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Losers in Space Hardcover – April 12, 2012

3.8 out of 5 stars 14 customer reviews

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100 Young Adult Books to Read in a Lifetime
100 Young Adult Books to Read in a Lifetime
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$15.67 FREE Shipping on orders over $35. Only 2 left in stock (more on the way). Ships from and sold by Amazon.com. Gift-wrap available.

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Titling such an intelligent sf novel Losers in Space is itself an act of bravery, and it displays Barnes’ refreshing insistence on not taking himself too seriously. In 2129, lazy children of celebrities simply try to get video of themselves (preferably naked) “splyctered” into endless chunks of media, thereby attaining the desired rank of a professional celebrity. To expedite this, nine spoiled teens stow away on a ship headed to Mars—a publicity coup!—only to be lost in space when the rest of the ship explodes. Even worse, one of them is a psychopath. Rather than turn this into a reality-show farce, Barnes (Tales of the Madman Underground, 2009) uses the situation to bring out the best in each teen, proving that all have more to offer than they ever expected. In a move reminiscent of Louis Sachar’s The Cardturner (2010), Barnes sequesters the “hard” sf science into skippable “infodump” sections, an interesting experiment that only half works. Still, this is a highly unusual offering with an unexpected message about the potential usefulness of celebrity. Grades 9-12. --Daniel Kraus

About the Author

John Barnes is the author of Tales of the Madman Underground, as well as many science fiction novels for adults. He lives in Denver, Colorado.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 448 pages
  • Publisher: Viking Books for Young Readers; 1st edition (April 12, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0670061565
  • ISBN-13: 978-0670061563
  • Product Dimensions: 5.9 x 1.4 x 8.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,580,749 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

My thirty-first commercially published novel came out in September 2013. I've published about 5 million words that I got paid for. So I'm an abundantly published very obscure writer.

For readers who are wondering where to start with my work, the most common suggestions are Orbital Resonance, A Million Open Doors, Mother of Storms, Encounter with Tiber, or Tales of the Madman Underground. However, almost no one likes all five of those books--I write a wider range than most people read--so you might want to flip a few pages before buying. My most popular have been Directive 51, Mother of Storms, and the two collaborations with Buzz Aldrin. My 3 most popular series begin with A Million Open Doors, Directive 51, and Patton's Spaceship. Nearest my heart are probably One for the Morning Glory, Tales of the Madman Underground, and The Sky So Big and Black. And the most fun was had in writing Gaudeamus, Payback City, and Raise The Gipper!

I used to teach in the Communication and Theatre program at Western State College. I got my PhD at Pitt in the early 90s, masters degrees at U of Montana in the mid 80s, bachelors at Washington University in the 70s; worked for Middle South Services in New Orleans in the early 80s. For a few years I did paid blogging mostly about the math of marketing analysis at TheCMOSite and All Analytics. More recently, I covered advanced technology, especially space, stories in the Government section of Information Week.

If any of that is familiar to you, then yes, I am THAT John Barnes.

I have also become aware of at least 72 Johns Barneses I am not. Among the more interesting ones I am not:
1. the Jamaican-born British footballer who scored that dramatic goal against Brazil
2. the occasional Marvel bit role who is the grandson of Captain America's sidekick
3. the Vietnam-era Medal of Honor winner
4&5. the lead singer for the Platters (and neither he nor I is the lead singer for the Nightcrawlers)
6.the Australian rules footballer
7. the former Red Sox pitcher
8. the Tory MP
9. the expert on Ada programming
10&11. the Cleveland-area member of the Ohio House of Representatives (though we're almost the same age and both grew up in northern Ohio) who is also not the former member of the Indiana House that ran for state senate in 2012 (one of them is a Democrat, one a Republican, and I'm a Socialist)
12. the former president of Boise State University
13. the film score composer
14. the longtime editor of The LaTrobe Journal
15. the biographer of Eva Peron
16. the manager of Panther Racing (though he and I share a tendency to come in second)
17. the British diplomat (who is not the Tory MP above)
18. the conservative Catholic cultural commentator (now there's an alliterative job)
19. the authority on Dante
20. the mycologist
21. the author of Marketing Judo (though I have an acute interest in both subjects)
22. the travel writer
23. the author of Titmice of the British Isles (originally published as Greater and Lesser Tits of England and Ireland, a title which I envy)
24. the guy who does some form of massage healing, mind/body stuff that I don't really understand at all
25. the corp-comm guy for BP (though I've taught and consulted on corp-comm)
26. the film historian,
27. the Pittsburgh-area gay rights activist (though we used to get each others' mail)
28. the guy who skipped Missoula, Montana, leaving behind a pile of bad checks, just before I moved there
29. the policeman in Gunnison, Colorado, the smallest town I've ever lived in, though he busted some of my students and I taught some of his arrestees
30. the wildlife cinematographer who made Love and Death on the Veldt and shot some of the Disney True Life Adventures ("Hortense the Presybterian Wombat" and the like) or
31. that guy that Ma said was my father.

And despite perennial confusion by some science fiction fans and readers, I'm not Steve Barnes and he's not me, and we are definitely not related, though we enjoy seeing each other and occasionally corresponding (not often enough).

I used to think I was the only paid consulting statistical semiotician for business and industry in the world, but I now know four of them, and can find websites for about ten more. Statistical semiotics is about the ways in which the characteristics of a population of signs come to constitute signs themselves. It has applications in marketing, poll analysis, and annoying the literary theorists who want to keep semiotics all to themselves and spend their time studying individual signs and the processes around them in very deep detail. It also shouldn't be confused with computational semiotics, which was about how software could parse complex signs to communicate with humans and other software. Just to make it a bit more confusing, both statistical and computational semiotics are being gradually subsumed into natural language processing, which in turn seems to be being absorbed into data science. Someday all universities will just have a Department of Stuff and that's what everyone will major in.

Semiotics is pretty much what Louis Armstrong said about jazz, except jazz paid a lot better for him than semiotics does for me. If you're trying to place me in the semiosphere, I am a Peircean (the sign is three parts, ), a Lotmanian (art, culture, and mind are all populations of those tripartite signs) and a statistician (the mathematical structures and forms that can be found within those populations of signs are the source of meaning). Recently I've begun working on a certificate in Data Science for pretty much the same reason that the Scarecrow needed a diploma and the Lion needed a medal.

I have been married three times, and divorced twice, and I believe that's quite enough in both categories. I'm a hobby cook, sometime theatre artist, and still going through the motions after many years in martial arts.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
It's the second half of the twentysecond century, and Earth is a unified, stable state under PermaPaxPerity. It's neither a utopia, although everyone has a guaranteed minimum standard of living, nor a dystopia, though you can get away with murder (quite literally) if your crime is entertaining enough. A group of young slacker children of celebrities are trying to figure out what to do to avoid becoming minimum wage slackers for life when one of them comes up with a daring plan: stow away on a spaceship to Mars. That will give them the fame they need to become celebrities and guarantee the status they crave. Naturally, the person who sugggests this is not exactly on the level. Naturally, things go very wrong.

This is a superbly done bildungsroman that does not shy away from serious political questions that are deep in the territory of adventure, nor does it avoid some of the serious questions about what growing up quickly is like or what being forced to be competent or self-reliant are like. All of this is reminiscent of a Heinleinian YA novel, but these are not Heinlein's "competent men" but slackers forced to rise to their level of competence by forces they cannot control. Barnes's argument is the very unheinleinian one that we are social beings who are capable of responding as social beings to disaster, and becoming better for it and from it.

As the young protagonists (and their unexpected companion, Fwuffy, a nicely done plot twist) develop into mature beings before our eyes we learn a great deal about them and their society. We're also given a plausible set of suggestions about human-based space exploration in the next couple of centuries. Altogether, a well-told tale, with Barnes's usual attempts to hint at future slang.
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Format: Hardcover
I started LOSERS IN SPACE with astronomical expectations due to my love of John Barnes' Tales of the Madman Underground. 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.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I like to read John Barnes' web page and he really is proud of this book (I can see why). I was a little hesitant because it is in the young adult category and I am NOT. But I was very curious about his notes for the interested process. The story was great, the hard science stuff was really the way it was placed in the story and I found I liked the characters more than I thought I would.

He writes really cool stuff. And I can see why he likes this book so much.


I a bit ashamed to admit I got choked up at the end when they were unexpectedly rescued. I felt sappy like watch the end of a chick flick and tearing up even when you can see the ending coming from 10 minutes into the movie. While the resucre did not surprise, the timing and manner did and Barnes played the heart strings on it really well.
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By Fnord on September 14, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Mostly I only review things that suck, so it's nice to finally say a few kind words. I really enjoyed this book. It reminded me how much I like enjoying a good book -- something I just don't do enough of anymore. Thank you, John Barnes, for reminding me.

Losers in Space has a pretty tight plot. You won't be constantly shaking your head at plot holes (yes, I'm looking at you Ms. Rowling). The characters are engaging. The set up works. The pace is steady and flows. The SciFi is interesting and at the same time doesn't get in the way of the story. Probably the best aspect of this book, however, are the insights into human nature and society. Well done.
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