Waste of Space
Waste of Space

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Annotation: Ten teens are picked to live on a rocket ship, get shot into space, and have their adventures broadcast live to the entire world--but then communication is cut off, reality stops being reality, and everything goes horribly wrong.
Catalog Number: #138899
Format: Perma-Bound Edition from Publisher's Hardcover
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin
Copyright Date: 2017
Edition Date: 2017
Pages: 396 p.
Availability: Available
ISBN: Publisher: 0-544-63316-4 Perma-Bound: 0-605-97193-5
ISBN 13: Publisher: 978-0-544-63316-2 Perma-Bound: 978-0-605-97193-6
Dewey: Fic
LCCN: 2016034365
Dimensions: 21 cm.
Language: English
Reviewing Agencies:
Starred Review Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books
ALA Booklist
Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books
Publishers Weekly
School Library Journal (Thu Jun 01 00:00:00 CDT 2017)
Reading Level: 5.0
Interest Level: 7-12
Reading Counts!: reading level:4.4 / points:19.0 / quiz:Q70047
Lexile: 700L

DEVELOPMENT

THE YEAR IS 2016.
     Things aren't looking good for the future of space exploration. Things aren't looking good for the state of reality programming, either. It is at this intersection of earnestness and stupidity that the idea for Waste of Space is born.
     Naturally, it involves teenagers.
     And so it comes to pass that in the midst of a rare Los Angeles thunderstorm, a dozen shadowy figures meet in the small hours of the morning at a secret and nefarious location: the Denny's off Wilshire Boulevard. They take up two tables, eight urns of coffee, and five carafes of orange juice. The astrophysicists wittily order Moons Over My Hammy. The television executives order nothing.
     The following meeting ensues.

Item: Transcript of audio recording
Source: Development meeting
Date: January 4, 2016

     [Note: Due to the difficulty in identifying multiple voices, most speakers have been labeled with their organizations rather than as individuals; this format will be employed in several instances throughout this report.]

