I had craved the first book of the Uglies trilogy for so long and when I finally found it and bought it, overseas, it took me a year and a half to read it. And it’s so good I regretted not buying all the sequels with it. Luckily they had the follow up, “Pretties”, available at my local bookstore, for miraculous reasons (though this edition is rather ugly compared to my pretty British one) – and I just finished it.
It’s one of those science fiction books that are kind of tuned down a little, so you don’t feel like you’re reading Star Trek but still are constantly aware that this is a very different type of civilisation. Scott Westerfeld, the author, has a thing for sociology. (Is he a sociologist? I read something about him once.) In “So Yesterday”, the first book of his that I read – and that made me want to look for others by him -, basically portrays this whole fashion conspiracy of how things spread and get merchandised, which seemed true enough. His writing was fantastic, I remember writing lots of quotes down somewhere, and all his characters were interesting. And it was set in reality – I wondered what he could do if he had the freedom to change all aspects he wanted. This is what this Ugly trilogy (which ended up having four books, if you include the “Extras” one, I later found out) does – he created his own new, perfectly organised, safe future civilisation and created a character, Tally, who at first is really really really brainwashed and annoying (I’ve put lots of angry comments on the margins of book one) and gets threatened to lose the one thing she craves the most, only to find out her world could be a whole lot bigger. You see, to make everyone’s chances the same – or so They claim -, all 12-year-olds get shipped off to a different city and get labelled Uglies. Everyone was Ugly once and everyone wants to be Pretty and go live in New Pretty Town. When they get to be 16, they get massive surgery done, everything crushed and scraped and molded into perfect, big-eyed Pretties, who hardly ever get sick, have perfect, unbreakable teeth, dido with eyes and everything you could possible thing would go wrong. But there’s a catch – everyone seems a little different when they get to New Pretty Town and start all that partying and having mandatory fun all the time. They never come back to visit their old, ugly friends, for starters.
It’d be interesting even if it was just a book on the perfectness of this civilisation and how their world runs. The ideas for the self-sufficiency of the cities and the overall organisation is already entertaining, I thought them to be original, if rather vague. And Westerfeld isn’t like some authors [cof J.K. cof cof Rowling] who describe every single detail of the room, the people, the universe – which gets to be a little tiring and is one of the main reasons I don’t read that many fantasy novels, even if I do love the genre. He just kind of throws a bone here and there, suddenly explaining something that had been present in the story several times but didn’t seem SO important you were dying to know what it was (though the belly ring sensor clips were a puzzle and only got explained in Pretties). I thought it was really comfortable style.
Oh, there are catches in reading this series:
- You can’t let go of them. Seriously, it was tough leaving it alone for a couple of days in an attempt to delay my finishing it (ordered the sequel a couple of days ago and it might take freaking months to get here).
- You WILL want the sequels. Fast. The tiny excerpt at the back won’t do it. Seriously. Pre-order them.
- I don’t know what I’ll do when I reach the end of it all! Any suggestions on mild science fiction like this? I’ve been searching for a strong hero who would bark back all the stuff I never do (but furiously write on the margins on pencil), but can’t seem to find one.
So go to your good bookstore and look for “Uglies”, by Scott Westerfeld. (#)
Oh, and don’t read about the sequels or you will spoil it. Hence my not describing Pretties. Even though it was so much fun. Oh, Zane…. *sighs*