Cosm

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

One of the greatest pleasures of childhood, and writing, is creating an imaginary world of one’s own. In Gregory Benford’s Cosm the author allows the main character, Alicia, a particle physicist, to create her own universe. There is a particle accelerator, and inevitably an accident occurs in which universe-creating forces are unleashed. Luckily the universe, or Cosm as she calls it, is small, so Alicia puts a dishtowel over it and walks out. She does not know what it is for sure, however, until she exposes a graduate student with fatal results.

The plot is not as bad as it sounds, even though the government is trying to obtain the universe and there is a cute male cosmologist named Max. What really makes Cosm shine, as in Benford’s previous works, is his explanation of the science that supports the story. His dialogues between Alicia and Max help to explain many of the attributes of a new universe; blackbody spectrums, radiation emissions, and expansion, and show what our universe was like many billions of years ago.

In the end Max, the brilliant cosmologist, asks the question, what does it mean to be able to make a universe? The answer is a trip of mind-expanding possibilities. This is science fiction at its best.