Review: Losers in Space

Losers in Space
Losers in Space by John Barnes
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is a book hard to pin down. I started writing the review in my head shortly after I started it, but it kept changing. The basic premise is that in the far future, a government has evolved that has created peace, and an end to hunger and poverty. Everyone gets a wage that is quite comfortable, so they never have to work, although some like to, and some jobs do need people in them. But in the top tier of the social and economic strata are the celebrities – the Paris Hiltons of their day; the ones with talent – art, theater, sports, etc.; and the extremely smart ones. Children of these people are in a sort of limbo, neither part of the enormous middle class or the upper tier. So they attend a special school, where they can see if they can develop something that will allow them to move up when they turn 18. One way is to basically be in the media attention so much that you amass “points” and a high score, and thus become a celebrity in your own right. Videos, called meeds, are created out of bits or “hooks” of material taken from other sources and spliced (or splyctured) into one video. The more times you get spliced and appear, the higher your score. So when the leader of a teen group comes up with an idea tat will get them recognition beyond anything they normally could get, by pulling a major stunt, they decide to go along. So they stow away on a Mars bound ship, which can only go one way. But it turns out their leader is a sociopath and things go disastrously wrong. Originally, the whole premise I found to be pretentious and over-thought, and the slang or lingo bothered me. But as the book moved along, and the characters were developed, it sort of falls away, and you are left with a rather warm and touching account of kids who have lived a life of privilege suddenly having to cope with some very big stuff. Add in Fwuffy, and you have a story that will melt your heart. The science in it is “hard” – no FTL (faster-than-light), etc. So the ship bound for Mars can only go one way, it can’t turn around. Based on the Aldrin Cyclers type ships, it is filled with “notes” for the geeky ones, most of which I read of course, although a few of the higher math ones involving calculations of aphelion, etc. I skimmed. At times heart wrenching, funny, risque, cliched, and fuzzy, it sings. But if you can’t take the heart, then get out of this kitchen. 😉

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