I’m sure that I am supposed to like Specials by Scott Westerfeld. Everyone else seems to. But hey, I hated Tulane even before Fuse #8 made it cool to bring down the bunny book, so maybe I’m just one of those people.
I had three problems with Specials. The first is what we might call a personal problem. I am terrible with series. I retain almost nothing from the books I read. While this makes it easy for me to jump from book to book quickly, it makes reading the books in a series months or years apart just about impossible for me. In fact, I usually avoid series as they are starting so I can pick it up later. When they have the three books, I’ll read through them all one after another.
For me, reading Specials was like walking into a movie halfway through. And not some family movie, either, more like walking into The Usual Suspects. (Who is Keyser Söze? What’s going ON?) I was halfway through Specials before I could remember significant plot points from Pretties and I still needed to ask two teenage girls at my middle school booktalking session what happened at the end of Pretties. So I am a series loser.
I am going to attribute that problem mostly to me and not to the book though maybe a little more back story would be nice. However, I found the second problem that I couldn’t buy the over-the-top action in this book as compared with the others. I mean, I already have to buy into the idea that every sixteen-year-old gets an operation to become pretty. Okay. I have to buy into the idea that the powers that be want to keep everyone bubbleheaded so they can regain control. Okay. I have to buy into the idea that they can remake a person from the bones up to be a Special. Okaaaay, you’re starting to lose me. Now I have to buy into the idea that this Special can do all the things and not to give anything away, but there are lots of things the book would have them do. Okay, you lost me.
I liked Uglies because Talley was average, her strength was internal, and her skills were her own. I liked Pretties because she had to think her way out of her own predicament, and the action was good. In Specials it is all about the super technology, and I didn’t like it.
The third problem with the book is a minor detail that loomed big for me through the whole book. In changing the Cutters, they were given razor-sharp fingernails and teeth. Does anyone else see just a practical problem here? I mean, sometimes I tear a fingernail a tiny bit, brush hair back off my face, and leave a little scratch on my forehead. What would I do with razor-sharp fingernails? And don’t you think those razor-sharp teeth might chafe a little on the inside of your lips? Every time the teeth or fingernails were mentioned, I was annoyed for the next few pages.
Retractable razor-sharp fingernails, now that might be cool. If only I could pick them up at Wal-Mart.