George and his impulsive friend Annie, both white, take more trips into space to save the Earth from a madman with a supercomputer.
As in the Hawkings’ three previous books about George (George’s Secret Key to the Universe, 2012, etc.), the plot is a flimsy vehicle for a series of mind-expanding infodumps, either inserted into the narrative or interleaved in a (much) smaller font. As an outbreak of computer hacking plunges the world into riot and chaos—the work, it eventually turns out, of a particularly silly onesie-wearing villain with a quantum computer—George, Annie, and readers with sufficient attention spans are filled in on topics of radically varying density. These range from ciphers, algorithms, internet safety, and why the moon has a “dark side” to the operation of a “universal” Turing Machine, the present and future of robotics, 3-D printing, the habitability of Saturn’s moon Enceladus, Boltzmann Brains, and DNA. Stephen Hawking closes with a long speculative essay on life elsewhere in the universe that includes his proposal, recently in the news, to send machines to other solar systems. Aside from Annie’s dyslexia, the authors make no effort to diversify the cast, nor does Parsons in his frequent cartoon vignettes.
Star-quality co-authors will (as with the previous episodes) ensure good sales, but the broad gap between the ingenuous storyline and challenging informational content will frustrate some young readers and bore the rest. (Informational science fiction. 10-12)