Like the other books in the Uglies trilogy, Extras is fun and a very fast read. I read this book in about 2 and 1/2 hours, pretty much non-stop.
HowevLike the other books in the Uglies trilogy, Extras is fun and a very fast read. I read this book in about 2 and 1/2 hours, pretty much non-stop.
However, Extras raised the same prickly issues for me that the other books in the series did. My years as a student steeped in cultural studies and gender theory make it pretty much impossible for me to read works of popular fiction without subjecting them to critical analysis, and Westerfeld's books certainly lend themselves to this sort of critique. Especially if you are like me.
Like most dystopian science fiction, Westerfeld's books cast a critical eye on disturbing aspects of our present-day society -- obsession with looks, fame, etc -- by taking those aspects to extremes and weaving them into the very fabric of the future society. In Uglies & Pretties, everyone is "cured" of ugliness through a mandatory operation that takes place when individuals turn 16. In Extras, people earn money, respect, and privilege through the "reputation-based" economy, which rewards those who can make a name for themselves by publicizing and popularizing their thoughts, exploits, etc through the "feeds" (read: Internet). (If you think this is an interesting idea, you might want to check out Cory Doctorow's book "Down & Out in the Magic Kingdom" which explores the same conceit but with more skill and humor). In all of these books, the main (female) character desperately wants to be pretty, special, popular, famous or whatever, but ends up questioning the values of her society when she meets outsiders who don't subscribe to those norms.
The problem I have with Westerfeld's books is that these critiques, which are intriguing and thought-provoking, don't actually go far enough. Although the main character openly questions and in some cases initially resists the societal mandate to become pretty, special, famous, etc, she ALWAYS eventually ends up becoming pretty or famous even if it is against her will. Unlike all the other unenlightened pretty or famous folks who have never questioned their society's structure, however, she is well-aware of the pitfalls. She is now in fact doubly privileged -- as a pretty/special/famous person she has all the privileges that go along with being high-status in her society, AND she also has a sophisticated understanding of the "dark side" of her society that others can't see, through ignorance or fear or whatever other blinders they have on.
So although Westerfeld is clearly trying to show the reader how screwed up the dystopian society's norms (and by implication our own) are, in the end, he simply reinforces them. In Westerfeld's world, you can be hip to the ways in which our society's obsession with looks and celebrity oppress others and rail against the system, but you can still benefit from them at the same time. There's no sacrifice to make. And I guess that's why, as much as I enjoy Westerfeld's books, I can't help thinking that ultimately they're as shallow as the cultural norms they purport to critique. ...more
After months of hearing great things about this book from pretty much everyone in Fiction, my expectations were HIGH. And for the most part, strangelyAfter months of hearing great things about this book from pretty much everyone in Fiction, my expectations were HIGH. And for the most part, strangely enough, they were met. Some parts were a little bit unbelievable (Jenna's family is all incognito but they don't change her name when they enroll her in a new school?) or somewhat annoying (the quasi-poems that start off each chapter I could have done without), but I was willing to overlook these details because I was totally engrossed in this book from start to finish. Pearson does a beautiful job weaving huge questions about ethics and the definition of humanity into a closely observed and sometimes heartbreaking portrait of inter-family dynamics stretched to the limit by tragedy. ...more
Totally engrossing teen SF. Clones, drug dealing empires, forced labor camps, survivalism -- what more could a teenage boy want? The female charactersTotally engrossing teen SF. Clones, drug dealing empires, forced labor camps, survivalism -- what more could a teenage boy want? The female characters are kind of boring and pretty stereotypical, but the intriguing premise and the fast-paced storytelling made it possible for me to overlook this flaw. ...more
A entertaining & compulsively readable teen SF novel. When Toni V finds the diary of Pelly D in the rubble of a war-demolished plaza, he is immediA entertaining & compulsively readable teen SF novel. When Toni V finds the diary of Pelly D in the rubble of a war-demolished plaza, he is immediately entranced by her vivid descriptions of her seemingly perfect life as a wealthy, beautiful, and popular teenager. Reading about Pelly's carefree existence is a welcome and engrossing escape from Toni's daily routine of backbreaking labor. But as he reads on, Pelly's world, riven by bigotry and distrust, begins to splinter and disintegrate in frightening ways. By switching back and forth between Pelly's diary and Toni's thoughts, L.D. Adlington skillfully leads the reader to a final and chilling realization about the connection between Pelly and Toni's worlds.
Like M.T. Anderson's Feed, The Diary of Pelly D tackles heavy themes like social inequality, propaganda, and genocide with subtley and ambiguity -- it lets readers come to their own conclusions about what happened to Pelly without hitting them over the head with a certain "message." I think this book would prompt a lot of GREAT discussion in book clubs. ...more
This is fun in a very Godzilla meets Mothra kind of way. Crazy Professor Mallahide and his swarm of insatiable nanobots are threatening London. The onThis is fun in a very Godzilla meets Mothra kind of way. Crazy Professor Mallahide and his swarm of insatiable nanobots are threatening London. The only thing that could possible stop them from destroying the city -- and the entire world -- are three teenagers: Anna (Mallahide's daughter), Chris, and TIM (that's Tyrannosaur Improved Model). Yes, TIM is a genetically engineered dinosaur created as a top secret science project by the British government who has recently fled his captors only to find that he has a higher calling -- he is Guardian of the Universe. But he can't do it alone -- in order to succeed, he needs back-up, in the unlikely form of Chris, a teenager who is much more concerned with his popularity status than saving the world. Needless to say, Chris isn't the most likeable character; indeed, I found myself thoroughly annoyed with him well up until the final pages of the book -- but some teenagers may relate to his struggles. I loved TIM though -- and the showdown between TIM and Mallahide is totally fun and cinematic. There's even a full-color centerfold of their epic face-off in the middle of the book! I could see this one being a hit with younger teen boys for sure. ...more
Eh. That's pretty much all I have to say about this graphic novel. Don't waste your time. Especially if you HATE it when authors try to come up with tEh. That's pretty much all I have to say about this graphic novel. Don't waste your time. Especially if you HATE it when authors try to come up with their own teen slang and give you cutesy little words like "confuzzled" and "mysterimus." YICK. Please, please stop trying so hard. Please.
I expect better from the Minx line, I really do. ...more
Wooden prose, one-dimensional characters, predictable plot lines -- this teen dystopian novel left me totally cold. If you're looking for a smart, funWooden prose, one-dimensional characters, predictable plot lines -- this teen dystopian novel left me totally cold. If you're looking for a smart, funny & well-written SF critique of contemporary advertising/consumer culture, go read Feed by M.T. Anderson. Better yet, go revisit Brave New World from which this book stole pretty much all its ideas. ...more
Finally read this, after years of being told that I should by various librarians. Militaristic space novels are really NOT my cup of SF tea, so I wasFinally read this, after years of being told that I should by various librarians. Militaristic space novels are really NOT my cup of SF tea, so I was surprised to find myself enjoying this as much as I did, although some of gender & ethnic stereotyping I could have lived without. I know, I know, it's a product of its times, blah blah blah. Anyway, now I am trying to figure out: is it worth it to read any of the other books in this series? Or, as with Frank Herbert's Dune, do I really only need to read Ender's Game? ...more