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Losers in Space

Losers in Space

4.0 3
by John Barnes

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It is the year 2129 . . . and fame is all that matters

Susan and her friends are celebutantes. Their lives are powered by media awareness, fed by engineered meals, and underscored by cynicism. Everyone has a rating; the more viewers who ID you, the better. So Susan and her almost-boyfriend Derlock cook up a surefire plan: the nine of them will visit a


It is the year 2129 . . . and fame is all that matters

Susan and her friends are celebutantes. Their lives are powered by media awareness, fed by engineered meals, and underscored by cynicism. Everyone has a rating; the more viewers who ID you, the better. So Susan and her almost-boyfriend Derlock cook up a surefire plan: the nine of them will visit a Mars-bound spaceship and stow away. Their survival will be a media sensation, boosting their ratings across the globe. There's only one problem: Derlock is a sociopath. Breakneck narrative, pointed cultural commentary, warm heart, accurate science, a kickass heroine, and a ticking clock . . . who could ask for more?

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Printz Honor author Barnes (Tales of the Madman Underground) doesn’t take any shortcuts in this painstakingly constructed SF novel, a sort of amped-up Breakfast Club set in a celebrity-obsessed future. Susan Tervaille, the 16-year-old daughter of an ultra-celebrity in the year 2129, is swept up in a crazy plot hatched by bad-boy Derlock. She and several friends stow away on a spacecraft headed to Mars, hoping they’ll be broadcast in enough “meeds” on Earth to secure their status as up-and-coming superstars. What they don’t realize is that Derlock is insane and hell-bent on snagging fame for himself—even if it means lives are lost. Though Barnes prefaces his story with an option to skip his “Notes for the Interested”—asides where he explains the technical details of his world for hard SF fans—the science that seeps into the story may still put off more casual readers. What keeps this book rolling is Barnes’s unfailing ability to draw readers into his characters’ lives and perils—underneath all the scientific language, Barnes knows how to spin a good yarn. Ages 14–up. Agent: Ashley Grayson, Ashley Grayson Literary Agency. (Apr.)¦
VOYA - Stacy Holbrook
In 2129, Susan Tervaille and her friends are moes (losers), desperate to become celeb-eenies in order to inherit their parents' money. Another moe, Derlock, plans to make that happen by suggesting they stow away on the Mars-bound ship Virgo and film it for the "meeds." They are sure this will get them the media popularity needed to be celebrities. The moes, however, are unaware of Derlock's alternate plan, which starts with an explosion splitting Virgo in two, leaving the moes on their own in deep space over a hundred million miles from help. Derlock continues his sociopathic behavior in the months that follow by disabling the only means of communication, killing three of the moes, and escaping in the only ship that could get them to Mars. The remaining friends find a way to tap into the meeds, only to see that Derlock has made sure Virgo cannot get the media attention needed for a rescue. Losers in Space is hard science fiction in which the science behind the story is detailed through dialogue and the author's "Notes for the Interested." The explanations make for a heavy beginning; however, there is enough drama and suspense to engage any teen interested in issue-driven novels. Losers in Space is recommended for public libraries; school libraries serving older teens may want to take note that there is a focus on looks and sexuality to get media attention, and sex and nudity are described throughout the story. Reviewer: Stacy Holbrook
Children's Literature - Caitlin Marineau
Set in a media-obsessed world a little over one-hundred years in our future, John Barnes' new novel tells the story of how far a group of teens is willing to go to achieve fame. In their society everyone is given a minimum amount to live on, and the only way to achieve an additional fortune is to become a professional celebrity by having your image featured in enough media to be considered famous. A group of slacker teenagers decides that the best way to secure their own success is to stow away onboard a ship bound for Mars, with the idea that the ensuing press over their escapade will guarantee them a life of luxury. Of course, things quickly go wrong, and they soon find themselves fighting for their lives aboard a crippled space-craft with a murderous sociopath in their midst. One of the most interesting aspects of the novel is that it is written as hard sci-fi, which is not typical for a young adult novel. Those familiar with the genre will be aware that they are often known for their "info-dumps," featuring long explanations of scientific concepts. Barnes has taken the approach of isolating these discussions into sections called "Notes for the Interested" which he freely gives readers permission to skip if they are not interested in the science. Despite this, teens who simply want to know the story may find themselves skimming through sections of the novel, as many of the characters still talk extensively on the subject. More scientifically minded readers will find it fascinating, while others may find it detracts from the plot, as well as the author's opportunities to offer meaningful social commentary. Overall, the book offers a solid introduction to the sci-fi genre, with an intriguing plot and characters that discover their own strength and abilities amidst crisis. Reviewer: Caitlin Marineau
