So today is BAD (Blog Action Day), and since the environment is one of the global issues that is most important to me, I definitely wanted to participate. I wasn't sure what I'd post about here on ATR, but fortunately, I just finished Westerfeld's Extras and I figured it was a good fit. The environment and environmental protection play a critical role in the novel's plot, so I can can kill two metaphorical birds with one stone here.
Okay, I know many of you have probably already read and/or read about Extras by now, but just for the record, let me briefly explain the plot. The main character is an "extra" named Aya Fuse, an ugly in Japan three years after the mind-rain (ie. right after the Diego War and the end of bubbleheaded-ness, thanks to Tally at the end of Specials). Aya's city is a "reputation economy," meaning that fame is pretty much the currency and (almost) everyone's end-all goal. Lots of crazy surges take place all the time, but the main point is to become famous. Aya is hoping to be a famous "kicker" like her brother Hiro. Kickers create stories that are spread through skintenna feeds, which makes the producers (ie. the kickers) famous. While working on a story that she hopes will make her extremely famous, Aya stumbles into an even bigger story, although Aya is not entirely sure what is going on. It becomes dangerous, she is invloved, Tally & Friends arrive to intervene, and the mystery is eventually solved.
Without giving too much of the plot away, the environment plays a big role in the story because not only do the characters reference the irresponsibility of the Rusties (like they did in the previous 3 books), but steel and its scarcity are central to the plot. Steel is very scarce, particularly as bubbleheaded-ness is over and cities are trying to expand. They are trying to scavenge all the steel possible from Rusty ruins and are even considering going back into Rusty mines to find more. Tally and David are trying to save the earth, so of course, they are fighting against this. As Aya is pursuing her story, she finds these "freaks" who are hording steel canisters, which she is not sure the purpose of. I can't really say too much else without giving away a lot of the plot, but suffice it to say that if you wanted to have a book to talk about environmental issues or if you wanted to do a bookmark or display of teen books about the environment, this would be completely appropriate.
My take on the book? Well, I have only ever listened to the books in this series, so this was a new experience for me. In a weird way, this was kind of better because it went faster. I'm not so much into the "suspense" parts with the flying and the hovering and the chases and the sneak suits, so in reading, I could just sort of skim over those parts. What I did really like in this book, though, was the whole concept of the "reputation economy." I can totally see how many of the current trends and practices we have now could develop into the society in which Aya lives. The idea that individuals would be preoccupied by their Face Rank is totally believable, just considering how much and often people Google themselves or check their Amazon sales number or their website's ranking or whatever. Fame seems to be a pretty big attraction, and I thought it was utterly believable and fitting that the second most famous person in the city was someone obsessed with trivial things liked what someone is wearing or who they are dating. There are tons of things to discuss here, including Paparazzi, the price of fame, what makes people famous, the benefits of fame, how people will become famous in the future, how the Internet changes or affects who becomes famous and how, etc. I really appreciate that Westerfeld is able to meld these weighty issues into the plots of his book without being too didactic.
And though it doesn't have anything to do at all with Extras, here's a link to Hank Green's EcoGeek site. It's just a tribute in honor of BAD.