Dr. Dan's Elixir
|Potent Magic for Young Minds|
Pretties by Scott Westerfeld
Simon Pulse, Copyright © 2005
Paperback, 384 pages
Age Group: 15 up
Wow, I enjoyed Pretties more than I did Uglies! It is a more detailed vision of the
dystopia wherein Tally Youngblood lives.
Tally has a new boy friend. His name is Zane and he's a pretty hip guy. Very smart
and very into getting out of the pretty-minded state that unknowingly afflicts
pretties. Tally and Zane are a perfect match. Where one ends the other begins. In
the early part of this volume, Tally and Zane are looking for ways to be bubbly.
Bubbly is better then being pretty-minded. It's the kind of awareness that you and I
enjoy. They discover that extreme experiences, such as heights or cold or fright,
can raise them above pretty-mindedness. The bubbly feeling, the new awareness
that it brings, is an addiction stronger than any drug. They are determined to
become bubbly all the time. When other members of their clique find out what's
going on, they find even more extreme ways to reach bubbliness such as cutting
themselves. Westerfeld uses the pain formula for bubbliness only in one example
and then moves on, but he does remind us of it once in a while as needed. It is the
extreme example of how much some are willing to give to burst thought the bonds
of pretty-headedness and become bubbly.
One day, in the search for more bubbliness, Tally and Zane climb one of the tall
radio towers on top of a pretty dorm. At the top of this tower they find two pills
and a letter. Upon descent they read the note and discover that Tally wrote it to
herself when she was an Uglie and that the pills are a cure for pretty-mindedness. It
appears that when you have your operation to make you a pretty, lesions are placed
in your brain to short out higher forms of thought. Therefore, Pretties are very
happy to live the satiated party life that is provided. Given talk about middle
pretties and Crumblies, it appears that the pretty stage is the one that special
circumstances want to control the most. That's not surprising, is it? Adults have
always wanted to control the younger, more vibrant, highly intelligent, and more
open to new ideas and experiments. Teenagers have always been the enemy.
Tally is afraid to take the pills and, assuming the pills are the same, Zane suggests
they both take one of the pills. They do not know that the two pills are different.
One pill contains nanites programmed to repair the brain lesions and the other pill
is the cure for the cure. The second pill tells the nanites when to quit. Changes
begin immediately and they seem to be able to remain bubbly more and more.
However, there are side effects such as crippling headaches, etc.
Tally and Zane flee to the wilderness to find the new smokies and get some help
with the side effects of the cure.
To top it all off, what would the novel be without another visit from the very
special Dr. Cable. She comes bearing news and it's not very good. You will love
this fast-paced, action-packed, compulsive sequel. Whereas in my opinion sequels
usually mark the death of a story, this sequel is better than the first volume, Uglies.
Specials by Scott Westerfeld
Simon Pulse, Copyright © 2006
Hardcover, 384 pages
Age Group: 15 up
This is the rip-roaring, action packed, heart-wrenching finale to the Uglies trilogy.
What started out in Uglies as a good story has ended as a spectacular story. There
are twists within twists in the plot. The end will leave you with your mouth
hanging open. And you'll join the chorus singing, "We want more!"
Tally has been transformed again. Now a special, she's a lean, mean fighting
machine. Dr. Cable has provided a ceramic skeleton, enhanced hearing and sight,
built in communication abilities, super strength and nano-technology to heal her
wounds whenever she gets hurt. Tally and her friends have been also given the
knowledge, skills and physiology to survive alone in the wilderness for any length
of time. She has the cruel beauty for which specials are known. Teeth and
fingernails turned into lethal weapons. Cat-like reflexes and body armor to protect
and hide her from view. Tally is one slick, tough, chick.
Tally and Shay are friends again and belong to Dr. Cable's elite force of specials,
the Crims. You may recognize who they are from Pretties. Having the freedom and
latitude given by Dr. Cable, Tally and Shay seek to find the new smoke alone. So,
they head out. On the way they cause a serious accident that damages their
government's defense supplies. When they reach the new smoke, Tally discovers
that Zane is still alive, barely. She is glad to see him again but her programming
against the weak and sick make her gag and want to vomit. She takes off so as not
to embarrass Zane (or kill him).
Seeing Zane again and remembering their love begins to change Tally from a
special to a cured special (for lack of a better title) and she begins to question the
role of a special. In the mean time Maddy's cure has been taking the cities by
storm. Even Tally's clique, The Crims, have all be cured. The Crims try to force
the cure on Tally but she fights them off in a fury of energy. Her program for self-preservation kicks in and she overwhelms them all. Not to worry. We suspect that
Tally's personality will eventually cure her without the medicine as it did in
The New Smoke is a surprise. It has been taken in by a neighboring city called
Diego. Many in Diego have been cured and they have begun a new city
government call the New System. Diego takes in all new runaways but enforces a
new law regarding violations of morphology. Who could be more of a violation
than Tally, and the city goes after her to surgically undo the changes wrought by
Dr. Cable. It seems like Tally can't get a break. Every which way she turns
somebody's after her.
