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Extras    by Scott Westerfeld order for
by Scott Westerfeld
Order:  USA  Can
Pulse, 2007 (2007)
* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Extras (which follows Uglies, Pretties and Specials in Scott Westerfeld's futuristic YA series) opens a few years after the mind-rain cure, instigated by Tally Youngblood, that ended humanity's forced bubble-headedness. Now, different cities have reinvented themselves with new, diverging cultures.

Big-nosed fifteen-year-old Aya Fuse lives in a Japanese city based on a reputation economy, where celebrity is a form of coinage. Merits, earned by youth by taking classes or doing chores, can also buy things. Aya, whose face rank is 451,369 in the popularity index (making her an extra), yearns to be famous. To achieve that, she hopes to emulate big brother Hiro and kick a news story that will make her reputation. Using her hovercam Moggle (suitably modified by her brother's best friend Ren) Aya sneaks into a Prettyville tech-head party, in search of a secret clique, that of the Sly Girls - and she finds them. She also bumps into manga-head Frizz Mizuno, famous for starting the Radical Honesty clique of individuals who've had a brain surge that makes it impossible for them to lie. Frizz likes her, big nose and all!

The Sly Girls don't want celebrity, but rather avoid it, seeking their thrills under the radar. They allow Aya to join them in mag-lev surfing, a dangerous activity that gives her a new perspective on the wild. As they head through a tunnel, the train makes an unusual stop, when they see inhuman figures opening a hidden tunnel and moving things from it. On their next outing, the Sly Girls explore the tunnel and find what Aya believes to be city killing bombs. Even though she's outed by the Sly Girls, Aya kicks her end of the world story and sees her face rank zoom, but then receives a warning from an unlikely source - 'Run and hide. We're on our way.' Soon Aya, Frizz, Hiro and Ren are on the run across the world from what seem to be aliens - sharing extraordinary adventures alongside the biggest celebrities of all.

Though I would recommend reading the earlier books first, it is possible to follow this one without having done so. Extras takes a hard - and often humorous - look at the flaws in a celebrity culture that could conceivably evolve from today's Internet Facebook and blogs. While generally critical of the values of our own time, the book also acknowledges that 'The Rusties had more than one dream.' Aya learns another, more positive meaning for extras, and - fortunately for their relationship - Frizz decides that 'Maybe Radical Honesty is getting a little old.'

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