See You in the Cosmos
Jack Cheng’s debut is full of joy, optimism, determination, and unbelievable heart. To read the first page is to fall in love with Alex and his view of our big, beautiful, complicated world. To read the last is to know he and his story will stay with you a long, long time.
Big Dreams, Big Themes
Eleven-year-old Alex has dreams that extend beyond the stratosphere. His main goal, of course, is to follow in the footsteps of his hero, Carl Sagan, and launch his rocket, Voyager 3, and his golden iPod into space. But as he travels with his dog—also named Carl Sagan—to New Mexico for a rocket festival, he is also excited about meeting up with the others from the internet rocket forums he is part of. Much to his amazement, though, the rocket launch is just the beginning of the adventure. Turning his sights ever toward the truth (like Carl Sagan), Alex, along with a growing group of friends, journeys throughout New Mexico, Nevada, California, and back home to Colorado. Along the way, he learns more about his father, who died when he was young, about loss, bravery, and perseverance, and that some pretty cosmic connections can happen right here on Earth.
It is impossible to resist Alex’s earnest and relentless desire to understand, his charming sense of humor, and his unbridled commitment to those he loves. In writing Alex’s character, Cheng could so easily have crossed over into the realm of either the saccharine or the obnoxious, but he avoids both deftly, and ultimately, it is Alex’s unique, wise, and hilarious voice that has stayed with me. This is appropriate since the book is written as a series of voice recordings on Alex’s golden iPod, a move which allows Cheng to stay closely within Alex’s perspective most of the time, but also introduces us to the perspective of Alex’s fellow-voyagers, each of whom is, in their own way, also pursuing truth and finding family.
The sign of a good novel is that when you finish it, you realize you are both more interested in the world and emotionally richer than you were before you started it. The sign of a great novel is that you feel this way from page one.
See You in the Cosmos is a great novel.