Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Losers in Space

Losers in Space
John Barnes
Viking Juvenile, 2012
$18.99, Hardcover

Genre: Science Fiction
Age: 14+
Description: It is 2129 and if you are anyone you have a high score in the meds (media images, videos, etc.). Everyone has a media rating and the more people who view you the higher your social status is in society and the better your overall future will be. Susan and her friends all fall under the category of “celebeenies”—children who have high socially ranked parents but, under the laws of this future, can’t inherit any of their parents’ fortune unless they too reach the same social standing before coming of age. Thus, Susan, a girl who used to love science, has become like every other teen in her world—obsessed with fame. She and her soon-to-be declared boyfriend Derlock come up with the ultimate last ditch effort to get them the status they need. It’s a crazy plan but it just might work. They will visit Susan’s aunt who works in a space station that sends ships back and forth to Mars and stowaway on the next flight! Once out in orbit and no way for the ship to turn around and send them back home they will reveal themselves and become instant celebrities. There is just one tiny little problem—Derlock is a complete psycho when he causes an explosion which splits the Virgo into two, leaving the teens on their own in the middle of deep space a hundred million miles from home. And his plan doesn’t stop there.
Opinion: I honestly don’t know if I like this novel or hate it. I obviously stuck with it until the end, but at times it was very difficult to keep going. Sometimes the science seemed a little too hard. The “Notes for the Interested” where supposed to be those mini breaks throughout the narrative that explain the hard science of the book but once those disappeared not even half way through the novel a lot of the characters’ dialogue between each other were science lessons. However, I do like the “Notes for the Interested”—at least the ones that gave background into the world Barnes built (such as explanations about the origin of Happistuff) and wish they would have continued all throughout the novel and not just been used in the beginning. The charts that show the orbital schedule of the pod and the dialogued scientific discussions sometimes bog the story down. One other narrative thing I just don’t understand is that it is supposed to be 2129 and in the “Notes” the author many times addresses the reader by saying things like “in our time” versus “the time the story takes place” which confuses when it is supposed to be—if it is in the future you’d say “in the past”; saying “in our time” implies that he is writing in 2012 and his whole 2129 universe isn’t even real. Fwuffy is the best character out of everyone and he’s not even human. His origin story is interesting and he ends up growing to become one of the most human characters. Susan starts off a vapid, narcissistic girl only concerned with herself and her media rating and once the ship blows up and she kind of becomes the defacto Captain, she appears to grow and embrace her former nerdy side. However, in the epilogue which takes place 14 years in the future one expects to see a strong, female scientist and she appears to have gone back to her vapid ways. I also don’t like that it barely gave any notes about the other characters—yes, they were coming back from the voyage but still there could have been some notes about what happened to them over the years.

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