Monday, 10 September 2012

Extras - Scott Westerfeld (#4)

**There may be spoilers for those that have not read the first three in this series: Uglies #1 (review), Pretties #2 (review) or Specials #3 (review). 
Although I think you could read this novel without the others in the series**

Extras is the fourth and last book in the Uglies series, following Tally Youngblood in her quest to change the society of the world.
Previously, we saw Tally at the end of Specials, defeating her city and opening people's eyes to the world they had become, looking at the prejudice between Uglies and Pretties. Specials ended with a note of finality for me, so I was interested to see how Extras would be different and continue the story along, yet still keep the essence that makes the Uglies series so great.

Synopsis: It's three years after Tally ended the Ugly/Pretty/Special regime and retreated into the wild with David. And the world has changed, again. Since the 'mind-rain', Aya Fuse's city has turned into a society where fame gets you everything. If you are in the Top Thousand, you have a more space, more clothes and lots and lots of merits to buy whatever you want. However, if you're like Aya with a face rank of 451,369, then babysitting and going to classes is the only way to get anything.
Aya is a no-body. An 'extra' at 15 years-old. However, as much as her face-rank is so low, Aya doesn't care. She's just waiting for the right moment when a great story comes along to 'kick' with her trusty hovercam, Moggle. And then that time comes. Aya discovers a secret clique of girls who pull crazy tricks - the Sly-girls. When she joins them, she finds something altogether more terrifying - a story that will propel her to a world of fame, fortune...and danger.

Review: When I started reading the Uglies series back in June, I thought this was a quartet, and it is really. However, I think Extras is more of a standalone novel featuring a world and a set of characters that have a series of books themselves. Simply, I think this novel can be read alone without reading the other books in the series.

The past three books have been set in North America, latterly we found out set in California area. However, Extras is set in, from what I can determine, Japan - although it's never clear. After the 'mind-rain' caused by Tally expelling the Uglies/Pretties/Specials society, the cities went into a little confusion without this authority and set society that everyone was used to. As a result, in Aya's city, they created the idea of face-ranks. In short, the lower your face-rank, the more merits, fame and an overall better life you had. If you got to the top Thousand, well, you were quite something. However, higher than 100,000, you are deemed an extra, like Aya, an extra person in the city desperately trying to win fame and fortune. The city is thriving culturally with the different cliques - everyone wants some attention be it a 'surge-monkey', 'Radical Honesty' or a 'kicker', which is the category Aya and her brother, Hiro call into. Kickers find the most interesting stories and post them on a feed for everyone to see. A future blogger in other words!

This book for me attracts two kinds of readers. 1) Fans of the Uglies series, with the references to the earlier novels and also as a look into Tally's impact on the world retrospectively. 2) New Fans. Okay, so if you read this novel, there are things that might be spoiled for the other books but seriously, I can see this as a stand-alone novel. The narrative is self contained and the references to the other three books are either too subtle or explained from Aya's point of view. It;s nice to see an end to a series like this and also I can understand some blogger's comments that this is more of a companion to the Uglies series, especially as it was more of an after thought.

The writing is great as always from Scott Westerfeld and I enjoyed the fast pace that was kept throughout. I think it was lost a little in Pretties and Specials so it was nice to see it back. This book is much different in many aspects from the Uglies series. They were about fighting the government, this? Fighting aliens. Again another reason for it's stand-alone quality.
The story is slow to start off with, I have to admit. I found the bits focussing on the Sly Girls a little tedious and I was starting to see why some bloggers don't like this book. However, around halfway when Aya gains some more fame, it became SO MUCH MORE interesting, enjoyable and I devoured the remaining pages. It's a book of two halves - the latter the better part.

Aya as a character was lovely and after Tally becoming a little annoying and intense by the end of Specials, it was nice to have this hint of innocence to the series again. From Uglies, I loved Tally's strong personality that was eventually lost in Pretties and Specials. However, Aya has inherited this strong personality and her determination (although as unethical as it might be) I think drives the narrative at times. I wanted to read about her. I wanted to see how she would help or react to Tally.
At the end of Extras, there's a side to Tally we see that shows her transition from Ugly to now a Special clearly. She is doing something extreme and Aya has to try and convince her it is not the right choice. I think it really shows how manipulation of your body and mind can really make you a different person. Aya is a young girl without any surge or manipulation and it made her a lovely character.
There are also some lovely more minor characters that I loved - Ren, Hiro and Frizz made a lovely comedy trio that made this novel more enjoyable.

Scott Westerfeld once again deals subtly with some heavy issues that we can all learn from - popularity, the celebrity status, sustainability are all dealt with in this novel and although being published in 2007, 5 years on, this still and always will remain relevant.
This was a lovely end to the series especially for faithful Uglies series fans. It was also nice to know Tally's total effect on the world and if it actually made a difference. I loved the ending which gave finality and also, a perfect ending for Tally and her friends.
It's fair to say this has been an amazing series that I have loved. I can't believe it's taken me THIS long to read it.
This book is perfect for Uglies fans. However, it is also perfect as a stand-alone as a taster of Westerfeld's work. Go ahead, I know you want to.

I give it a 4.5 out of 5

Author's Website:
Pages: 417
Publisher: Simon and Schuster
Challenges: None

Related Posts:
Review: Uglies #1
Review: Pretties #2
Review: Specials #3
Review: So Yesterday (stand-alone also by Scott Westerfeld)

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