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Only You Can Save Mankind [Paperback]

Terry Pratchett
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
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Book Description

May 13 2010 Johnny Maxwell (Book 1)
The first of Terry Pratchett's terrific fantasy novels starring Johnny Maxwell.
     IF NOT YOU, WHO ELSE?

     As the mighty alien fleet from the very latest computer game thunders across the computer screen, Johnny prepares to blow them into the usual million pieces. And they send him a message: We surrender.

     They're not supposed to do that! They're supposed to die. And computer joysticks don't have 'Don't Fire' buttons. But it's only a game, isn't it. Isn't it?

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From School Library Journal

Grade 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 © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

*Starred Review* Gr. 5-8. Johnny Maxwell's life is full of conflict. His parents are going through trying times, and the 1991 Gulf War is raging on his television every night, looking more like his computer war games than a news broadcast. A new game, provided by his hacker friend, Wobbler, is not what he expects. Only You Can Save Mankind is supposed to be an adventure-packed game of killing aliens, but on the first play, the game's newtlike female ScreeWee captain surrenders to Johnny, asking for safe conduct for aliens across the game borders. Now other gamers find only empty spaces when they fire up the game; there's nothing to kill. Johnny's heroic endeavors to save the aliens is a wild ride, full of Pratchett's trademark humor; digs at primitive, low-resolution games such as Space Invaders; and some not-so-subtle philosophy about war and peace. Readers will recognize some of the gamer types--among them, Johnny's sidekick Wobbler, who never plays computer games, preferring instead to crack the codes. There's also Johnny's feisty girl pal, Kirsty (whose dialogue is printed in italics and whose game name is Sigourney). One hopes that when Johnny returns for subsequent adventures, they will be along for the ride. Cindy Dobrez
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
4.6 out of 5 stars
Most helpful customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars It's just a game--isn't it? March 20 2003
By Daniel Jolley TOP 50 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback
Only You Can Save Mankind is the first book in Terry Pratchett's Johnny Maxwell trilogy. While this is considered juvenile or young adult fiction, it's a lot of fun for adults as well. It seems a little strange to journey with Terry Pratchett to a place other than the Discworld, but this little jaunt is quite enjoyable. Johnny Maxwell is a rather typical twelve year old boy; he's not smart or popular or rich, and he tends to prefer operating below the radar of those around him. He is living in Trying Times, basically having to take care of himself for the most part while his parents argue and come ever closer to splitting up. Like any kid, he enjoys a good computer game every now and then, and his friend Wobbler, born to be a hacker, supplies him with just about any illegally pirated game he could want. As earth's last remaining fighter, he has destroyed all but the last big alien ship in the game Only You Can Save Mankind when a message suddenly appears on the screen: We wish to talk. Thus begins a journey that takes him inside the game as the Chosen One, the human who will lead the alien ScreeWee race back to safety beyond The Boundary. The reptilian captain of the ScreeWee is tired of fighting; the human fighters appear out of nowhere, kill and destroy ships in her fleet, and keep coming back no matter how many times they are killed. She has seen what happened to the Space Invaders and would rather surrender than die fighting.
You don't have to remember playing Space Invaders to enjoy this book, but it does make the story a little more enjoyable. As always with Pratchett, the characters are well-developed and quite remarkable.
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4.0 out of 5 stars "Mankind" never stumbles July 21 2002
By E. A Solinas HALL OF FAME TOP 10 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback
Best known for his "Discworld" series, Terry Pratchett actually penned several books prior to starting that. One of those is "Only You Can Save Mankind," the first book of a young adult trilogy, which shows some of his initial roughness but is still convincing and enjoyable.
Johnny Maxwell is an extremely smart but otherwise ordinary English boy, who enjoys hanging out with his friends Wobbler, Yo-less, and Bigmac (their respective nicknames are all explained in the book) and exchanging pirated video games. One of these, "Only You Can Save Mankind," focuses on defeating reptilian aliens called ScreeWees.
But suddenly the ScreeWees surrender. Johnny is, unsurprisingly, quite taken aback: video game enemies are supposed to continue fighting, not surrender and ask him to stop firing. Then the game shows nothing but empty space. Johnny assumes that there is something odd about it, but nothing can prepare him for what it turns out to be: The ScreeWees are real aliens, who are attacked when someone uses the video game.
Though very different from his Discworld series, "Only You Can Save Mankind" has the stamp of a Terry Pratchett book. From the quiet hero who sees it all, to supporting characters called "Wobbler," it's all Pratchett. The conversations are Pratchett's usual slightly rambling, nuggets-of-wisdom dialogue. The narrative style is much rougher and starker than in this later books, without the polish to be found in his later books. However, he also adds in some swsssh and fplatfplatfplat sound effects whenever the video game is dealt with.
The ScreeWees are interesting and original, although I hope Mr. Pratchett has since learned that amphibians do not have scales.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Medicore March 9 2000
Format:Paperback
This book was somewhat unsatisfing. I honestly hope that Johnny Maxwell is not a show of what Terry Pratchett can truely do.
The basic plot? Johnny Maxwell, a thirteen year old, plays a video game in which the people he is fighting actually need his help to survive! This is a great premise for a novel, however, Johnny just doesn't act his age. The characters are poorly written and flat, not to mention stereotyped to great lengths. The world just doesn't seem believeable, and Johnny seems more like a child than a teenager.
Conclusion: This book is alright if you want to buy it for a young kid around the age of 11 or 12. Otherwise, you're stuck with a book that is REALLY immature for you.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyable and different Sept. 20 2000
Format:Paperback
This is a terrific story, with many classic bits and a very realistic portrayal of kids in primary school. Johnny's best friends include Wobbler (a computer hacker), Yo-less (named because he never says Yo), and Bigmac (who lives in the rough part of town).
Johnny Maxwell, while his parents are going through "trying times" and the Gulf War is getting going on the tele, was playing a shoot-em-up computer game when he found that the Mighty ScreeWee(tm) Empire had no interest in fighting back, and wanted to surrender. This becomes quite complicated.
There are deeper meanings, etc, but don't let them frighten you off a book that is also very entertaining for adult Pratchett fans. :)
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