Westerfeld, Scott 1963–
Westerfeld, Scott 1963–
Born 1963, in TX; married Justine Larbalestier (a researcher and writer). Education: Attended Vassar College and New York University.
Writer, composer, ghost writer, short-story writer, and media designer.
Philip K. Dick Award special citation, 2000.
The Secret Hour, Eos (New York, NY), 2004.
Touching Darkness, Eos (New York, NY), 2005.
Blue Noon, Eos (New York, NY), 2006.
Uglies, Simon Pulse (New York, NY), 2005.
Pretties, Simon Pulse (New York, NY), 2005.
Specials, Simon Pulse (New York, NY), 2006.
Extras, Simon Pulse (New York, NY), 2007.
SCIENCE FICTION NOVELS
Polymorph, Penguin (New York, NY), 1997.
Fine Prey, Penguin (New York, NY), 1998.
Evolution's Darling, Four Walls Eight Windows (New York, NY), 1999.
The Killing of Worlds, Tor (New York, NY), 2003.
The Risen Empire, Tor (New York, NY), 2003.
So Yesterday, Razorbill (New York, NY), 2004.
Peeps, Razorbill (New York, NY), 2005.
The Last Days, Razorbill (New York, NY), 2006.
The Berlin Airlift, Silver Burdett (Englewood Cliffs, NJ), 1989.
Watergate, Silver Burdett (Englewood Cliffs, NJ), 1991.
Blossom vs. the Blasteroid, Scholastic (New York, NY), 2002.
Diamonds Are for Princess, Scholastic (New York, NY), 2002.
Rainy Day Professor, Scholastic (New York, NY), 2002.
Scott Westerfeld is a writer, composer, and media designer. His musical compositions have been performed in dance productions both in the United States and in Europe. He has also created numerous educational software programs for children. He has worked as a ghostwriter, and has published children's books, as well as short stories and novels for adults.
Reviewers have characterized Westerfeld's science fiction novels as "space opera," which Gerald, writing in the New York Times book Review defined as "far-future narratives that encompass entire galaxies and move confidently among competing planets and cultures, both human and otherwise." In an interview on the Penguin publisher's Web site, Westerfeld defined science fiction as "a way of writing (and of reading) which utilizes the power of extrapolation. It expands both the real world … and the literary. In regular fiction, you might be alienated. In [science fiction], you're an alien."
Westerfeld's first science-fiction novel, Polymorph, explores identity and sexual issues with a title character who is able to change gender and appearance. In his Penguin interview, Westerfeld explained how his move to New York City inspired the idea for the story. "When I first moved to New York in the 1980s, I was amazed that it was such a richly textured city: layers of graffiti, legacies of immigrant influences, overlapping strata of big money and extreme poverty. To explore it all, you'd have to be a polymorph." Praising Polymorph, John Mort, in Booklist, called Westerfeld "a writer to watch."
Evolution's Darling, which earned its author a Philip K. Dick Award special citation, and Notable Book status from the New York Times, tells the story of Darling, an artificial intelligence who evolves into a sentient being through a relationship with a teenage girl. The reader follows Darling as the character becomes a galactic art dealer and develops a relationship with Mira, a hightech killer. Trevor Dodge, writing in the Review of Contemporary Fiction, stated that Westerfeld challenges the reader to "ponder if a machine can be made human, and if so, what purpose humanity would serve."
Discussing Westerfeld's work within the context of the challenges inherent in writing science fiction, Jonas commented in the New York Times Book Review that "to master such material and still bring to life characters with recognizable emotions and aspirations is a challenge few writers care to take on. Westerfeld succeeds admirably."
Hunter, the seventeen-year-old protagonist of So Yesterday, spends his time working for a well-known sports show company, seeking out the newest fads, trends, and things that are "cool" on the streets of New York. When he notices a girl named Jen, he realizes that her unique shoe-lacing technique makes her an Innovator, a person who originates trends, whereas he is a Trendsetter, who adopts the trends and makes them cool. Hunter takes a photo of the laces, and when his boss, Mandy, sees them, she invites Hunter and Jen to a brainstorming session. However, when the two teens arrive at the large warehouse where the meeting was supposed to occur, Mandy is not there; they find only her cell phone, ominously ringing in the absence of its owner. Danger becomes more real when they realize a radical group, with the apparent mission of dealing grassroots damage to large corporations, has kidnapped Mandy. Soon, Hunter and Jen are on Mandy's trail, dodging the mounting danger and racing against time to save her. A Kirkus Reviews contributor called Hunter "a charming narrator with an original take on teen life." Westerfeld's "entertaining adventure doubles as a smart critique on marketing and our consumer culture," observed a Publishers Weekly critic.
