cover image Losers in Space

Losers in Space

John Barnes. Viking, $18.99 (448p) ISBN 978-0-670-06156-3

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.)■