Liam is twelve, but he looks a lot older. Old enough to be allowed on the big rides. Old enough to be mistaken for a teacher on his first day of middle school. Old enough, when the opportunity presents itself, to play classmate Florida Kirby’s dad when four winning parent-child pairs are invited to try out a brand new, top secret amusement park in the middle of the Gobi desert. As it turns out, the main attraction of this new park is a space shuttle intended to be pilotable by guests of the park — specifically, that is, by children. Although the original plan is for the invited children to test the shuttle alone, Liam manages to secure himself a place as chaperone on what proves to be, not surprisingly, a disastrous trip.
The core of Cosmic is an exploration of what it means to be “dadly.” As an oversized child, Liam is able to look at the role from a range of perspectives — that of a son, certain his father will protect him; that of one of several fathers competing to prove themselves the best dad; and that of one temporarily responsible for parenting four other twelve year olds in the midst of a dangerous situation. The resulting portrait is complex and ultimately affirming, both to parents and to the preteens for whom the book is written.
One more thing, and one of my favourite bits of this book: Boyce’s writing style in general is enjoyable, but he has a real knack for analogies. Watch for passages like this one:
“It was so dark we couldn’t tell who else was there. There was just a bunch of yawning, stretching shadows. Even the Possibility Building didn’t look that solid, until the Sun rolled up and peeled a strip of shadow off its back, as though it was a huge red banana. And then it tore up all the other shadows like tissue paper and there was everyone unwrapped on the tarmac, like surprises.”
Watch the official book trailer: