Monday, November 27, 2006

What I’m Reading – Scott Westerfeld

So I am incredibly behind in my reading of teen novels and have a huge reading list to prove it. Step one was to read Peeps and Uglies by Scott Westerfeld. These books have gotten a ton of buzz already, so I’ll make the review part brief and then ramble about some observations between the two.

Synopsis: Peeps: In a world where vampirism is sexually transmitted, 19-year old Cal is infected. His current job is to find others, called “peeps”, who are being destroyed by the parasite. This is a fast paced adventure that is quite good.

Synopsis: Uglies: This is the first in a trilogy of the same name. Tally lives in a future world where turning 16 means a surgery takes place that changes your entire appearance ant thus your standing as an “uglie” changes to a “pretty”. This is a fairly deep story and Tally, who wanted more than anything to become a “pretty”, meets a new friend and starts to realize there is more to the world than just her isolated city. This is very good because it combines a lot of action with a complex plot and likeable characters.

Since I read the books back to back, it was fun to compare the worlds and themes of Peeps and Uglies. The two worlds Westerfeld created are quite similar. In Peeps, the country is split between those who understand the world and those who don’t. Westerfeld seems to be quite influenced by Cyber-punk and The Matrix. Most of the country is going about their regular business, while vampires are slugging it out below New York City. This is not a new development. Cal’s organization was created early in America’s history to keep the virus in check.
Possible spoilers in this paragraph: Interestingly enough, at the end of Peeps, we learn that it is not so clear who the good guys and bad guys are. Westerfeld goes are far as to employ the philosophy that the greater evolved beings were allowed to thrive, so they can take on the world’s next threat. Thus Peeps’ heroes are those whose intentions are more important than the moral foundation of the world they operate in. The author juggles the importance of relationships and trust with the fact that only those that become infected and therefore stronger will have the best chance of surviving the world’s dire situation.
In Uglies, Westerfeld takes the fairly simple world of Peeps and kicks it up a notch. In this world, their goal is to make everyone equal by transforming their appearance. Those that don’t want this life are not just exiled from their city, but tracked down and forced to cooperate. Set far in the future, the only thing left of our society is some scattered ruins of long abandoned cities. I found it interesting that the Smokies, those living in the wild under their own rules, are trying to balance the world of the past and the present. The past was seen as completely misusing the planet, while the present leaders are isolating their people from the world. Like in Peeps, Uglies is mostly about those that realize there is something wrong in their world and are trying to figure out what to do about it.
Most people have read these by now, but for those who haven’t they are well worth it. Neither book is perfect, but Westerfeld created two great stories.

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