Six Impossible Things

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Extras

ExtrasExtras by Scott Westerfeld

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With The Last Days, Scott Westerfeld revealed himself to be someone who isn’t averse to revisiting a “finished” story and fleshing it out a bit more.  With the success of the Uglies trilogy, I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised that he went back to add a little more to the story.  I suppose I should, instead, ask if it was necessary.

Extras picks up a few years after Specials left off, when Tally Youngblood instituted the “mind rain” that cleared everyone’s minds of … well, you know, I shouldn’t mention that specifically, JUST IN CASE you haven’t read that far into the series just yet.  Let’s just say that Tally was a hero, everyone’s happy, and the world is a better place to live.  That’s not a spoiler, is it?

Anyway, this time Aya Fuse is the protagonist, and she lives in a Japan that has been much changed by Tally and her eco-revolution.  Here, currency is based off of popularity, where the more popular you are, the more clout you have in society, so people are obsessed with their rankings in the city.  Aya is one of those obsessed people, and she has her sights set on becoming more popular through her stories.  She’s what passes for a journalist in this era, and the more popular her stories are, the more famous she’ll become.  And, of course, the story that she thinks she’s breaking becomes more complicated and complex, which, naturally, is the story of Extras.

If you’re a fan of Westerfeld and the Uglies series, then you’ll read this book.  And to be honest, you should read this book.  It follows a natural progression from the end of Specials, and it’s a unique look at a possible future.  Just don’t be looking for something with the power and effect of Uglies, if only because it’s been done before.  Unlike The Last Days, Extras actually does belong in the Uglies universe, as the results of that series spur forward the events in this novel.  It just lacks the originality and message of the original series, if only because Aya, as a character, is less interesting.

Tally was unsettled at the beginning of her journey.  She thought she knew what she wanted, but she was hesitant and unsure.  Aya is different; she’s all about wanting to be popular (an important motivation in a YA book, I suppose) and moving her face-rank along, and she goes to some slightly unethical means to do so.  She’s less sympathetic, and a little harder to root for.  She comes around, as most protagonists do, but there’s still that lingering selfishness that makes her a sort of antithesis to Tally.  But, as the author mentions himself, this isn’t considered part of the Uglies trilogy, but is instead an additional story in that universe.

Another thing that bugs me about the book is some of the language Westerfeld uses.  Things are “brain-missing” or “truth-missing,” instead of “stupid,” “dumb,” or “a lie.”  I think the author’s intention is to create a sense of other-worldliness to the story to firmly make it a science fiction story, but the setting and technology do well to do this already, and I found this use of language jarring.  It took me out of the story.  This sort of language was present in the Uglies series as well, so this is nothing new; it’s just something that I noticed more strongly this time around.

So, the final tally (ha!) is that this is a decent book, is worth reading, and follows logically from the series that precedes it.  It’s not quite as interesting as that series, but it’s still a compelling read that leaves you with questions answered and unanswered.  That’s a heck of a lot more than I can say for The Last Days.

January 14, 2008 Posted by | Reviews, YA Fiction | 2 Comments