And it’s a hit! Millions of viewers are transfixed. But then, suddenly, all communication is severed. Trapped and paranoid, the kids must figure out what to do when this reality show loses its grip on reality.
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About the Author
Gina Damico is the author of Hellhole, Wax, and the grim-reapers-gone-wild books of the Croak trilogy. She has also dabbled as a tour guide, transcriptionist, theater house manager, scenic artist, movie extra, office troll, retail monkey, yarn hawker and breadmonger. A native of Syracuse, New York, she now lives in Los Angeles with her husband, two cats, one dog, and an obscene amount of weird things purchased from yard sales. Visit her website at www.ginadami.co.
Read an Excerpt
THE YEAR IS 2016.
Things aren’t looking good for the future of space exploration. Things aren’t looking good for the state of reality programming, either. It is at this intersection of earnestness and stupidity that the idea for Waste of Space is born.
Naturally, it involves teenagers.
And so it comes to pass that in the midst of a rare Los Angeles thunderstorm, a dozen shadowy figures meet in the small hours of the morning at a secret and nefarious location: the Denny’s off Wilshire Boulevard. They take up two tables, eight urns of coffee, and five carafes of orange juice. The astrophysicists wittily order Moons Over My Hammy. The television executives order nothing.
The following meeting ensues.
Item: Transcript of audio recording
Source: Development meeting
Date: January 4, 2016
[Note: Due to the difficulty in identifying multiple voices, most speakers have been labeled with their organizations rather than as individuals; this format will be employed in several instances throughout this report.]
DV8: You’re okay with us recording this, right?
NASAW: We don’t know what “this” is yet.
Waiter: [off-mike] Who ordered extra hash browns?
[thirty seconds of unintelligible chatter, rustling, sound of plates being placed on table and silverware clanging]
DV8: All right. Now that you’ve got your breakfasts—
NASAW: Aren’t you going to eat?
DV8: We don’t have time to eat.
NASAW: Not even a bagel?
DV8: Especially not a bagel, Paleo doesn’t—forget it. Back to the matter at hand: our proposal. Chazz?
[sound of a throat clearing, then a chair scraping across the floor as Chazz Young, CEO of DV8, stands up to address the group]
Chazz: Ladies and gentlemen of science, I hate to break it to you, but astrophysics isn’t cool anymore. Sure, people embrace technology when it allows them to post photos of epic bacon-wrapped food items, but drag them into a planetarium and you’ll end up with desperate scratch marks on the walls. Funds have been cut, the man on the moon is several decades in the rearview mirror, and the youth of America continue to respond to the vast and impossibly boundless possibilities of outer space with an emphatic yawn.
NASAW: What about Cosmic Crusades? Cosmic Crusades is cool.
Chazz: Science fiction is cool. Science is not.
Chazz: Example: two different panels at Comic Con, one with the cast of a space-movie franchise and one with genuine astronauts. Which do you think will be better attended?
NASAW: [unintelligible grumbling]
Chazz: Exactly. Likewise, we admit, people have grown bored with the repetitive nature of reality television. They can only watch so many bar fighters, spurned lovers, table flippers, bug eaters, bad singers, and cat hoarders before it all seems like stuff they’ve already seen before. The world is clamoring for something new! Otherwise they’ll have to turn off their devices and go read a book, and we simply can’t have that.
NASAW: Books aren’t bad!
Chazz: Books are the worst.
NASAW: [unintelligible grumbling]
Chazz: So. You need to drum up interest in the space program, and we need more eyes on more screens. Luckily, we’ve come up with a solution that we feel will be mutually beneficial to both of us.
NASAW: And that is?
Chazz: We want to take a bunch of teenagers and shoot them into space.
Chazz: And put it on television.
NASAW: That’s—er—not possible.
Chazz: Why not?
NASAW: Aside from reasons that should be apparent to anyone with a functioning brainstem, it’s a logistical nightmare. They’d need to undergo months of training and health assessments. You’d need a ship big enough to accommodate a cast, crew, equipment—
Chazz: Oh, we’ll be faking it. The whole thing will be shot on a soundstage. You really think The Real Housewives of Atlantis was filmed at the bottom of the ocean? Please. Those women were so full of silicone they would have floated straight to the surface.
NASAW: But we thought this would be a purely educational endeavor. Didn’t you say you were from PBS?
Chazz: Yes! We lied. We’re from DV8.
NASAW: DV . . . 8?
Chazz: It’s a cable television network with several blocks of programming across multiple platforms, including streaming services, our own website, and every social media outlet there is. We’d like to cram all of them full of this.
