On the Uglies series

The S-Word

Science in the World of Uglies
By Jennifer Lynn Barnes

In science fiction, there seem to be a few steadfast rules. Governments are evil; conspiracies are common. Nature and technology are diametrically opposed, time travel is a vicious little bugger that will stick it to you the first chance it gets, and–as paradoxical as it might seem–science makes people stupid. Seriously. Given an infinite amount of time, a hundred monkeys with typewriters could produce the works of Shakespeare. Given a couple of decades, four techies locked in a room with scrap metal and computer chips will almost certainly create an army of robotic serial killers intent on destroying the human race. And nobody will see it coming.

The world of Uglies, while not completely immune to Four Techies in a Room Syndrome, also shows a subtler and in many ways more realistic depiction of the dangers of science–the kind of danger that has less to do with mad scientists building death rays of doom and more to do with the crazy-alluring, scary-convincing power inherent in the word.


It’s the ultimate trump card. You can’t argue with it. Most people don’t understand it. No need to bother yourself with the particu-lars–just bow down to its majestic empirical glow. Oooohhhhh . . . science! Like a sparkly little bauble (or a fashion-making tattoo flashing in rhythm with your bubbly heart), the word can be a distraction with more surface than substance, made all the more dangerous because in our world–and Tally’s–saying that something is scientific is often taken as synonymous with  …

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