Extras by Scott Westerfeld

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Extras by Scott Westerfeld

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Category: Teens
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: John Lloyd
Reviewed by John Lloyd
Summary: A great closing fourth book to the trilogy, as a new city and new society, provide even more action-adventure for all-comers than ever before.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 448 Date: May 2010
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Children's Books
ISBN: 978-1416951179

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In the future city of this book, many people live with what is called a reputation economy. With everybody practically a cyborg, they're online permanently, using optical and brain implants to see everybody's status, output and more. Many people have hovercam companions, to make their own documentaries and film their own lives. They rely on metablogs to interact and keep their popularity up. They continuously spread their opinions and interests in order to become more well-known. A girl called Aya is struggling to get any renown, but things change, when she meets other people doing incredibly notorious things, but in complete secrecy and anonymity.

This is clearly the internet 2.0 writ large but never comes across as a parody. It certainly stands as a (family-friendly) cyberpunk of the kind Douglas Coupland et al were doing decades ago, and with hindsight seems to appear as even more plausible. With the combined forces of this myfacetubespacebookyou concept and her new friends, Aya can possibly leave her unknown life behind. I said many people share the reputation economy - the other way to get through the days is by doing deeds deemed good by the city's socialist government, but being only fifteen she's left with school life and things such as babysitting.

Her friends are certainly a culture shock to her, and you might even think that tube surfing on mag-lev bullet trains at 200mph is enough of an outstanding secret hobby for her to document and kick to the outside world. But brilliantly there's more to come, and the Japanese setting of this book points towards the greater theme - one that's common among much Japanese sci-fi, and one that shows Westerfeld knows what he's doing.

Here he's taking any amount of sci-fi action, concepts, future predictions, and genre tropes of old, and turning them into an incredibly high octane adventure. The fact it shares some DNA with his earlier Uglies/Pretties/Specials trilogy is only a bonus. Here we're just three years on, but the world has been much changed since the days of Tally Youngblood.

The heroine this time round sees less of her story written out as regards relationships with young men, and also there’s less of a moral side to her quandaries – even when you factor in a character who cannot physically tell a lie, or let somebody believe a mistruth. This book is pure energy, from the sweeping descriptions of the train surfing to the chases, apparent double-crosses, capture, rescue, and more that follow. I think Westerfeld has done it again, for with the help of his heroine he has made a sci-fi adventure that girls could easily get wrapped up in.

In the end it does provide some hints of variable subtlety to the current crop of teenagers 2.0. Her dorm, all her friend's names, even her favourite colour was listed on her feed, Aya remembers once, when she's paradoxically now wanting to hide. The fact she has something so earth-shattering to reveal, with the help of her antics, is a blatant reference to the triviality of so many people's internet output.

So it's a delight to say this book serves as a near-classic piece of sci-fi. Adults turning to it will see the familiar written with so much more zest and pace, yet common sense aplenty too, young readers might or might not pick up on the message but will gain a heck of an entertainment. I have to give this four and a half stars, partly at least to suggest it's not as perfect if you haven’t read the main trilogy first, but for the returning fans this is an essential five-star return to form.

We recommend the series starting with Everlost by Neal Shusterman for further mind-boggling and energetic teen writing. You might also enjoy Behemoth by Scott Westerfeld.

Scott Westerfeld's Uglies Books in Chronological Order

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Buy Extras by Scott Westerfeld at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Extras by Scott Westerfeld at Amazon.co.uk Amazon currently charges £2.99 for standard delivery for orders under £20, over which delivery is free.
Buy Extras by Scott Westerfeld at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Extras by Scott Westerfeld at Amazon.com.


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