[sound of coffee urns shakily hitting the rims of coffee mugs]
Chazz: Which is why we need you! Our first choice was obviously NASA, but they not-so-politely declined. So the low-rent version of NASA it is!
NASAW: I beg your pardon. We are the National Association for the Study of Astronomy and Weightlessness. We are not some piddling little administration—
Chazz: Which is exactly why we’d like you to be consultants. We’ll take care of the casting, the production, everything on that end. You, meanwhile, design a convincing spaceplane—
NASAW: [overlapping] Spaceship.
Chazz: —you tell us what all the rumbles and beeps and boops are supposed to sound like, and we’ll bring in the best special-effects team money can buy.
NASAW: But won’t this seem like one big joke? With all due respect to your special effects, not even the major Hollywood movies can get it a hundred percent right. It’s going to look silly.
Chazz: People believe what they want to believe. Remember America’s Next Top Murderer? Viewers thought that victims were actually being picked off by a serial killer. The network had to start airing a disclaimer before each episode, saying, “No one’s really dying, you morons.”
NASAW: Are you serious?
Chazz: Well, I’m paraphrasing.
NASAW: I’m sorry, I’m having a hard time wrapping my head around this. It just doesn’t seem necessary. We’ve got a bunch of new initiatives in the works—
Chazz:Snore. Yawn. Coma. Let’s be real. Space is passé, and everyone knows it. But you still need a new generation to carry on that galaxy research gobbledygook, or your life’s work will be nothing more than a sham, right? [hearty laughter] So let’s get them excited. Let’s take a bunch of young, gullible, energetic, absurdly good-looking teenagers, stuff them into a spaceplane—
NASAW: [overlapping] Spaceship.
Chazz: —give them some bullshit training, and tell them they’ll be the first ones ever to set foot on Jupiter!
NASAW: You can’t set foot on Jupiter. Jupiter is a gas giant.
Chazz:You’re a gas giant! [sound of high-fiving] That’s what they’ll say. That’s what the kids will say. Comedy gold like that.
Chazz: Point is, this’ll get the youth of America high on space again. Audiences will watch those beautiful idiots floating out there in zero G and want to be just like them. They’ll buy spacesuits. They’ll buy that astronaut ice cream that tastes and looks and feels like Styrofoam. The merchandising possibilities alone are astronomical. Pun intended! [sound of more high-fives]
NASAW: Now, you listen here. I’ve raised teenagers, and if there’s one thing I can tell you about them, it’s that they do nothing but talk. All day long. On the phone, on the computer, to themselves. How do you expect to get a group of high-schoolers in on a secret like this and not blab thirty seconds later about how lame and fake it is?
Chazz: Easy. We tell them it’s real.
NASAW: You want to trick a group of kids into thinking that they’re actually being launched into space?
NASAW: You want them to think that they’re actually being torn away from their friends and family for months, undertaking a dangerous mission from which they actually might not return?
Chazz: Yes. Drama.
NASAW: But isn’t that cruel?
Chazz: “Cruel” is such a subjective word . . .
NASAW: Not in this case! The entire proposition is morally questionable! I’m sorry, but we—we can’t sign on to do something like this.
Chazz: Fine. Continue your recruiting efforts in the same way you have been. How’s that going for you?
Chazz: Envision with us, for a moment: Plucky kids. Touching backstories. Plaintive piano music. They first set foot in the spaceplane. Their eyes light up. Our intrepit explorers are—
NASAW: The word you’re attempting to use is “intrepid.”
Chazz: Pretty sure it’s intrepit. Anyway, the mission commences. Lifelong friendships are formed. Bitter fights erupt. Maybe a slap or two. A slap in zero gravity—that’s never been done before! [sound of a pen scribbling in a notebook] Every eye in America will tune in to check on their new cosmic sweethearts. We’ll edit it down to a half hour each week, plus a live segment tacked on at the end of the show so the cast can wave to their furiously jealous friends in real time. We’ll air it online, too. Live stream, 24/7. Shove it into viewers’ faces until they can’t help but get swept up by it. And before you know it, their impressionable young minds will be putty in your hands. They’ll sign up in droves to join the Cosmic Crusades!
NASAW: That is a fictional movie featuring fictional space heroes.
Chazz: All the more reason to bolster their ranks! Point is, once this show airs, you’ll have an entire generation of walking, talking, floating space zombies begging to be a part of it, ready to do your bidding.
[sound of chairs scraping]
Chazz: We’ll give you some privacy to discuss.
NASAW #1: Has it really come to this?
NASAW #2: The worst part is, they’re right. We’ve tried so hard, reached out as much as we can, but we still haven’t connected with the voice of today’s youth. These . . . people, horrible as they are, do have the kids’ attention.
