Only You Can Save Mankind by Terry Pratchett

Only You Can Save Mankind: Johnny Maxwell Series Book One by Terry Pratchett
Publisher: Harper Collins Ebooks
Genre: Contemporary, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Suspense/Mystery
Age Recommendation: 12+
Length: Full Length (220 pgs)
Rating: 4 suns
Reviewed by Orchid

The alien spaceship is in his sights. His finger is on the Fire button. Johnny Maxwell is about to set the new high score on the computer game Only You Can Save Mankind.

Suddenly:
We wish to talk.

Huh?
We surrender.

The aliens aren’t supposed to surrender — they’re supposed to die! Now what is Johnny going to do with a fleet of alien prisoners who know their rights under the international rules of war and are demanding safe-conduct? It’s hard enough trying to save Mankind from the Galactic Hordes. It’s even harder trying to save the Galactic Hordes from Mankind.

But it’s just a game, isn’t it? Isn’t it?

Master storyteller Terry Pratchett leaves readers breathless — with laughter, and with suspense — in a reality-bending tale of virtual heroism.

“We surrender!” How can a computer game surrender? A “we give up” message is not what you expect to see when you’re playing a space invaders game.

Johnny Maxwell thought his friend had hacked the program. Every time he turned the computer on he got the same message. Then his dreams were taken over as he found himself in a fighter in space every time he fell asleep. The captain of the enemy Scree Wee insisted they were surrendering. It had to be a dream. A visit to the computer shop proved how wrong he was. Customers were complaining all the spaceships had disappeared from the “Only You Can Save Mankind” game.

Johnny sometimes has odd ideas and his three friends range from an overweight computer ace, to skinhead who isn’t really. Humor from misunderstanding lends a light touch to the story. Just as Johnny feels he’s making progress the Scree Wee demand provisions as is their right under the rules of war. He’s still trying to solve the problem of feeding the huge Scree Wee fleet when another human fighter appears in the otherwise empty space.

Set in the time of the space invaders games, this book is very entertaining. Johnny and his friends are normal boys who are thrown into a situation way out of their control. I liked the way the friendships helped Johnny to attack the problems thrown in his way, without any of the heartiness often found in books of this period. The answers to his problems were not always what he thought they would be.

This book is the first one of a trilogy and Mr Pratchett has worked his usual magic. He shows a boy going through ‘Troubled Times’ with his parents, who can still find time and energy to help aliens. It doesn’t matter to Johnny that the aliens are part of a computer game.

Well done Mr Pratchett. While not as gripping as some of your other books, this is a story which makes the reader keep coming back to see what happens next.

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