Only You Can Save Mankind (Johnny Maxwell, #1)
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Only You Can Save Mankind (Johnny Maxwell #1)

3.66 of 5 stars 3.66  ·  rating details  ·  7,037 ratings  ·  237 reviews

As the mighty alien fleet from the latest computer game thunders across the 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?
Paperback, 224 pages
Published April 29th 2004 by Corgi Childrens (first published 1992)
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Another great story by Pratchett. He must wake up every morning and think, "What should I make fun of today?" And then he proceeds with mockery while sneaking in valuable social insights. This book is shorter than most of his other books, but it made for great audiobook listening on a four-hour road trip.
From School Library Journal
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 t...more
Considering the popularity of first person shooters, this book is still very timely. It's Pratchett, it's funny and delivers a message. Kristi is the protype of Hermonie. Enjoyable.

Older Review
A really good what if type of a story, especially if you ever played Space Invaders. There are a couple questions concerning the aliens and the game that Pratchett doesn't answer.
Mike (the Paladin)
Okay, I give this book a 3...sort of. I like Sir Terry's writing. He's sharp and can generally make a sharp quip with a dull point. This book isn't quite so good.

Oh, there are some laughs and the plot while not totally new (that the "world inside games is real in it's own way") is a good one. It opens with a cute idea. The young man playing a new computer game is busy fighting his way through the "enemy alien fleet", he's made it to the huge mother-ship...and they surrender. He gets text on his...more
From BBC Radio 4 Extra:
Sci-fi drama from Terry Pratchett.

This is not my cup of tea.
Laura Luna
"Sólo tú puedes salvar a la humanidad" es esa novela que recomendaría a los niños y adolescentes que aborrecen la lectura por los libros que les obligan a leer en el colegio. Es una historia adictiva, ligera, llena del humor mordaz característico de Terry que, además, conecta muy bien con la subcultura jugona. Hace reflexionar, además, sobre temas como el sexismo, la marginación social y la autoestima. Me encanta cómo hace que un videojuego rompa la cuarta barrera e invite al héroe a plantearse...more
Who else indeed? And that's really the question, isn't it? The old saw says that one person can make a difference, but no one ever thinks that it's them so no one does anything. And no difference is ever made. That's what the question on the cover of the book points out, if not you, then who else will?

In this case, Johnny is that one person, one out of thousands, but the only one who listens and takes on the responsibility of trying to do something. He has no power in the "real" world; his paren...more
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There is a much to love about this. Johnny is quiet, unnoticed by a good few people - including his parents - but then these are Trying Times. The important thing is he listens, because in many ways people don't listen to him.

This was set during the Gulf War, the first one, and the war permeates everything. It's at its most obvious when Johnny is in the game reality, but it's a constant undertone of real life too. It can be a little heavy handed at times, but I'm still thinking about it now.

It i...more
This book was how Terry Pratchett dealt with the first gulf war, I think. I wish I had read it when I was a kid and images of that war were broadcast over my TV screen, interrupting my favorite television shows and occupying the conversation of adults. The main character in the book, Johnny, cared a bit more than I did, but felt basically the same-- these images carried no meaning, as bland and removed from life as an old, out of date video game.
There's one hugely funny bit where Johnny defines...more
Johara Almogbel
Brilliant, brilliant, brilliant, the way Terry Pratchett packaged a whole bunch of issues in one smart subtle brouhaha that ends wonderfully. It's like getting a talking to in a way that you'd actually enjoy and ask for with characters that are terribly human. I read this at work and spent three hours glued to the story, only lifting my head to refresh outlook (just in case I do get an assignment. One must read with a clear conscious).

I'm pretty sure it isn't everyone's cup of tea, and is proba...more
Anna Stover
Woah are there some bad reviews here. This book is admittedly very different from Terry Pratchett's others. It reads like a combination of a number of sci-fi/dystopian works, none of them taking place in the discworld. Nevertheless, as a librarian I would be far more likely to give this to your average male high-schooler. This is a world kids will be able to get into and to get behind. The main character isn't exceptionally well-developed, nor is the world-building flawless, but what you have he...more
Catherine  Mustread
Aug 02, 2010 Catherine Mustread rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Catherine by: Alex @ The Children's War blog
This thought-provoking book deals with war games vs real war vs televised version of real war in which relationships with others and the consequences of actions theme is similar to Pratchett's Nation. Johnny wonders about his sanity when he receives a surrender message from the captain of an alien spaceship, while playing a computer game, in this first volume in the Johnny Maxwell trilogy. Unfortunately it is dated -- first published in 1992 although does include some explanation in the introduc...more
This book was okay. After coming off such a complex book that was Embassytown, it felt rather unchallenging to step into a Young Adult book. And a non-Discworld Pratchett book.

