Review Blog

Aug 26 2009

Uglies series by Scott Westerfeld

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Uglies by Scott Westerfeld Simon Pulse, 2005. ISBN 0689 865384
Recommended. Tally is an Ugly. She is almost 16 and will be transformed on her birthday into a Pretty. She will leave the dorm where she has lived for the past four years and join the other Pretties in New Pretty Town. Her friends have already had the operation; she is the last of her year in her dorm, so she sneaks over the river to check out Pretty Town. During one of thee clandestine outings she meets another Ugly, Shay, who changes her life unexpectedly.
Shay teaches Tally to hoverboard, talks of a mysterious boy called David and of the Smokies, a group of people who have rejected the Pretty way of life and live somewhere in the wilderness. Shay's operation draws near and Tally finds she has no intention of being a Pretty and is going to join the Smokies. Tally desperately wants to be Pretty and has no intention of following Shay, but Shay has left her some cryptic clues on how to find the Smokey settlement.
Just as Tally's big day arrives so do some very strange pretties, Tally has never seen their type before, and they take her to a place she never knew existed. She is taken to Dr. Cable who seems to be the head of the Special Circumstances Unit, a group she had believed was pure fable. Dr. Cable knows all about Tally and Shay, but needs to know where the Smokey settlement is, so she blackmails Tally into following Shay and triggering a location device. Only if she does this will she be made a Pretty. Tally is left with no choice.
Tally's interaction with the Smokies, particularly David, leads her to change her mind. She finds out exactly what the operation does to your brain when you are made a Pretty and decides to destroy the location device. Her actions however precipitate the destruction of the settlement and the rounding up of all the inhabitants.
Westerfeld constructs a very different future where society is controlled and manipulated. The Pretties have every comfort. Their life is easy they want for nothing, they are selfish and happy.  But are they free?

Pretties by Scott Westerfeld, Simon Pulse, 2005.ISBN 978 689 86539 8
Tally goes back into the city to try out a drug that has been made to reverse the brain lesions that keep the Pretties contented. She and her new friend Zane come to lead a group within the Pretties called the Crims. They like to take their rather limited and safe lives and perform outrageous acts to make themselves more 'bubbly'.
Tally and Zane are eventually contacted by the Smokies and given the two pills they need to reverse the effects of the operation. However, Zane and Tally have become so close that they decide to share the cure, and take one each. Zane's reaction to the medication is very different from Tally's. He begins to get terribly debilitating headaches and bouts of physical weakness. Tally decides they've got to go back to the Smokies and David's mother in particular to see what has gone wrong.
They devise a daring escape plan, but in the course of events Tally ends up separated from the rest of the group and a long way from the rusty ruins. When trying to find her way back she discovers a group of primitive humans surviving in the wild. It's not until she enlists the help of their shaman that the reality of the situation becomes clear.
When she reaches the rest of the group, she finds Zane in poor condition, but realises that Zane has also had a tracker devise implanted in a tooth and the Special Circumstances Unit, with her old friend Shay in charge, take them back to the city. The second in the series, Pretties follows Uglies, in this gripping trio of books about a dystopian society.

Specials by Scott Westerfeld, Simon Pulse, 2006.  ISBN 9781416939948
Tally awakes to find that she has been changed. She has joined Shay as one of the special, Specials. She is a Cutter. She has heightened senses, strength, intelligence and a greater acceptance of her superiority, even over other Specials.
One night while on patrol to follow and apprehend a group of Smokies that have been supplying the new cure for Pretties, the Cutters discover that things have changed. The Smokies are no longer the peaceful submissive group they once were. They've been able to get hold of sneak suits and hover boards as well as infra-red and bows and arrows. The tables are turned on Tally and Shay the Smokies now have captured some of the Cutters and are using stolen high tech hoverboards to move quickly.
Tally tracks the group in the hope of finding their new settlement. There is a surprise in store. The settlement is nothing like the one she and Shay were briefly part of, it's another city! Even in a place where differences are tolerated Tally still stands out and in a place where weapons are not tolerated Tally herself is considered a lethal weapon and must be neutralised.
Shay comes to her rescue, but there are more weird things happening. An armada of hovercraft are waging war on the city. Such a thing hasn't happened in 600 years! Tally needs to get back to the city and stop the actions that are of her own making.
This is an exciting trilogy that explores a future society that has many links to our own. The environment, freedom, selfishness, power and its use as well as equality are all dealt with in an accessible well crafted way.
Mark Knight
Editor's comment: Extras is the last in the series and is equally as good.

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