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The Extra by Michael Shea
Cover Artist: Dorling Kindersersley & Nicholas Monu / Getty Images
Review by Joseph B. Hoyos
Tor Books Hardcover  ISBN/ITEM#: 9780765324351
Date: 02 February 2010 List Price $22.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Article /

Welcome to a horrifying vision of the future. In an overpopulated, amoral Las Angeles, life is cheap. Curtis and Japh are middle-class tough guys living in the high rise buildings known as the 'Rise. Jools, Chops, and Cap are streetwise thugs living in the outside slums known as the Zoo. Kate Harlow, Val Margolean and Mark Millar are upper-class executives at Hollywood's Panoply Studios, which is involved in making live action films. The desperate poor from the 'Rise and the Zoo are hired as extras who are herded like cattle into enormous sets built to resemble cities. Today, Panoply is filming Alien Hunger in which giant mechanical spiders are let loose to attack the extras. Like the gladiators of the Roman coliseum, the extras must fight for their lives. Their actual deaths are filmed in what becomes a legalized snuff film where thousands die for large sums of money.

From official release/information:

Product Description: Books and films have skewered Hollywood's excesses, but none has ever portrayed one man's crazy vision of the future of big action/adventure films as The Extra does. As over-the-top as Mel Brooks's Blazing Saddles, as savagely dark as Robert Altman's The Player, and more violent than Rollerball, this is the story of the ultimate, so-insane-it-could-only-happen-in-Hollywood formula for success, a brave new way to bring the ultimate in excitement to the silver screen. Producer Val Margolian has found the motherlode of box-office gold with his new "live-death" films whose villains are extremely sophisticated, electronically controlled mechanical monsters. To give these live-action disaster films greater realism, he employs huge casts of extras, in addition to the stars. The large number of extras is important, because very few of them will survive the shoot.

It's all perfectly legal, with training for the extras and long, detailed contracts indemnifying the film company against liability for the extras' injury or death. But why would anyone be crazy enough to risk his or her life to be an extra in such a potentially deadly situation?

The extras do it because if they survive they'll be paid handsomely, and they can make even more if they destroy any of the animatronic monsters trying to stomp, chew, fry, or otherwise kill them. If they earn enough, they can move out of the Zoo--the vast slum that most of L.A. has become. They're fighting for a chance at a reasonable life. But first, they have to survive . . .

(Source: Tor Books)

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