Hot on the heels of reading “The Hunger Games“, here’s another tale of a future dystopia. Only this time the dystopian elements are not so overt. Humanity has overcome the final obstacle to true equality – each individual’s looks. At the age of 16, everyone is given “the operation” which transforms them from an “Ugly” to a “Pretty,” conforming their body to the pinnacle of beauty according to the standards of evolutionary biology. Pretties then live a life of non-stop fun and excitement. Sounds good, but the Smokies, a group of runaways and defectors, have decided that they want to live on their own terms. The secret police, “Special Circumstances,” Does Not Approve and uses Tally, the main character, to infiltrate the Smokies. She eventually becomes converted to the Smokie ideal (falling in love with their leader doesn’t hurt) and learns that the operation changes more than just outward appearances…. I won’t get into the plot any further; suffice it to say that all is not happily ever after once Tally joins the Smokies.
I couldn’t help but comparing the book to “The Hunger Games” since I just read it. I enjoyed “The Hunger Games” much more than “Uglies.” I thought it had more believable characters and was more exciting and suspenseful. The future it presented was more interesting as well.
I think that “Uglies” missed out on being a commentary on what equality really means. I kept expecting it, but it never materialized. (It’s more a book about not being so willing to believe everything you are told.) Even still, it made me think about what it means to be equal. In the “Uglies” future, (at least on the surface) equality is achieved by making everyone equally beautiful – bringing everyone up to the same high standard. Contrast that to Kurt Vonnegut’s “Harrison Bergeron,” where everyone is made equal by bringing them down to the lowest common denominator – the beautiful must wear masks, the intelligent are drugged so they are dopey, the strong must carry heavy weights, etc.
The first way is the better alternative, but probably impossible – how can you make every equal in not only beauty, but everything? The second way is more doable, but stupid – you’ll end up with a society of morons and weaklings. Perhaps the best way is to overlook our differences, realize that everyone is trying the best they can, help when needed but just don’t be so critical of each other. Easier said than done I guess….