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4.8 out of 5 stars
4.8 out of 5 stars
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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. I really liked Wobbler, the future hacker who designed a game of his own called Journey to Alpha Centauri to be played in real time, meaning all the thousands of years it would take to reach Alpha Centauri is how many years the game would take you to actually finish it. Beyond the comedy present in this story, there is also a message. The backdrop of the earth-based events of the book is the Persian Gulf War, and the juxtaposition of this war that is real but seems like a game with the computer game that becomes real for Johnny Maxwell conveys a message about violence and one's attitude toward it. It is not an overbearing theme, but it is there to some degree, helping make this short novel much more than just a juvenile read intended to entertain the reader and nothing else. This is a short book that never falters from beginning to end, and it houses much more in its pages than might be apparent at first glance. It is not as complicated or brilliant as the Discworld novels, but it is a fun read nonetheless, sure to entertain Pratchett fans while capturing the attention and interest of young readers.
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on 5 April 2017
Bought all three Johnny Maxwells for my son. He left the first one at his uncles house - but at least he picked it up!

I've read all of them - and they are brilliant. Johnny is an ordinary boy with ordinary friends who has extraordinary things happen to him. It's funny, not boring for an adult to read at bedtime, and at times, quite touching. I love Pratchett though, so am utterly biased - but then, so are all reviews I guess!
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on 8 June 2002
Having read all the Disc World series I was supprised to come across the Johnny Maxwell books, as much to my embarrasment I had not heard of them before.
With wonderful observation on life, Terry brings together a lovable group of characters, which in my opinion rival the wonderful Famous Five and Serect Seven creations of my childhood.
Humour (as always from TP), imagination, subltle social comment on both sexism, racism and deprivation, this book is a wonderful read. Who else but Mr. Pratchett himself could link the Geneva converntion with a surrendering alien force in a computer game?
Don't think, just buy it!
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on 2 March 2017
Crazy stuff goes on I love it and wobbler is my type !
For people with loads of imagination !
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on 15 February 2001
I am only 15 years old but ANYONE of any age can and should read this book. There i was in my local (library that is!) looking through the sci-fi section and for some reason this book fell of the shelf. I picked it up and instead of putting it back it caught my eye so i loaned it out and to this day it is still my favourite book. This is the 7th time of reading this book after loaning it from my school library. A book you never want to put down. FANTASTIC!
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on 17 August 2014
the copy I have received is completely different to the one that is shown here
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on 2 June 2006
Only You Can Save Mankind is the first in the Johnny Maxwell series- and what a series!

This book, despite being for young people, is just as clever and strange as the Discworld series, so just about anyone with a sense of humour can appreciate it. It's surprisingly thought-provoking and layered, with Johnny's own troubled home life lying under the basic plotline and the subtle inclusian of the war on the TV, and makes sly nods at not just Space Invaders but the classic Sci-Fi film Alien too- look out for the easter eggs, you'd be surprised. Absorbing, funny and a very, very worthwhile read. Highly recommended!
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on 26 July 2001
Johnny loves this computer game, Only You Can Save Mankind. But the aliens, the ScreeWee, don't. Johnny is, after all, the Hero with a Thousand Extra Lives. They all have one life. When they die, they die. Forever. So the alien Captain decides to take matters in her own hands, and surrenders. Johnny finds himself trying, not to save mankind from the alien hordes, but to save the alien hordes from mankind. But plenty of advice from his loopy friends, a terminally clever girl named Sigourney, and the Captain herself, and Johnny takes on mankind so the aliens can fly away home. If not him, says the Captain, then who else?
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on 2 January 2011
This is my least favourite of the "Johnny" books by Terry Pratchett but since it went on the bookshelf at school - 11 year olds - I've found it hard to keep track of it. Johnny find himself on the inside of a "Shoot-'em dead" computer game where he is regarded a a sort of savoiur. Definitely is making the boys in this class think hard.
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on 11 May 1999
If you are a Discworld fan, and you like Terry's style of writing, you won't be disappointed. This book asks you to stop and think about some of the things you believe are reality, and wonder if on some plane of reality somewhere, things are really happening like this. When Johnny starts playing a computer game, and the aliens surrender, he becomes partly immersed in another reality where when kids shoot the aliens on the screen, the aliens REALLY die. REALLY. Thought provoking, intelligent, and funny.
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