pretties – pretties having been transformed to biological perfection on their 16th birthday. Everyone looks forward to the day of the operation, and the life of excitement and partying that follows. Tally is no exception, anticipating the change and being reunited with her best friend Peris, even after she meets Shay – a young ugly who plans to run away from the city before she is turned pretty.

When Shay runs away, Tally stays behind for her operation. But Special Circumstances take her instead, and tell her that she cannot be pretty until she helps them find the Smoke – the wild settlement of runaways that Shay told her about. There’s no way out of it – she has to either let down Shay or Peris. When she finally makes her choice, she is sent off to follow Shay’s cryptic directions to the smoke – as a spy.

Tally learns a lot about life while in the Smoke. She learns how sheltered she was in the city, and how little she really knows about the past or the wilderness. She also learns something a lot more shocking, about how the operation affects more than just your appearance.

The theme of this is lovely. Tally starts off as a girl who hates her looks, waiting to become beautiful as if it’s the only thing that matters. But she eventually changes her mind, and fights against the system. Along with her fellow Smokies and tricky uglies, Tally is determined to bring the operation to an end.

My main problem with this book is the language. It just seems too immature at times, such as the terms “ugly” and “pretty” being used the way they are. I might just be being picky here, but it did irritate me a fair bit. It reminds me of one of those kids books designed to hammer some moral or lessons into a child’s head.

Another thing I can’t quite comprehend is that there are three more books in the series?! I mean, I can see a sequel working – the ending is rather exciting – but how can there be so many? I guess I’ll find out…

So this book has it’s ups and downs. It isn’t my favourite, but I don’t dislike it. I could read it fairly easily, and did enjoy it. I think 3.5 stars.

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