Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

The Softwire: Virus on Orbis 1

The Softwire: Virus on Orbis 1

PJ Haarsma
Fiction  Series
For ages 12 and up
Candlewick, 2006   ISBN: 0763627097

Two hundred and fifty-three years ago, several hundred people boarded a seed-ship called the Renaissance, and they began the long journey from Earth to Orbis 1. At some point in the journey, the cryogenic sleepers failed, and the adults sleeping inside them all died. The only survivors of the journey are two hundred children who were raised from frozen embryos by Mother, the ship’s onboard computer. Now, at long last, thirteen years after the first child was born, the Renaissance has arrived at Orbis 1.

None of the children are quite sure what is going to happen to them now. Their parents paid for the long journey by agreeing that they would work for Guarantors on Orbis for four years. When they finally meet the aliens who administer Orbis, the children discover that they are going to have to pay their parents’ debt. For four years, they will have to serve as virtual slaves on Orbis.

Not surprisingly, Johnny Turnbull is not thrilled to find out that four years of servitude lie ahead of him, but there is not much that he can do about it. When the children are being fitted with a translation codec ( an implant that will allow them to understand the many languages spoken on Orbis) it is discovered that Johnny is a human Softwire, which means that he is able to directly interface with any computer that is in the near vicinity. Human Softwires are very rare, and several Guarantors are eager to get their hands on Johnny.

After much discussion, and an unfortunate fatality, Johnny and his sister Ketheria, are assigned to an alien called Weegin. They have to work in Weegin’s salvage factory, and they have very few freedoms. Though their new life is far from ideal, it is not particularly bad either. Johnny makes some new friends, and he has an interesting time interacting with Orbis’ central computer. Then the computer starts to malfunction, and Johnny is immediately suspected of being behind it all. After all, he has the ability to tamper with the computer if he so chooses.

As a power struggle between Keepers and the Trade Council escalates, Johnny tries to find out what is going on. On several of his trips into the computer he has seen something that he thinks is a virus, something he is convinced is behind all the problems. He does his best to tell anyone who will listen about what he has seen, but no one believes him. Somehow, Johnny has to stop the virus before a war breaks out.

Readers who like science fiction stories are sure to enjoy this gripping tale. Full of bizarre aliens, fascinating technology, and sympathetic characters, this is the first book in a thrilling series that will draw readers in.