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Only You Can Save Mankind
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The first of Terry Pratchett's terrific fantasy novels starring Johnny Maxwell - now with a brand-new look

About the Author

Terry Pratchett was the acclaimed creator of the global bestselling Discworld series, the first of which, The Colour of Magic, was published in 1983. In all, he was the author of over fifty bestselling books. His novels have been widely adapted for stage and screen, and he was the winner of multiple prizes, including the Carnegie Medal, as well as being awarded a knighthood for services to literature. He died in March 2015.

Reviews

Gr 5-8-Johnny Maxwell, 12, thinks he's a loser. People don't seem to notice him, his parents are threatening to split up, and he's not very good at the shoot-up-the-bad-guys computer games that he and his friends are always playing. But after his hacker buddy, Wobbler, gives him an illegal copy of "Only You Can Save Mankind," strange things happen. The captain of the alien fleet that Johnny is supposed to shoot up surrenders to him-unheard of in a computer game-and soon after that all of the aliens from all copies of the game have vanished. Players looking for someone to shoot at sail through light years of empty space and return the game to the store, demanding their money back. Johnny also discovers that he is able to enter the alien ship in dreams and grows convinced that the aliens are somehow real, and are actually dying when human players shoot at them. And soon the day arrives when the humans can resume their shooting. The story is told against the backdrop of the 1991 Gulf War, in which many of the battles were fought with the help of PC screens, and the antiwar message of the story soon becomes a little too heavy-handed and obvious. Although the storytelling here is not as polished as it is in Pratchett's The Wee Free Men (HarperCollins, 2003), the humor is sharp and the story is great fun to read. This is the first in a trilogy published in England; U.S. editions of Johnny and the Dead and Johnny and the Bomb will soon follow.-Walter Minkel, New York Public Library Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.

Released in Britain in 1992, just after the first Gulf War, the launch title in Pratchett's Johnny Maxwell trilogy reaches American shores in the midst of current conflicts in the Middle East. A whimsical but ultimately unsettling "war game" conceit drives the book: what if video games weren't just games? Teenager Johnny plays video games (pirated copies from a friend) to escape the "Trying Times" that his parents are going through and the bombs dropping in the Middle East every time he turns on the television. But one afternoon while Johnny is playing the game Only You Can Save Mankind, the alien ScreeWee fleet from within the game surrenders to him, an action that is outside the game's parameters. The hero begins to dream himself into the game space and pledges to help give the ScreeWee safe passage to avoid slaughter by the human gamers. Johnny has less success convincing his friends of what he's doing, except for a proficient gamer, Kirsty, who is motivated to win at all costs. Pratchett's wartime allegory is apt, if frequently heavy-handed ("Do you think the pilots really just sit there like... like a game?... We turn it into games and it's not games"). Still, the compelling premise and Pratchett's humorous touches (such as the aliens' frustration with human attackers who "die" and just keep coming back) may well attract fans to this trilogy. Ages 8-up. (July) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.

"An impressively original book with its thrills and spills, its inventiveness, its wit and continuous readability" * Daily Telegraph *
"A wonderful new Pratchett-style fantasy: funny and thrilling enough for anyone who can read fluently" * Daily Mail *
"Funny and exciting" * Spectator *
"Terry Pratchett's funny, fast-moving story makes provocative reading for all computer game players . . . Makes a serious point out of a ridiculously comic example" * Children's Books of the Year *
"Everyone should read Terry Pratchett. Maybe it should be part of the National Curriculum?" * Families *

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