Tally's desire to remain a special and her grief come together to build the
conditions necessary for what Tally does as her final mission. Expect to be
surprised and then be surprised again. Read this book - that is my
recommendation. Start with Uglies if you can but this volume of the trilogy can
stand on its own merits.
Elsewhere by Will Shetterly
Harcourt, Copyright © 1991
Hardcover, 248 pages
Age Group: 15 up
Elsewhere is a bookstore in Bordertown which is on the edge of the frontier where
Faerie meets Human. Most aren't happy with Bordertown's presence but it does
promote trade, which appears to be very profitable for all. Eighteen-year-old Ron
goes to Bordertown looking for his older brother Tony who has disappeared. Since
Tony was obsessed with Bordertown, Ron figures that's the best place to look for
him and heads out to find him.
Bordertown is a mishmash of Elves, Humans, and Hafelves all at the varied levels
of economic comfort and security that you would find in any major city today in
America. Furthermore, descriptions of Bordertown remind me of Washington, DC
where I grew up. The higher class or more wealthy Elves live high above the city
in splendor. There are middle-class Elves who work every day for a living and
Elves who scratch out a living down by the wharf and the Mad River. Humans
don't seem to ascend as far up the economic food chain as do the Elves. Hafelves
seem to be the most despicable of the three and usually found at the lower levels of
society. Often Hafelves are not welcome in the crummiest of bars. Yet, everyone
seems to need protection of some sort from association with a group or gang or
from someone with powerful magic.
On the other hand, Bordertown is a place where any and all kinds of magic
happens. One can be turned into a werewolf or set a simple charm to protect
yourself or your property from harm. Elsewhere is a rich tapestry with many and
various colors. No one is what he or she appears to be. A gang of Elves on
motorcycle may look and sound as mean as any gang could be. Yet, we often learn
they have compassion and are willing to help the weak. In fact, the characters in
Shetterly's book are like onions. With every change of chapter it seems we learn
new things about the characters. Some who appeared good are actually evil and
vise versa. This peeling of the onion layers for so many characters made it hard for
me to keep up with who was who. Sometimes names changed as well.
Nevertheless, reading this book was one of the most rewarding reads I've ever
experienced. It's like going to a three-ring circus but being allowed to mingle
during the show. The colors and sounds seem to jump out of the page and as
mentioned the characters are larger than life.
However, no novel would be complete without a protagonist and we've not said
nearly enough of Ron. In the beginning Ron does not appear to have many sterling
qualities. His major motivation for finding his brother appears to be an unnamable
guilt. However, it is not long before Ron has endeared himself to many: Elves and
Humans alike. He soon finds a wholesome mixed ethnic group, like Bordertown
itself, to live with and lands a job in Elsewhere. Elsewhere is a new and mostly
used bookstore. The huge kind where you can easily become lost while the hours
Ron is not only a big help in the bookstore but manages to find ways of helping
those around him. Most especially Florida, a young victim of abuse who does not
speak and carries a Bowie knife. Florida is a perfect example of the richness in
Shetterly's characters. We meet her early in the book and the first impression is
that she is the silent, strong type because she never speaks and carries that Bowie
knife. It's not until much later that we learn that she has not spoken since her abuse
and the knife is for self-defense. Ron is instrumental in helping Florida open up,
speak, and relate to others on a one-to-one basis.
But what about Ron's experience in Bordertown? I can't tell you if he ever finds
Tony or not, but I can tell you that he falls from favor to the lowest level of the
food chain in Bordertown, a Wharf Rat. Wharf Rats drink the polluted water from
the Mad River. The Mad River water is addicting and produces a stupor state of
consciousness including hallucinations and greater dependence. No one in his or
her right mind drinks from the Mad River. Ron drank from the hand of a rat not
knowing what it was.
While Ron is a Wharf Rat there are sudden plot twists and character changes that
answer all the readers questions. Does Ron find Tony? Does Ron ever return to his
own people? Ultimately, what kind of person has Ron turned out to be? Or in other
words, in what ways has he grown and developed into a better being.
In closing, let me remind you that I highly recommend this book. Elsewhere deals
with prejudice, random violence, interpersonal relationships, and coming-of-age. It
is a rich experience that will keep you turning the pages for two reasons. One, to
follow the story, of course. Two, for more description of this marvelous place
called Boardertown and it's society. Read on but come home when you are