School Library Journal
Gr 9 Up—Imagine a future in which technological advances have allowed humanity to achieve PermaPaxPerity, or Permanent Peace and Prosperity. Everyone is guaranteed a generous income and lifestyle and can choose whether to work and/or have children. A select few are allowed, through talent or celebrity, to earn more than the guaranteed minimum, but their fortunes cannot be passed down to their children. The "moes," or losers of the title, are all children of celebrities who have been sent to an elite prep school to try to achieve "eenie" status through fame or talent but, failing that, will be relegated to life as "mineys." To prevent this not-so-horrible fate, Susan and her too-cool-for-school posse decide to stow away on a ship to Mars. Trouble results when the group's ringleader, the son of an infamous trial lawyer, turns out to be less of a charming con man and more of a cold-blooded killer. The fun twist that makes this novel stand out is that it is 100 percent, self-proclaimed "hard" science fiction. Everything that happens is "as true and correct as the author can make it in light of current science" and detailed explanations of everything from the spacecraft to interplanetary radio communications are included in periodic "notes for the interested." Barnes also explores the idea that, even with PermaPaxPerity, not everyone is happy and coming of age is still a struggle, especially with the media a constant presence and dangerously pleasurable drugs readily available. Recommended in particular for sci-fi fans who will appreciate the novel's geeky level of detail.—Eliza Langhans, Hatfield Public Library, MA
Kirkus Reviews
Despite the campy title, Barnes (Tales of the Madman Underground, 2009) spins a space-travel tale with scientific and emotional substance.In 2129, most humans are economically comfortable, but the big money and cachet is in entertainment. In hopes of gaining a fast-track to celebrity status, charismatic Derlock persuades a group of loser "moes," including narrator Susan, to stow away on a spaceship bound to Mars. So begins an adventure filled with tense action, double-crosses, the rhythms of daily life in space and the evolution of characters from insecure teenagers to thriving (or not) members of a team. Nothing is sugarcoated here—readers see deaths, murders and rampant sexism (most of the ways for girls to get famous involve videos of bouncing breasts)—and the author successfully balances the moes' processing and grieving with their ultimate need to survive. The book begins with an explanation of hard science fiction and a promise that "infodumps" will be placed in skippable "notes for the interested." Nevertheless, some dialogue is heavy with math and science particulars, and less scientifically minded readers may find themselves skimming conversations about the mass and acceleration of mud or the statistical likelihood of a distress call being received. Overall, accessible, gripping and poignant. (Science fiction. 14 & up)
Jonathan Liu
…a curious mash-up: part science fiction, part teenage drama, part thriller. While not all of Barnes's predictions are convincing, he has a pretty good sense of where our media addiction might lead, and he nails the reality of space travel, both the logistics and the emotional impact. And, importantly, Barnes makes the reader care what happens to his characters, even those who are quite annoying at the beginning. For teenagers, Losers in Space may be a welcome introduction to hard science fiction.
—The New York Times Book Review

Product Details

Penguin Young Readers Group
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
6.06(w) x 8.30(h) x 1.36(d)
Age Range:
14 - 17 Years

Meet the Author

John Barnes is the author of Tales of the Madman Underground, as well as many science fiction novels for adults. He lives in Denver, Colorado.

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Losers in Space 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Funny, moving, blisteringly smart, and a real celebration of science. This book is nerd heaven, basically.
Madeline_in_america More than 1 year ago
I got this book because of its review in the new York times, and I was not disappointed. It is an extremely interesting book that is very well written. It gets a bit boring near the end, but worth reading.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago