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- ISBN-13: 9780670061563
- ISBN-10: 0670061565
- Publisher: Viking Children's Books
- Publish Date: April 2012
- Page Count: 433
- Reading Level: Ages 14-UP
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2012-02-27
- Reviewer: Staff
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.)■
Stardom among the stars
In the year 2129, the United Nations’ Permanent Peace and Prosperity governs the world and 96% of the global population allows robots to do their work and lives on the social minimum, a government allowance comparable to two million dollars a year today. With the rise of boredom, entertainment is what really rules the planet. Only celebrities with the most media play are deemed eligible for professional celebrity status and employment beyond the social minimum. Celebrities’ children, however, must prove their own celebrity status, mostly by “styling” attitude and emotions, and as a result, special schools exist to prepare them for celebrity potential exams.
In this brilliant adventure, Printz Honor-winning author John Barnes balances real science with humorous jibes against today’s obsession with social media, including swapping out the “infodumps” of hard science fiction for periodic “Notes for the Interested,” which can be skipped (but why miss the fun?). He also knows how to tell a thrilling story. Susan Tervaille and eight of her fellow classmates at one of the elite prep schools have little chance of raising their recognition scores until Derlock, whose lawyer father has become famous for getting violent offenders freed due to media interest, comes up with a scheme to make them even more famous than their parents.
The plan—to hide out on a spacecraft that facilitates transportation between Earth and Mars—is interrupted by an accidental explosion that leaves only the nine teens and an illegally “geneered” horton (yes, from Dr. Seuss’ elephant-like creation) alive. They can’t communicate with the outside universe, and they have a limited window to approach Mars or spend two years in orbit. When classmates suddenly find themselves in other life-threatening situations, Susan begins to wonder if the “accident” was part of Derlock’s plan. Fighting for survival while disconnected from the media, the teens begin to realize the importance of feelings over styling, teamwork over status and education over entertainment. Hang on, readers, for one wild ride.