     DV8: You're okay with us recording this, right?
     NASAW: We don't know what "this" is yet.
     Waiter: [off-mike] Who ordered extra hash browns?
     [thirty seconds of unintelligible chatter, rustling, sound of plates being placed on table and silverware clanging]
     DV8: All right. Now that you've got your breakfasts--
     NASAW: Aren't you going to eat?
     DV8: We don't have time to eat.
     NASAW: Not even a bagel?
     DV8: Especially not a bagel, Paleo doesn't--forget it. Back to the matter at hand: our proposal. Chazz?
     [sound of a throat clearing, then a chair scraping across the floor as Chazz Young, CEO of DV8, stands up to address the group]
     Chazz: Ladies and gentlemen of science, I hate to break it to you, but astrophysics isn't cool anymore. Sure, people embrace technology when it allows them to post photos of epic bacon-wrapped food items, but drag them into a planetarium and you'll end up with desperate scratch marks on the walls. Funds have been cut, the man on the moon is several decades in the rearview mirror, and the youth of America continue to respond to the vast and impossibly boundless possibilities of outer space with an emphatic yawn.
     NASAW: What about Cosmic Crusades? Cosmic Crusades is cool.
     Chazz: Science fiction is cool. Science is not.
     NASAW: But--
     Chazz: Example: two different panels at Comic Con, one with the cast of a space-movie franchise and one with genuine astronauts. Which do you think will be better attended?
     NASAW: [unintelligible grumbling]
     Chazz: Exactly. Likewise, we admit, people have grown bored with the repetitive nature of reality television. They can only watch so many bar fighters, spurned lovers, table flippers, bug eaters, bad singers, and cat hoarders before it all seems like stuff they've already seen before. The world is clamoring for something new! Otherwise they'll have to turn off their devices and go read a book, and we simply can't have that.
     NASAW: Books aren't bad!
     Chazz: Books are the worst.
     NASAW: [unintelligible grumbling]
     Chazz: So. You need to drum up interest in the space program, and we need more eyes on more screens. Luckily, we've come up with a solution that we feel will be mutually beneficial to both of us.
     NASAW: And that is?
     Chazz: We want to take a bunch of teenagers and shoot them into space.
     [choking noises]
     Chazz: And put it on television.
     NASAW: That's--er--not possible.
     Chazz: Why not?
     NASAW: Aside from reasons that should be apparent to anyone with a functioning brainstem, it's a logistical nightmare. They'd need to undergo months of training and health assessments. You'd need a ship big enough to accommodate a cast, crew, equipment--
     Chazz: Oh, we'll be faking it. The whole thing will be shot on a soundstage. You really think The Real Housewives of Atlantis was filmed at the bottom of the ocean? Please. Those women were so full of silicone they would have floated straight to the surface.
     NASAW: But we thought this would be a purely educational endeavor. Didn't you say you were from PBS?
     Chazz: Yes! We lied. We're from DV8.
     NASAW: DV . . . 8?
     Chazz: It's a cable television network with several blocks of programming across multiple platforms, including streaming services, our own website, and every social media outlet there is. We'd like to cram all of them full of this.
     [sound of coffee urns shakily hitting the rims of coffee mugs]
     Chazz: Which is why we need you! Our first choice was obviously NASA, but they not-so-politely declined. So the low-rent version of NASA it is!
     NASAW: I beg your pardon. We are the National Association for the Study of Astronomy and Weightlessness. We are not some piddling little administration--
     Chazz: Which is exactly why we'd like you to be consultants. We'll take care of the casting, the production, everything on that end. You, meanwhile, design a convincing spaceplane--
     NASAW: [overlapping] Spaceship.
     Chazz: --you tell us what all the rumbles and beeps and boops are supposed to sound like, and we'll bring in the best special-effects team money can buy.
     NASAW: But won't this seem like one big joke? With all due respect to your special effects, not even the major Hollywood movies can get it a hundred percent right. It's going to look silly.
     Chazz: People believe what they want to believe. Remember America's Next Top Murderer? Viewers thought that victims were actually being picked off by a serial killer. The network had to start airing a disclaimer before each episode, saying, "No one's really dying, you morons."
     NASAW: Are you serious?
     Chazz: Well, I'm paraphrasing.
     NASAW: I'm sorry, I'm having a hard time wrapping my head around this. It just doesn't seem necessary. We've got a bunch of new initiatives in the works--
     Chazz:Snore. Yawn. Coma. Let's be real. Space is passé, and everyone knows it. But you still need a new generation to carry on that galaxy research gobbledygook, or your life's work will be nothing more than a sham, right? [hearty laughter] So let's get them excited. Let's take a bunch of young, gullible, energetic, absurdly good-looking teenagers, stuff them into a spaceplane--
     NASAW: [overlapping] Spaceship.
     Chazz: --give them some bullshit training, and tell them they'll be the first ones ever to set foot on Jupiter!
     NASAW: You can't set foot on Jupiter. Jupiter is a gas giant.
     Chazz:You're a gas giant! [sound of high-fiving] That's what they'll say. That's what the kids will say. Comedy gold like that.
     NASAW: But--
     Chazz: Point is, this'll get the youth of America high on space again. Audiences will watch those beautiful idiots floating out there in zero G and want to be just like them. They'll buy spacesuits. They'll buy that astronaut ice cream that tastes and looks and feels like Styrofoam. The merchandising possibilities alone are astronomical. Pun intended! [sound of more high-fives]
     NASAW: Now, you listen here. I've raised teenagers, and if there's one thing I can tell you about them, it's that they do nothing but talk. All day long. On the phone, on the computer, to themselves. How do you expect to get a group of high-schoolers in on a secret like this and not blab thirty seconds later about how lame and fake it is?
     Chazz: Easy. We tell them it's real.
     [pause]
     NASAW: You want to trick a group of kids into thinking that they're actually being launched into space?
     Chazz: Yes.
     NASAW: You want them to think that they're actually being torn away from their friends and family for months, undertaking a dangerous mission from which they actually might not return?
     Chazz: Yes. Drama.
     NASAW: But isn't that cruel?
     Chazz: "Cruel" is such a subjective word . . .
     NASAW: Not in this case! The entire proposition is morally questionable! I'm sorry, but we--we can't sign on to do something like this.
     Chazz: Fine. Continue your recruiting efforts in the same way you have been. How's that going for you?
     [silence]
     Chazz: Envision with us, for a moment: Plucky kids. Touching backstories. Plaintive piano music. They first set foot in the spaceplane. Their eyes light up. Our intrepit explorers are--
     NASAW: Intrepid.
     Chazz: Huh?
     NASAW: The word you're attempting to use is "intrepid."
     Chazz: Pretty sure it's intrepit. Anyway, the mission commences. Lifelong friendships are formed. Bitter fights erupt. Maybe a slap or two. A slap in zero gravity--that's never been done before! [sound of a pen scribbling in a notebook] Every eye in America will tune in to check on their new cosmic sweethearts. We'll edit it down to a half hour each week, plus a live segment tacked on at the end of the show so the cast can wave to their furiously jealous friends in real time. We'll air it online, too. Live stream, 24/7. Shove it into viewers' faces until they can't help but get swept up by it. And before you know it, their impressionable young minds will be putty in your hands. They'll sign up in droves to join the Cosmic Crusades!
     NASAW: That is a fictional movie featuring fictional space heroes.
     Chazz: All the more reason to bolster their ranks! Point is, once this show airs, you'll have an entire generation of walking, talking, floating space zombies begging to be a part of it, ready to do your bidding.
     [sound of chairs scraping]
     Chazz: We'll give you some privacy to discuss.
     [rustling]
     NASAW #1: Has it really come to this?
     NASAW #2: The worst part is, they're right. We've tried so hard, reached out as much as we can, but we still haven't connected with the voice of today's youth. These . . . people, horrible as they are, do have the kids' attention.
     NASAW #3: It pisses me off! Sitting here across from these plastic, vapid nincompoops, having to listen to this claptrap. We're scientists, for Galileo's sake! People should be looking to us as golden gods of knowledge, worshiping us for our big brains and thick glasses! Why can't anyone see that?
     NASAW #4: I don't know. But something has to be done. Something drastic.
     [commotion]
     Chazz: All right, time's up. What do you say, nerds?
     [long pause]
     NASAW: [dejected] When do we get started?
     Chazz: Casting begins next week!

Cram ten hormonal teens into a spaceship and blast off: that's the premise for the ill-conceived reality show Waste of Space. The kids who are cast know everything about drama--and nothing about the fact that the production is fake. Hidden in a desert warehouse, their spaceship replica is equipped with state-of-the-art special effects dreamed up by the scientists partnering with the shady cable network airing the show. And it's a hit! Millions of viewers are transfixed. But then, suddenly, all communication is severed. Trapped and paranoid, the kids must figure out what to do when this reality show loses its grip on reality.