By John Barnes
Available now from Viking (Penguin)
Read my review of TALES OF THE MADMAN UNDERGROUND
I started the 48 Hour Book Challenge with AMPED, the book I was in the middle of reading when the challenge started. I chose two books that I had begun but never finished to read next. The first of those two books was LOSERS IN SPACE by John Barnes.
TALES OF THE MADMAN UNDERGROUND remains one of my favorite books I've ever reviewed for In Bed With Books. It was a surprising treat. But I started LOSERS IN SPACE with astronomical expectations. The first page of the book met those expectations. Notes for the Interested #0 explains that LOSERS IN SPACE will be hard science fiction, but all the science stuff will be regulated to Notes for the Interested instead of infodumps. I love hard sci-fi, so that didn't deter me, and I thought the notes were a clever way to appeal to two audiences.
Then the characters where introduced. Narrator Susan once wanted to be a scientist, until she realized that fame is the most important thing. Now that's true in the LOSERS IN SPACE world, where a YouTube-like version of reality TV is the easiest avenue of work in a world where most work is valued at nothing. If you want any power over your life, you need to have a salable story. But, true though it might be, I don't want to read about a smart girl who dumbs herself down to be a celebutante. And all her friends seemed to deserve their title as losers.
John Barnes, I apologize for doubting you. I absolutely love this book and regret that I wasted time that I could have used reading it. Please know that I only ever doubted you because I love your work.
Novels like LOSERS IN SPACE don't come around that often. It exemplifies the great possibilities that lie within the young adult genre. At it's heart, LOSERS IN SPACE is driven by the characters. The losers decide to stowaway aboard a ship to Mars in order to gain fame. When things go catastrophically wrong, they must somehow survive alone in space for months. Some of the losers rise to the occasion. Some rise and fall. The losers turn out to be much more than they ever thought they could.
Except for Derlock, who is a sociopath. Did I mention that they're trapped in space with a murderous sociopath? How could I leave that part out?
But on top of being a character-driven survival story with thriller elements, there's a nice heaping slice of social satire and classic SF. It's TUNNEL IN THE SKY meets Libba Bray. And let me tell you: TUNNEL IN THE SKY is one of my favorite books ever. I doubt I could give a book a better compliment.
Please, please, please read LOSERS IN SPACE. John Barnes should be one of the big YA names along with John Green and Scott Westerfeld. I would wax poetic longer, but I need to get back to reading.