When it comes to science, any introduction to Stephen Hawking is superfluous. So when Hawking decides to write science fiction, just enjoy it. Two years ago, Stephen and Lucy, his daughter, decided to write an intergalactic adventure story for children. This year, the father-daughter duo has come up with George’s Cosmic Treasure Hunt, which follows the Hawkings’ first “George” book, Secret Key to the Universe (out two years ago). The same cast is back minus Freddy, George’s pig, who was responsible for getting the main characters together.
Storm-riders: George and Annie battle it out.
For those of you who haven’t managed to read Secret Key, George is the son of “eco-warriors” Terence and Daisy. Their neighbours are Eric Bellis—the only scientist in the world who has “understood” the universe—his wife, Susan, daughter Annie and Cosmos, the supercomputer that can transport humans through space and time.
After the last adventure, George, Annie and Eric have become great friends. Cosmic Treasure Hunt, however, starts with Eric—who’s got a job with the Global Space Agency (GSA)—and Annie moving to the US, leaving behind a thoroughly miserable George.
Things start heating up when George reads the cryptic footnote in Annie’s email informing him about her parents’ plans to invite George to the US. “Have cosmic mission. Do not chicken out. Spacesuits at the ready.”
George can think of only one way to get to Florida. He ropes in his granny to persuade his parents. It works and George is off. Once there, he realizes that Eric is working on a mission in which the GSA has sent Homer, a robot, to Mars to study the planet for signs of life. At the Bellis residence, Annie tells him that she has received a message from aliens on Cosmos. And the fleeting message that she has seen makes it imperative that they go into space and save earth.
George’s Cosmic Treasure Hunt: By Lucy and Stephen Hawking, Random House, 295 pages, Rs400.
When Annie’s father finds out, he sets off in pursuit. Meanwhile, the children find themselves in the trap of an old enemy, the rogue scientist—and Eric’s dear-friend-turned-foe—Graham Reeper, who has developed a counter to Cosmos with just one thought in his mind: to avenge his insult at the hands of Eric. When they find out it was Reeper who was responsible for their wild goose chase, each of them thinks furiously of a way to get back to earth. Can they?
What is also fascinating about Cosmic Treasure Hunt is the information packed in. Fiction gives way to scientific fact that the reader won’t forget in a hurry. Exploring space can’t get better than this.
The writer is the editor of Heek, a children’s magazine.
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