Set at an unspecified time in the future, The Extra details a Los Angeles in which the poor live down on the ground in a lawless mess called the Zoo, the middle-class live in high rises that aren’t a whole lot better, and the rich live above all of them, separated and safe. And the movies are “live action,” where extras who volunteer to enter the sets risk a 1 in 6 chance of surviving to the end of the film, where they receive rich bonuses. The latest of these films is Alien Hunger, where the APPs (Anti-Personnel Properties, the monsters of the movie) are some of the most terrifying yet. Into this mess, Jool, Curtis, and Japh decide to try their luck, teaming up in hopes of surviving to the end of the film. Into this mess are thrown Kate and Rod, two assistant directors who have annoyed Val Margolian, the godlike and slightly nutty director of this monstrosity.
Sound ridiculous enough for you yet? It only gets more ridiculous from here. A sharp satire (though of what I’m not quite sure… so many targets) with a numerous shift of viewpoints, The Extra combines humor, action, and very colloquial writing. The last was one of my main problems with the book, though, the “future” slang/speaking patterns was a little grating, especially when the book switched so rapidly between jarringly different voices. The pacing was also a little odd; the first half a slow build-up (not quite boring, but at a certain point you kind of just want him to get to it already) and then the second half is just non-stop chaos.
Still, mostly enjoyable, and certainly very readable, it’s possible to blow through this book in an hour or two. Shea has managed to create a somewhat frighteningly plausible scenario, and then presented it in an engaging manner. If you like slapstick, occasionally horrific violence, a fast-paced plot that doesn’t give you much room for a pause, and inventive monsters (both of the APP and human kind) then you’ll probably enjoy The Extra. It won’t be making a permanent space on my shelf, but I’m not sorry I read it.