Cover of Waste of Space by Gina Damico. A face moon facade with an astronaut, a camera, and a flag saying 'a nove' coming out of the craters

About the Book

Title: Waste of Space
Published: 2017

Cover Story: Whack a Mole
Drinking Buddy: Tang and Vodka Screwdriver
Testosterone/Estrogen Level: Warp 3
Talky Talk: Scripted
Bonus Factor: Reality TV
Bromance Status: Off the Island

Cover Story: Whack a Mole

I like this cute cover, with the reality TV motif and the background of deep space. I don’t know why cover designers think we need to be informed that we are holding a novel, though.

The Deal:

Chazz Young, producer at DV8 Television, has come up with the wildest, boldest idea for a reality TV show since Jack Ruby voted Lee Harvey off the island live on the air. Take ten teenagers, complete strangers, and force them to live in a cramped, though stylishly decorated, apartment–in outer space! How crazy is that? Who will become friends and who will become enemies as they fight for space and for oxygen? Will romance bloom in these close quarters as they battle rogue asteroids? And who will get voted out of the air lock? Stay tuned!

The idea sounds preposterous. And it is. The whole thing is actually filmed on a sound stage in New Mexico. The contestants are told they’re in space, but some of them suspect the truth. And while the ratings are good, new ideas grow old quickly, and Chazz keeps throwing wilder and more dangerous challenges at the stars. How long can they hold out?

Meanwhile, the science nerds he paid to design the ‘space plane’ are using their unlimited budget to perform some experiments of their own, on their ten captive human guinea pigs.

Eh, beats another season of The Voice.

Drinking Buddy: Tang and Vodka Screwdriver

Two pints of beer cheersing

Ten characters in a tiny spaceship designed by IKEA and Microsoft:

Nico: The Ecuadorian orphan

Titania: The shy outdoorsy girl

Clayton: The obnoxious producer’s nephew

Jamarkus: The gay, African-American Eagle Scout

Louise: The nerdy, science fiction-obsessed girl

Bacardi: The drunk party girl

Snout: The farmboy (accompanied by his pet pig, Colonel Bacon)

Hibiscus: The activist musician

Matt: The disabled kid (He has nine fingers. He worked at the mall where they held auditions and they kind of kidnapped him)

Kaoru: The Japanese girl (She immediately finds proof that they are not really in space, but can’t tell anyone, as she doesn’t speak English)

Nico and Titania were the main characters, and were well-developed and likeable. Every other person in the book (except maybe Jamarkus and Kaoru) were absolutely one-dimensional stereotypes straight out of TV Tropes. This works on an actual reality show where the participants act out the role they’ve been assigned. However, this book included a lot of ‘unseen footage.’ When the cameras are off, every character is just as shallow and vacuous as they are on screen.

Testosterone/Estrogen Level: Warp 3

Nico and Titania bond over their family tragedies, and I kept waiting for a rendezvous in the confession booth (as did most of the viewers). However, that never went anywhere. As for the rest of the drama, we know everything is fake, so we’re not exactly worried when the ship is hit by a solar flair or when Hibiscus gets thrown out of the airlock. Even when Chazz gets desperate for ratings and tries some pretty crazy stunts, I wasn’t worried, as the guy was such a dip I knew nothing would come of it. I’d like to say that the author must think TV viewers must be pretty dim to swallow this tripe, but…I think she may have a point.

Talky Talk: Scripted

This book is presented as a series of transcripts, e-mails, and phone calls compiled by a whistle-blower after the show went off the air. I thought this was going to be a good opportunity to see the real side of the people on screen. But no, pretty much what you see is what you get. Hey, Snout’s pig just shit on the floor! Hilarious! No, wait, it was Bacardi who shit on the floor! Even funnier!

Also, halfway through the book, everything takes a bizarre science fiction turn when the scientists rebel. The ending not only stretched my disbelief, but snapped it.

Bonus Factor: Reality TV

Screenshot from Jersey Shore, with Snooki on a duck-shaped phone

I’m old enough that I remember when MTV’s The Real World was cutting edge. And the author does a good job of reminding us how reality TV is anything but, how the participants are more like actors, and how everyone has a role to play and a script to follow.

Bromance Status: Off the Island

You were funny, but I can’t say we bonded or that I’ll recommend you to a friend. Nothing personal.

FTC Full Disclosure: I received neither money (dollars or spacebucks) for writing this review.

Brian wrote his first YA novel when he was down and out in Mexico. He now lives in Missouri with his wonderful wife and daughter. He divides his time between writing and working as a school librarian. Brian still misses the preachy YA books of the eighties.