NASAW #3: It pisses me off! Sitting here across from these plastic, vapid nincompoops, having to listen to this claptrap. We’re scientists, for Galileo’s sake! People should be looking to us as golden gods of knowledge, worshiping us for our big brains and thick glasses! Why can’t anyone see that?
NASAW #4: I don’t know. But something has to be done. Something drastic.
Chazz: All right, time’s up. What do you say, nerds?
NASAW: [dejected] When do we get started?
Chazz: Casting begins next week!
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Actually one of my favorite books, and just a good, quick read in general
As soon as I read the blurb for Waste of Space I knew I was in for a fun time and couldn't wait to start reading. I started smiling within the first few pages and I'm not sure I stopped until after I realised the book was over. Although my smiles at the beginning related to the absurdity of the situation the characters were unwittingly getting themselves into, the last smile was due to the satisfaction that came from imagining the beauty and perfection of that final image. Reality shows are such guilty pleasures. I've felt squeamish during Survivor's food challenges, eaten chocolate while watching The Biggest Loser, experienced the horror akin to watching a car crash unfold every time something disgusting is found during a Hoarders episode and revelled in feeling boringly normal each time a new My Strange Addiction unfolds on my TV. I love that Gina Damico took a satirical spin on reality shows. I'm not usually a fan of books that feature transcripts as I generally find them quite incohesive but was pleasantly surprised with how well my attention was maintained throughout the transitions between transcripts of video footage and phone calls, and the intern's commentary. I haven't read one of Gina Damico's books before but found her writing to be very visual. With the descriptions of the people, locations and situations I could easily watch mini movies in my mind of all of the action. If The Asylum were to take it on I could see this book being made into a really fun B grade comedy/drama/action movie. I'd definitely watch it! Waste of Space took me longer to read than I'd expected because I kept stopping to go find someone to read a funny passage to, such as the explanation of what went wrong in the season four finale of Alaskan Sex Igloo. I loved the concepts of the other reality shows described in this book as well, including America's Next Top Murderer and The Real Housewives of Atlantis. I had to try to suppress a giggle when reading about these because I'm sure if they were real I'd be settling in to binge watch them as we speak. That said though, beneath all of the fun and some silliness there were some deeper truths to be found about conquering your fears, not judging a person solely by the image they portray on the surface, facing the painful events in your past and the impact they continue to have on you, and the value of trusted friends. I was intrigued by both Nico and Titania from when I first met them and looked forward to seeing how their characters unfolded throughout the book. Watching their characters interact with their fellow Spaceronauts and each other was entertaining and I liked discovering the defining moments in their pasts that eventually led them on board the Laika. As much as I liked both Nico and Titania, my favourite character ended up being Kaoru, the girl who consistently told it like it was ... albeit in Japanese which none of the other Spaceronauts understood. What I wanted to eat while reading this book: * Bacon (sorry, Colonel Bacon!). Although I received a free advanced reading copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review, I know I'm going to want to reread Waste of Space and highlight all of the passages that made me laugh so I can easily find them again when I feel the need to randomly quote them, so I'll be purchasing my own copy. Catchphrase forever!!!
This book is a wild ride, and not because the characters are jettisoned into space. Far from it. It's a satirical look at "reality TV" giving the complete lowdown from the able assistance of a low-level PA who got fired and handed enormous amounts of raw footage of the Waste of Space TV show produced by DV8 studios. The premise is this: DV8 wants to make a show about regular kids on a space station, but that's unrealistic, and expensive, so they partner with NASAW--a shadowy conglomerate whose scientists know lots about space and time--to build a fake space station (complete with IKEA furnishings) that can house ten teens for two months. Along the way, DV8 management bullies and coerces everyone to insist that this show is taking place in space. Kids line up in malls hoping to become part of this cast; some a fame-hungry, some are looking for a way out, others are looking for a new life altogether. The teens are cast to fulfill certain roles, and the stereotypes they reflect. It's a weird mix of Big Brother and Space Camp, and the audience is in on the joke from the get-go. That said, there's still lots of surprises in store. Like, what happens when the uppity/vile nephew of the TV show's producer is going to get axed? (Bring on the big guns...) What about the party girl--any more bras to display? The token minorities are messing up the chemistry, and there's plenty of clueless to go around. The telling of this story is a disjointed collection of transcripts from video recordings, cell phone calls and business meetings. There are roughly 15 POVs, so that's a jumble. It took me a while to settle in, though I caught on to the sympathetic POVs in the early going. Nico and Titania are the heart and soul of the story--two kids who've been altered by tragedy. They are searching for more---meaning and acceptance, and they don't go in for DV8's shenanigans. The DV8 exec, Chazz, and his nephew Clayton are the typical reprehensibles, pulling all the strings and cutting despicable deals. I was pleasantly surprised by "Bacardi" and "Snout" and saddened by Louise. I had thought I wasn't touched much by the book, then the end hit me like a sledgehammer to the chest. The storyline was a sleight of hand that morphed from zany and unpredictable into intense and emotional. I'm not going to belabor the plot; some of the kids are desperately hoping to be a part of a space mission. Others know it's gotta be hoax. The DV8 and NASAW folks are doing their utmost to convince the world their show is "real." In the mix some true connections are made, and dare I say: the most fervent wishes of several of the cast are made real. I was pleasantly surprised how all the seemingly random plot threads were stretched and connected and eventually woven into an unexpectedly picturesque tapestry. For fans of reality TV, this book is a piercing commentary on the genre of entertainment, and how we consume fiction--in any medium. Expect plenty of showmanship, and deceit, and double-crossing. Expect subtle commentary on American xenophobia and racism. And if you read through to the end, expect to be surprised, and maybe delighted. Like I was. A review copy was provided by NetGalley.
