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Literature / George's Secret Key to the Universe

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George's Secret Key to the Universe is a children's sci-fi book series written by Lucy Hawking with her father Stephen Hawking.

George Greenby is a young boy who lives with eco-warrior parents Terence and Daisy. They abhor technology of any kind as they think it is destroying the world. George is never, ever allowed to go Next Door which was once the home of an old scientist but has now long been empty. Then one day, George's pet pig Freddy runs through the fence into Next Door. George disobeys his parents and follows his pig. He finds that Next Door is now inhabited by a scientist named Eric Bellis and his daughter Annie. They have a supercomputer called Cosmos which can make portals into any part of the universe. George and Annie use Cosmos to go on many space adventures and fight many mad scientists.

This series is distinctive for basing its storylines on real science. Things such as Schrödinger's Cat and Boltzmann Brains appear in this series.


There are six books in the series:

  • George's Secret Key To The Universe (2007)
  • George's Cosmic Treasure Hunt (2009)
  • George and the Big Bang (2011)
  • George and the Unbreakable Code (2014)
  • George and the Blue Moon (2016)
  • George and the Ship of Time (2018)

Provides examples of:

  • Author Avatar: Eric is based on a younger Stephen Hawking
  • Bad Future: Ship of Time takes place in one of these.
  • Big Bad:
    • Dr Reeper in the first two books
    • Zuzubin in Big Bang
    • Alioth Merak in Unbreakable Code
    • Rika Dur actually Alioth Merak in disguise in Blue Moon
    • Trellis Dump in Ship of Time
  • Bittersweet Ending: The ending of Ship of Time, and by extension the series as a whole. Trellis Dump is overthrown, but George can't go back to his own time and is stuck in the future. His relationship with Annie will never be the same since she's an old woman and he's still a young boy.
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  • Black Bead Eyes: Garry Parsons' illustrations draw the characters' eyes this way.
  • Child Prodigy: Annie.
  • Cool Old Lady: Annie in Ship of Time.
  • Deuteragonist: Annie, at least in the first five books.
  • The Dragon: Ringo in the first book and Slimicus in Ship of Time
  • Dumb Blonde: Inverted with Annie. Extremely intelligent, inherited from her scientist dad Eric.
  • Foreshadowing: At one point in Unbreakable Code, it is mentioned that George wants to live only with robots when he grows up. At the climax of the book, he and Annie encounter Alioth Merak, a man who lives only with robots. He's quite screwed up
  • Fun with Acronyms: Big Bang has the Theory of Everything Resists Addition of Gravity, or TOERAG.
  • Heel–Face Turn: Dr Reeper makes one at the end of Cosmic Treasure Hunt.
  • Housepet Pig: George’s pet pig, Freddy.
  • Mad Scientist: All of the Big Bads can be seen as this with the exception of Trellis Dump
  • Master-Apprentice Chain: Zuzubin > Eric and Dr Reeper > George and Annie
    • Ship of Time makes it Zuzubin > Eric and Dr Reeper > George > Hero and Atticus as well as Zuzubin > Eric and Dr Reeper > Annie > the citizens of Na-h Alba
  • Names to Run Away from Really Fast: Dr Reeper, though this becomes a subversion when he makes a Heel–Face Turn at the end of Cosmic Treasure Hunt
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: Trellis Dump from Ship of Time is very similar to Donald Trump.
  • Offscreen Moment of Awesome: Hero freeing the kids from Wonder Academy in Ship of Time
  • Out of Focus: Eric spends much of Unbreakable Code having a meeting with the Prime Minister.
  • Purple Prose: There is quite a bit of this, especially in the earlier books
  • Shout-Out:
    • George's pig being called Freddy is possibly one to Fred and George Weasley
    • Wonder Academy from Ship of Time could be one to Bolvangar from His Dark Materials, as both are government-run institutions where children have something taken away from them ( their souls in Bolvangar and their intelligence in Wonder Academy). In addition, the kids in Wonder Academy and Bolvangar were both freed by young girls (Lyra Belacqua for Bolvangar and Hero Bellis for Wonder Academy)
    • At the start of Big Bang Freddy has been moved to a farm and is unhappy
    • The robot guards of the Great Tower of Dump in Ship of Time strongly resemble Stormtroopers
    • In Unbreakable Code, an old woman called Beryl Wilde, who was involved in breaking the Enigma Machine's code in World War II, visits the Bellises. In Real Life Beryl Wilde was the name of Stephen Hawking's first wife's mother (also Lucy's maternal grandmother)
    • In Ship of Time Eden's motto is that they live in the Best of All Possible Worlds
  • Take That!: The junior astronaut training program in Blue Moon is one to both Mars One and reality shows such as Big Brother
  • Time Dilation: In Ship of Time, George spends an indeterminate amount of time on the Artemis, but is still a preteen boy when he touches back down in a very different world. It is later explained that it is actually the year 2081 and Einstein's physics made time go by slower for him.
  • Trilogy Creep: The series was originally intended to be just three books long, but ended up being six books long. Tropes Are Not Bad, however, and books 4-6 are arguably even better than the first three books.
  • Vague Age: George and Annie's age is only stated once, in Unbreakable Code when they are eleven
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Dr Reeper does not appear after the third book despite being accepted into the Order of Science at the end of that book
    • The Order of Science as a whole don't appear after the third book (apart from Eric, George and Annie of course), though this is justified as all computers in the world save Cosmos stopped working in Unbreakable Code and the Order were likely working on how to get them back (Eric himself was helping the Prime Minister) and George and Annie spend much of Blue Moon at astronaut camp. Ship of Time takes place in a dystopian future where science is banned and most of the members of the Order would have died anyway.
  • Ship Tease: There is a bit between George and Annie, most notably in Big Bang when Annie kissed George's cheek after he used Dr Reeper's supercomputer Pooky to meet Reeper on a comet in the Andromeda Galaxy and got 'space-sickness' after coming back