In the post-scarcity 22nd century of Losers in Space, notoriety is worth more than any currency. A loose-knit group of the underachieving kids of famous folks aim to increase their profiles by stowing away on a spaceship bound for Mars. But the plan’s architect might be a genuine sociopath. And there are a lot of ways to earn notoriety. . .
Barnes positions Losers in Space explicitly as a gateway book for readers interested in moving from “soft” science fiction/fantasy to the harder stuff; much of the plot is driven by a classic orbital mechanics puzzle: if you don’t have enough reaction mass, you can’t change your trajectory — to take stowaways home, or do anything else you might want to do. In addition to the classic gambit of having a narrator who’s a bit of an anachronism (they used to call her “Crazy Science Girl”), Barnes segments some of the hardcore look-I-did-my-homework exposition apart from the main narrative in optional asides. I read these, and found them a mixed bag. Some went over basic space stuff I learned from the likes of Heinlein and Asimov and were borderline insulting; some explored more recent hypotheses or quirks of Barnes’ posited future and were decidedly helpful. (They were all pretty short, anyway, so hardly worth the effort of skipping.)
I enjoyed most of this book very much, but toward the end elements that I found both difficult to credit and unpleasantly cynical about human nature came to the fore. Barnes’ hard science is credible enough, but I found his soft science extrapolations harder to stomach, and I struggled with dialogue and mannerisms attributed to celebrities.
needs more demons? maybe it’s just me, but kinda. Still fundamentally liked it.