The idea of in-game aliens (I think nowadays we'd call them NPCs) surrendering is kind of cute. And you feel sorry for them, dying the way they do. Of course... this brings up the part that nags at me the most, but just barely manages to clear the suspension-of-disbelief-threshold: how exactly/why do the subconsciouses of...more
(Genre:Children's fiction) Low 3 stars. While this is definitely not Pratchett's strongest offering, it did make for an enjoyable read with some astute observations about the human race. Not earth shattering, but it was entertaining and I will probably read the next one in the series.

12 year old Johnny Maxwell is surrounded by conflict. Everyday on the news, they show pictures from the Gulf War(the first one), with bombs dropping on homes and buildings and interviews with top government and mili...more
Lizzy B
well what to say of Pratchett's rare writing about humans? Firstly the obvious: he couldn't keep the realms of fantasy or the dream world out, so it is not entirely about humanity. Secondly his envisioning of whole other races, entering human life, as human gamers enter theirs, makes a way for Pratchett to tackle the philosophical questions he never quite avoids (but he does it in such a way that his readers can remain oblivious if they choose).

This is a children's book for adults. It is writte...more
Interesting little story. The premise is cool--the aliens inside the video game are real and don't want to fight anymore.

The social commentary on the original Gulf War is a little heavy-handed, but the characters are decent for a quick JF book.

Though this book reminded me how I hate the tendency of YA authors to give everyone nicknames. Maybe everyone had nicknames back in the 50's in the days of The Buttercream Gang ... maybe ... or maybe it was exaggerated then too. But I honestly have never...more
4 stars? 5 stars? 4 stars? Goodreads, why won't you allow half-stars? In the end, I'm giving this four stars only because, compared to Terry Pratchett's brilliant body of work (of which I've read over 40 now), this isn't the best. It's still very good. It's also quite different from his other works. Don't go looking for Discworld here. There are no footnotes and not nearly as much absurdism. This is a nice young adult fantasy book, first of a trilogy, about Johnny Maxwell, an avid gamer who is a...more
colleen the contrarian  ± (... never stop fighting) ±

I've had this book on my radar for awhile now, but was, for some reason, a bit hesitant to try a non-Discworld book by Pratchett since the only other one I've done was 'Good Omens' which, while I like well enough, didn't quite have the same panache as either Discworld or some of Gaiman's other work.

Anyway, I saw it in the library and figured, well, no harm in trying it for free, so I gave it a go.

It's a pretty decent story. Nothing mind-blowing or anything, but a nice sort of Tron-like sci-fi...more
"Real's real. Everything else isn't."

That's cleared it up, right?

Only You Can Save mankind turns on an interesting mid-level conceit: what if the Space Invaders (or the ScreeWees, in this case) were real; what if it wasn't a game? In this case the space aliens in the game have surrendered to Johnny Maxwell who now must guide them home. Always dying and returning, he is the Chosen One.

How ever did he get caught up in this? He listened.

And that's the cue for Pratchett's bigger purpose. Underneat...more
Stinkerbelle Stormborn
This is my first Terry Pratchett book .... I know I'm really behind but somehow even though I've had my eyes on his books for a long time, I never seemed to find the time to actually get down and read one. I don't know why I didn't start with Discworld. So, this one - Only You Can Save Mankind is the first book in the Johnny Maxwell series. Johnny is a schoolboy who regularly gets video games from one of his friends, who seems to have insane talent in cracking them.The aliens he had to fight in...more
ISBN: 0552551031
Publisher: Corgi Children’s, 2004

