Extras by Scott Westerfeld
The fourth book in the Uglies trilogy and I loved it! Despite needing to have read the trilogy to understand this book, it still manages to stand apart. Westerfeld created a profound future society in Uglies, and in Extras he gets to have fun with it.
I’ve read this before, and I remember it taking me awhile last time before I figured out this story was set in Japan. The author keeps it cleverly ambiguous, although one of the reasons it’s ambiguous is because the city seems exactly the same as the one in Uglies (which was apparently San Diego?) but with some cosplay thrown in. Whether in English or Japanese, you get to see language taking its first steps on the road to Newspeak.
Either Westerfeld was really ahead of the curve or I’m just a late adopter, but this 2007 story could be talking about 2012: everybody publishes a feed of their life and the local currency is reputation and celebrity. One thing Westerfeld missed was how unlikely it is for the siblings of reality TV stars to be wallowing in obscurity instead of famous by association (or desperation).
This book seems made to be a movie that I’d definitely watch – adorable robot sidekick included!
It’s a few years after rebel Tally Youngblood took down the uglies/pretties/specials regime. Without those strict roles and rules, the world is in a complete cultural renaissance. “Tech-heads” flaunt their latest gadget, “kickers” spread gossip and trends, and “surge monkeys” are hooked on extreme plastic surgery. And it’s all monitored on a bazillion different cameras. The world is like a gigantic game of American Idol. Whoever is getting the most buzz gets the most money. Popularity rules.
As if being fifteen doesn’t suck enough, Aya Fuse’s rank of 451 369 is so low, she’s a total nobody. An extra. Her only chance to escape extra-land is to find a big story to kick – something wild and unexpected.
Then Aya meets a clique of girls who pull crazy tricks, yet are deeply secretive of it. But the Sly Girls are hiding something bigger – an explosive discovery that may change the face of the brave new world forever. If Aya kicks the story, she’ll be propelled into the world of fame, celebrity … and extreme danger. A world she’s not prepared for.