Sunday, July 9, 2017

Audiobook Review: See You in the Cosmos by Jack Cheng

See You in the Cosmos by Jack Cheng. Unabridged audiobook on 5 compact discs; 6 hours, 10 minutes. Performed by Kivlighan de Montebello and a full cast. Penguin Random House Audio Publishing Group, February, 2017. 978152470008. (Review from purchased copy.)

See You in the Cosmos is the "transcript" of the golden iPod recordings of eleven-year-old (older in responsibility age) Alex Petrosky. Alex lives with his mother in Colorado and supported long-distance by a much older brother who lives in LA. His father died when Alex was very young. He is obsessed with space and Carl Sagan. He even named the dog he convinced his uninvolved, apparently mentally ill mother (she has "quiet days") to keep, Carl Sagan. He has built a rocket, which he hopes to launch in New Mexico at SHARF, Southwest High-Altitude Rocket Festival. Alex plans on loading these iPod recordings onto his rocket and send it into space the way the Voyager II rockets did in 1977. 

He has planned the trip with precision - purchased a train ticket, cooked and labeled all the meals his mom would need and packed for the weekend. What he hadn't planned on was the need to be sixteen to travel alone on the train. The ticket agent doesn't buy his responsibility years but a free-spirited young man, wearing a backpack, offers to pose as his big brother in order to get Alex and Carl Sagan on the train. 

Alex is bright, open, innocent and filled with curiosity. He is also preternaturally competent as the reader infers this from his offhand comments about his unusual home life. He really is suffering from neglect and social services should've been called a long time ago.

The best thing about this audiobook is that Alex is voiced by a kid! Finally! Even though there are a handful of adult narrators who can pull off a kid narrator, it sure was refreshing to hear a real live kid do the job. I hope there are more audiobook narrations in Kivlighan de Montebello's future. He is a terrific actor/ narrator. He really brings Alex to vivid life.

Belief needs to be suspended big-time here for as much as Alex planned, lots and lots of things go wrong for him. He is far too trusting, and lucky. Or not, poor Carl Sagan. And the adults he runs into have a few screws loose, harmless, thankfully; they possess no real sense of responsibility or common sense. But, it makes for quite the road trip and, somehow, works.

I am glad I chose to read it with my ears because I think the audio format, with its multiple narrators and sound effects, is perfect. The structure was unique and Alex is a winning character. 

Give this quirky book to kids who like sad books with a spunky main character and to kids who, like Alex, are interested in astronomy in general, or the Voyager rockets in particular. It's the 40th anniversary of the launch of the two Voyager rockets. This book reminded me that I had another book to read on the old tbr pile. I thought the two would make for a terrific fiction/ non-fiction pairing - Voyager's Greatest Hits: the epic trek to interstellar space by Alexandra Siy. Look for the review tomorrow.

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