WASTE OF SPACE ended up being nothing like I expected, and yet I ended up loving it! Gina Damico's satirical take on a reality television show is absolutely hilarious. She does a brilliant job of poking fun at this entertainment phenomenon in a way that is uproarious and also surprisingly touching. The character's in this book are exaggerated versions of so many Hollywood and reality television stereotypes, and they are so much fun to read. They had me laughing non-stop through the first half, and then I found myself actually connecting with them and caring about them in the second half when Damico starts giving them a lot more depth and real world backstories. The fact that absolutely everything on this "space ship" is so obviously fake and everything that can possibly go wrong on it certainly does so and in glorious fashion, is so much fun. I think it does force readers to pause their sense of disbelief a bit at times, but if you can really embrace the idea of this being a true (and brilliant) satire, then this book will just be an absolute pleasure to read. I certainly didn't see the ending of this one coming. It took me wholly by surprise. It was actually quite beautiful, and the closing prose is quite frankly stunning and shows that not only does Damico have a firm grasp on satire and humor, but she has some serious writing chops as well. This is one of the most original stories that I've read this year, and I can't wait to read more books from this phenomenal author.
“...Reality is boring; abridged reality is not.” Waste of Space is easily one of the funnest and most entertaining books I’ve ever read. I can only really describe this as Beauty Queens meets Big Brother. With a satirical eye, Gina Damico tackles everything we love, and hate, about reality tv. Waste of Space follows 10 teens chosen to participate in an out-of-this-world reality show, with the only catch being - everything is fake. We see the teens struggle with their new “reality” as the production team scrounges up new ways to torment our unknowing teens, until everything starts to go wrong. Things I Liked I would recommend this book to anyone purely for the humor and satirical value. I can only liken it to Beauty Queens by Libba Bray - both books tackle pop culture in a fantastically original way. You really get the larger-than-life personality of the tv hose, Chazz Young, who is one of the single most entertaining characters I’ve ever encountered. I loved the extravagant situational humor, and the confrontational humor between the contestants, the production crew and the scientists, and the believers vs. the non believers. This was so supremely entertaining - and truly laugh out loud hilarious. Things I Didn’t Like The “episodes” started to feel really long once I got into part two. Yes, there were some little excerpt info posts, but I just started to drag a bit for me. It honestly made me want to start skimming parts of the story, which is really absurd, because it was such an easy and quick read - but it managed to feel long. Louise got so incredibly annoying to the point of being insufferable. I wanted to skip every scene she was a part of because I literally could not believe the world coming out of her mouth. It pushed past satire into delusional. This was such an entertaining read, with a high humor factor, that it was really seems like the best way to spend your free time, is to read this book. Such an outrageous cast of characters brings life and drama to this astronomical take on reality tv. I received a copy of the book from HMH Teen via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
Wow, what a ride! Waste of Space is a really fun read which spoofs the crazy reality shows. Set up much like Big Brother, 10 teens are chosen to head to space ALONE with no supervision while being filmed 24/7. A few of the characters are really outlandish, especially the creator of the show, who is also the TV host. BUT... Unknown to the cast and to the TV audience, the entire production is fake and the spaceship is actually sitting in the desert with a group of scientists and an elaborate special effects budget. The zany premise is what drew me to this book and I knew I had to read it. The book is told as a report using transcripts of the show and raw video footage which, once I got used to the format, worked well. All in all, I loved it, and found myself impatient to get back to it when real life got in the way. Once Saturday hit, I sat back and read to my heart's content until finished. Thanks to NetGalley and Houghton Mifflin Publishing for the great read!