Peeps contains Westerfeld's unique take on the age-old vampire legend. Cal Thompson, a nineteen year old who has recently moved to New York for college, has recently lost his virginity—usually a sign of distinction for a young man, but in Cal's case, it has resulted in him being infected with the parasite that causes vampirism, turning him into a parasite-positive, or peep. Cal does not become a full-fledged vampire; instead, he simply becomes a carrier of the parasite and he acquires some of the heightened physical abilities of vampires. Soon, he lands a job with a shadowy organization called Night Watch, a group that identifies and hunts down other peeps. Cal begins searching for Morgan, the woman who infected him after a drunken one-night stand, but during his search, he uncovers disturbing information about Night Watch that makes him question the motives of the organization he works for. His life becomes more complicated when he starts falling for a journalism student who lives in Morgan's building. Because of his status as a peep, he cannot risk infecting anyone else, and has been forced to abide by a self-imposed policy of celibacy. Along with Cal's story, the book also offers information on parasitology and creepy details on how parasites find and interact with their hosts. "This is definitely a story to get the brain working," mused a Publishers Weekly writer. "A clever blend of adventure, horror, romance, and science text, Peeps holds great appeal for teen readers," commented Merri Lindgren in Horn Book. A Kirkus Reviews critic called the book "Scary indeed, and a smashing page-turner offering supreme satisfaction." School Library Journal reviewer Karyn N. Silverman concluded: "This innovative and original vampire story, full of engaging characters and just enough horror without any gore, will appeal to a wide audience."
When Jessica Day moves to Bixby, Oklahoma, she soon discovers that even time isn't the same there. In The Secret Hour, Jessica soon learns that she is a Midnighter, a person born at the hour of midnight and who possesses special powers because of it. She meets other Midnighters at Bixby High School, including Rex, Dess, and Melissa, and finds out that she, like all other Midnighters, has the ability to move about during the twenty-fifth hour of the day, a blue-tinted hour in which all other life is immobile. On her first night there, Jessica awakens to find the sky full of what she thinks are diamonds, but which turn out to be stationary raindrops. Midnighters possess other special abilities, too: one possesses the ability to read minds, while another can float nearly weightless in the air. These powers help them avoid the unpleasant and dangerous creatures that also dwell in the twenty-fifth hour, including darklings and slithers. When Jessica arrives in Bixby, however, the darklings and other creatures suddenly increase in number and ferociousness, and the Midnighters have to rely on steel weapons and thirteen-letter-words to fight them. Their attacks begin to focus more on Jessica, who has yet to manifest her special powers. Until she does, she will be in ever-increasing danger from dark forces that she doesn't understand. Westerfeld "concocts a unique and fresh fantasy setting just beyond the edge of our consciousness," commented Michele Winship in Kliatt. "The story is exciting and the writing compelling," noted School Library Journal contributor Sharon Grover.
Uglies is the first book in a series that explores a future world in which physical imperfection has been banished, and citizens receive operations on their sixteenth birthday that make them happy, carefree, and gorgeous. Teenage Tally Youngblood, a resident of Uglyville, is herself an "ugly," and is eagerly anticipating her birthday and the procedure that will transform her into a blissful and lovely "pretty." She knows that Pretties spend their days in a nonstop party in the party towers of New Pretty Town. Tally's best friend has already had the Pretty procedure, and she sneaks into town to see him. This act nearly gets her captured, but in the turmoil, she meets a new best friend, Shay. Tally and Shay share the same birthday and are expected to undergo the operation at the same time. However, the night before the procedures, Shay tells Tally that she plans to run away to an outside settlement called The Smoke, outside the reach of the governmental powers that control the Uglies and the Pretties. Shay disappears and is assumed to have gone to the Smoke. Soon, however, Tally is forced into locating Shay and leading government agents to the rebel settlement. If she does not, she is told, she will never be given the procedure that will turn her into a Pretty. Tally reluctantly becomes a spy and sets out to locate the Smoke and her absent friend. Once there, however, she begins to realize that maybe everything she's been told about Uglies, Pretties, and Smokeys isn't all true, and that the residents of the Smoke are rebelling for a very good reason. Her conscience keeps her from betraying the rebels, but her act of heroism leads her to consequences that will affect her forever. A budding romance between Tally and David, one of the Smokey leaders, helps her see the moral difficulties with the Pretty procedure, and brings up questions about what the government surgeons do during the operations to keep the population under control. The novel's appealing storyline will cause this "ingenious series debut to cement Westerfeld's reputation for high-concept YA fiction that has wide appeal," noted Booklist reviewer Jennifer Mattson. The book "asks engaging questions about the meaning of beauty, individuality, and betrayal," observed Samantha Musher, writing in Kliatt.
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, December 1, 1997, John Mort, review of Polymorph, p. 612; February 15, 2003, Regina Schroeder, review of The Risen Empire, p. 1060; September 15, 2003, Regina Schroeder, review of The Killing of Worlds, p. 219; September 15, 2004, Gillian Engberg, review of So Yesterday, p. 235; March 15, 2005, Jennifer Mattson, review of Uglies, p. 1287; May 1, 2005, Gillian Engberg, review of So Yesterday, p. 1543; August, 2005, Jennifer Mattson, review of Peeps, p. 2019; September 15, 2005, Jennifer Hubert, review of Pretties, p. 60; May 15, 2006, Jennifer Mattson, "After the First Bite," review of Peeps, p. 56; May 15, 2006, Jennifer Mattson, review of Specials, p. 58; September 1, 2006, Lynn Rutan, review of The Last Days, p. 112.
Horn Book, January-February, 2005, Roger Sutton, review of So Yesterday, p. 101; November-December, 2005, Susan Dove Lempke, review of Pretties, p. 727; January-February, 2006, Merri Lindgren, review of Peeps, p. 91; September-October, 2006, Susan Dove Lempke, review of Specials, p. 599.
Kirkus Reviews, January 15, 2003, review of The Risen Empire, p. 118; January 15, 2004, review of The Secret Hour, p. 90; August 1, 2004, review of So Yesterday, p. 750; February 1, 2005, review of Touching Darkness, p. 182; February 15, 2005, review of Uglies, p. 237; August 1, 2005, review of Peeps, p. 860; October 15, 2005, review of Pretties, p. 1148; January 1, 2006, review of BlueNoon, p. 46; May 1, 2006, review of Specials, p. 470; August 1, 2006, review of The Last Days, p. 798.
Kliatt, March, 2004, Michele Winship, review of The Secret Hour, p. 16; September, 2004, Michele Winship, review of So Yesterday, p. 17; March, 2005, Samantha Musher, review of Uglies, p. 29; September, 2005, Myrna Marler, review of Peeps, p. 16; January, 2006, Samantha Musher, review of Pretties, p. 22; March, 2006, Michele Winship, review of Blue Noon, p. 18; May, 2006, Samantha Musher, review of Specials, p. 17.
Library Journal, April 15, 2000, review of Evolution's Darling, p. 128; September 15, 2003, Jackie Cassada, review of The Killing of Worlds, p. 95.
Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, June, 2004, Charles de Lint, review of The Secret Hour, p. 32; June, 2006, Charles de Lint, review of Touching Darkness and Blue Noon, p. 29.
New York Times Book Review, June 18, 2000, Gerald Jonas, review of Evolution's Darling, p. 22; April 27, 2003, Gerald Jonas, review of The Risen Empire, p. 23.
Philadelphia Inquirer, September 13, 2006, David Hiltbrand, "Author Scott Westerfeld Found His Niche Writing for Teenagers."
Publishers Weekly, April 17, 2000, review of Evolution's Darling, p. 57; January 20, 2003, review of The Risen Empire, p. 61; September 15, 2003, review of The Killing of Worlds, p. 50; March 22, 2004, review of The Secret Hour, p. 87; October 4, 2004, review of So Yesterday, p. 89; March 21, 2005, review of Uglies, p. 52; October 3, 2005, review of Peeps, p. 71; October 17, 2005, review of Pretties, p. 70.
Review of Contemporary Fiction, fall, 2000, Trevor Dodge, review of Evolution's Darling, p. 151.
School Library Journal, December, 1989, Ann Welton, review of The Berlin Airlift, p. 127; June, 2004, Sharon Grover, review of The Secret Hour, p. 152; October, 2004, Kelly Czarnecki, review of So Yesterday, p. 182; March, 2005, Sharon Grover, review of Touching Darkness, p. 220; March, 2005, Susan W. Hunter, review of Uglies, p. 221; October, 2005, Karyn N. Silverman, review of Peeps, p. 178; December, 2005, Tasha Saecker, review of Pretties, p. 158; July, 2006, review of Peeps, p. 37; July, 2006, Heather M. Campbell, review of Blue Noon, p. 114; July, 2006, Corinda J. Humphrey, review of Specials, p. 116; November, 2006, Jack Forman, review of The Last Days, p. 156.
Science Fiction Chronicle, February-March, 2003, Don D'Ammassa, review of The Risen Empire, p. 54.
Analog Science Fiction Online,http://www.analogsf.com/ (July 6, 2003), Tom Easton, review of The Risen Empire.
Baltimore City Paper Online,http://www.citypaper.com/ (July 12, 2000), Adrienne Martini, review of Evolution's Darling.
Fantastic Fiction,http://www.fantasticfiction.co.uk/ (May 16, 2007), bibliography of Westerfeld.
Librarisaurus Rex,http://www.swellsville.org/ (May 16, 2007), Jen Robinson, review of Uglies.
Orange Splot,http://www.orangesplot.com/ (September 23, 2005), review of So Yesterday.
Penguin Web site,http://www.penguin.com/ (May 16, 2007), interview with Westerfeld.
Sci-Fi.com,http://www.scifi.com/ (May 16, 2007), Thomas Myer, review of Polymorph; (May 16, 2007) Paul Witcover, review of Evolution's Darling; (May 16, 2007) Steven Sawicki, review of short story "Non-Disclosure Agreement"; (May 16, 2007) Donna McMahon, review of Fine Prey; Paul Witcover, review of The Risen Empire.
Scott Westerfeld Home Page,http://www.scottwesterfeld.com (May 16, 2007).
SF Crowsnest.com,http://www.sfcrowsnest.com/ (January 4, 2005), interview with Westerfeld.
Trades,http://www.the-trades.com/ (May 16, 2007), review of Uglies.