Tuesday, 3 July 2012

'Specials' by Scott Westerfeld

'Specials' by Scott Westerfeld is the last in his trilogy, but not the last set in his post-apocalyptic world. There is a fourth novel - 'Extras'- which is set in the same universe but in a different city, with a very different plot premise to the Ugly series. I reviewed the first two books , 'Uglies' and 'Pretties' in previous posts. There will be spoilers for the first books within this review, so if you haven't read the first two books, you may not want to read on.

What's it about?
It is set in a world which has been destroyed by the a bacterium that de-stablises petroleum, and the human race has rebuilt society in a very different manner. It is place where every one is 'ugly' until they reach the age of sixteen.  The Uglies are ordinary human faces, but when they turn sixteeen everyone undergoes a transformation into a 'Pretty'. The operation is to make everyone equal in terms of looks, and it makes everyone 'bubbly'. Once 'Pretty' the teenagers are allowed to cross the bridge and move into Pretty Town, where their only purpose it have a good time.

The novel begins after Tally and Zane have been captured by the Special Circumstance in the Smokies camp. She is turned into a 'Special' - an operation that gives super human powers,  a terrifying appearance, and heightened feelings of superiority, rage and euphoria.  Tally is not just any 'Special', she is part of an elite group called 'The Cutters', led by her old friend Shay. Zane is too sick from the brain lesion cure issue in the previous book to undergo the operation.  After crashing an Ugly party they realise a girl is attempting to deliver the pills that cure the brain lesions to Zane. as well as recruiting the Crims to join the Smokies in a city called the New Smoke (or Diego). Tally and Shay, eager to have Zane join them, help him escape in order for to help them find the New Smoke and be heralded as a hero to the Special Circumstances, who would then have to turn him 'Special'. The Cutters begin to track  Zane and the Crims on their journey to the New Smoke, and Tally must decide what side she truly supports. 

What did I think of it?
I really wasn't as keen on this instalment. There were a two major things that I thought were disappointing. Let's start with The Cutters! The Cutters get their kicks from cutting themselves in a ritual, which makes them 'bubbly' and gives a heightened sense of clarity. I thought this was a very irresponsible plot device in a novel of this type, especially as it is a novel aimed at teenagers. The idea, in the novel, that cutting makes them feel better and helps them deal with issues they may be having, I think is quite inappropriate, and there should be a warning on the book as a possible trigger for those who struggle with cutting. Tally does stop cutting eventually, but I still wasn't keen on this plot idea. 

My second dislike was the character of Tally. In each book it feels like she has a different personality due to the being Ugly, Pretty and Special. Sadly, her Special personality is not likeable. It was hard to identify with her, and she just irritated me thorough out the book. I find that an unlikeable character really puts me off a book. eg. 'The Catcher In The Rye' by J. D. Salinger. In the 'Bartimaeus' series by Jonathan Stroud, the lead character Nathaniel is not a particularly pleasant human being, but you still like him enough to root for his cause. Tally in 'Specials' just doesn't make you like her enough to care and I found myself hoping she'd either be cured a.s.a.p or be killed off. 

This book does make you think about government, humanity, the human race's effect on the planet, society and freedom of speech. So it has interesting concepts to mull over once you've finished the book, or even whilst still reading and experiencing Diego. I found that the plot of the book was slightly less gripping than the previous books, but it was interesting to see how the whole plot of the three novels was resolved, and that keeps you reading.  Learning about the world of the New Smoke was something I particularly enjoyed. Seeing what happens when a whole city is set free and brought to the Smokies way of life, and the effect that had on resources for instance.  I was left severely disappointed by 'Specials'. I expected more, and it was a shame for the series to end with a less satisfying book!  Thankfully 'Extras' is much better and I shall be reviewing that shortly.


I think perhaps this is more of a two and half star occasion, as I felt it was between 'It was ok' and 'I liked it' as I did enjoy the resolving of the plot.  Sadly, I don't have a graphic for 2.5 stars yet. 

Goodreads Reading Challenge
This book is number 5 out of 50

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