Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Only you can save Mankind

Only you can save Mankind

Terry Pratchett
For ages 8 to 12
HarperCollins, 2006   ISBN: 978-0060541873

Johnny Maxwell is basically keeping his head down during these "Trying Times" as his parents head for a divorce and ignore him and his needs. He goes to school, spends time with his friends, watches T.V, prepares meals for himself with what he can find, and plays computer games. His friend Wobbler keeps him well supplied with pirated computer games and the newest one which Johnny is trying is called Only You Can Save Mankind.

One day Johnny turns on the game and is confronted with the message "We wish to talk." This is not supposed to happen. The enemy, alien creatures called the ScreeWee, are not supposed to communicate with the player at all. What on earth is going on? Before Johnny really has a chance to understand what is happening, the ScreeWee surrender to him. It would appear that they no longer want to fight. Johnny is stunned. How can characters in a computer game decide to give up the battle?

Johnny soon learns from the captain of the ScreeWee that unlike the human players, the crocodile-like ScreeWee do not die and come back. They die and stay dead. They die and suffer and she for one is tired of it all. She wants to go home and she has chosen Johnny to be the one to get her people there.

So every time Johnny goes to sleep he finds himself on a space ship, leading the ScreeWee fleet across space towards safety, towards a place called the Boundary. Once the ScreeWee cross the Boundary human gamers will no longer be able to fight them. Sometimes Johnny is forced to fight off other human gamers who attack the ScreeWee. Sometimes Johnny has to die, but of course he wakes up and is all right.

But there are problems. There is one ScreeWee who is not happy about the surrender. He wants to keep on fighting. Johnny finds that he needs some help in this bizarre crusade of his. Who can he turn to and how he help creatures that don't even really exist?

In this intriguing book readers meet a twelve year boy who finds a cause which comes to mean a great deal to him. In the process he begins to question the whole idea of war and violence, because he sees what it does to the ScreeWee and he does not like what he sees. Nor does he like the way the bloodlust affects those around him either.

With great skill and sensitivity Terry Pratchett explores the world of a lonely boy who is trying to come to terms with his parent?s problems and with the violent world that he lives in. He manages beautifully to get inside the head of this boy, capturing the nuances in his world.