December 18, 2009

BOOKS: Uglies / Pretties / Specials, Scott Westerfeld (2005 / 2005 / 2006)

Solid SF trilogy, targeted at the YA market, about the destruction of a repressive society.

Our heroine is Tally Youngblood, who at the beginning of the series, is about to turn 16 and become Pretty. Massive plastic surgery makes everyone Pretty, every face and physique corrected to fit the very narrow range of beauty allowed by society. The logic is that if everyone's pretty (and in roughly the same way, so that no one stands out), then people won't have to deal with the petty jealousies that so often led to violence and conflict in the old days.

Not everyone wants to be Pretty, though, and there have always been rumors of people living in the wilderness, beyond the safety of the city limits, who have never had the surgery and have remained Ugly into adulthood. Tally finds herself caught up in a plot to find and destroy one such community, the Smokies; she's forced to work for the Office of Special Circumstances, a sort of secret police who have had additional surgeries to enhance their senses and their fighting abilities.

Westerfeld's action sequences occasionally get repetitious, especially in the numerous hoverboard chase scenes (a hoverboard is like a flying skateboard), and the action of the trilogy takes place very quickly; I don't think it's more than a few months from beginning to end, certainly no more than a year.

But there are a lot of clever ideas to be found here, and Tally is an appealing heroine; her struggles to maintain her mental and emotional clarity in the face of unprecedented obstacles are compelling, and that aspect of the story made Pretties the most entertaining of the three books for me.

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