Only You Can Save Mankind (1992) is the first novel in the Johnny Maxwell trilogy of children's books by Terry Pratchett which are some of the most enjoyable fantasy books I have read although suitable for upper key stage 2 readers for independent reading and for use in whole class reading.
Characters: Johnny, his parents, Wobbler, Kirsty, Gunnery Officer, Captain, Scree Wee.
Plot: Twelve-year-old Johnny receives a pirate edition of the new video ga...more
While playing the computer game “Only You Can Save Mankind”, 12-year-old Johnny Maxwell receives a message from the captain of the ScreeWee wishing to surrender. At first Johnny is bewildered; weren’t aliens in computer games only there to be shot at and die? But soon he accepts the mission to save the ScreeWee from annihilation by his fellow game players.

With this book Pratchett has written a commentary against the 1990s Gulf War, which can apply to all wars in general, in a way that is easy fo...more
It’s not as witty or wise as the Discworld books I’ve read (which aren’t that many, actually), but it was still good. It’s set in the early 90s during the time of the first Gulf War and the other President Bush, when computers were first becoming fairly normal and mainstream but before the advent of the World Wide Web. Johnny and his friends like to play computer games, the Space Invader, Galaga type where you fly a space ship and shoot up an alien fleet. The twist is that one of the alien fleet...more
I picked up Only You Can Save Mankind, looking for something a little lighter after reading Vonnegut; it wasn't quite the comic escape I'd thought.

Johnny Maxwell is going through Trying Times - his parents are fighting, there's apparently a Middle Eastern war going on, and in the new computer game he's playing, the aliens don't want to fight anymore. They're surrendering and want his help to protect them from the other players. But it's just a game.... right?

Compared with his more recent YA bo...more
Jon Cox
I laughed out loud often and repeatedly while reading this book. It happened so often that Katie wanted to read it too. Obviously, she and I have very different tastes in writing. She found a few funny parts, but couldn't care any less about the characters. I, on the other hand, loved Pratchett's characterizations, and the story was interesting and entertaining to me. I especially like how Johnny (the main character) is a bit thick in the head, and has no special abilities. I am really quite tir...more
Nicholas Whyte

One of Pratchett's earlier YA novels, about a 12-year-old boy who is an enthusiastic player of computer games, which ws very much enjoyed by my 12-year-old son who is an enthusiastic player of computer games. Although Pratchett apologises in the introduction of the 2004 edition for how the story has dated since the original 1993 publication, I didn't spot any gross problems in that regard (and my expert advisor tells me that only the mention of Atari is pa...more
Only You Can Save Mankind centers around Johnny Maxwell, who is English - but that can be forgiven because it's not his fault but Terry Pratchetts. Here is another gem from the master of YA humor books, the creater of the Discworld Series, Terry Pratchett. Johnny Maxwell thinks he's in for some fun playing the latest smash hit video game Only You Can Save Mankind. This is the type of game where it's you against and armada of alien ships and as the title alludeds only you can save ... well you ge...more
This is tongue in cheek, young-adult novel about kids, video games (set in the early 1990s), and aliens. I don't want to say much more, except it is full of Pratchetty jokes and fun. Sure, the discussion of the "games" is rather dated not, but as Terry says in an introduction to a later edition: "after all, a book's a done and finished thing, a sort of picture of the time in which it was written. No one expects Tom Sawyer to have a skateboard."
Mary Catelli
This is, I think, Terry Pratchett's best book.

Johnny Maxwell is sitting at his computer -- amazing what you can get when you say you need it for school work and your parents are going through Trying Times -- shooting away at the alien invading fleet when a message pops up on the screen: We want to talk.

He listens. He ends up taking their surrender. But it gets fun from there, because you know -- there isn't a button marked "Don't Fire."

All over, the game is no longer showing aliens, only an eno...more
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Sir Terry Pratchett sold his first story when he was thirteen, which earned him enough money to buy a second-hand typewriter. His first novel, a humorous fantasy entitled The Carpet People, appeared in 1971 from the publisher Colin Smythe. Terry worked for many years as a journalist and press officer, writing in his spare time and publishing a number of novels, including his first Discworld novel,...more
More about Terry Pratchett...
Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch The Color of Magic (Discworld, #1) Mort (Discworld, #4) Guards! Guards! (Discworld, #8) Night Watch (Discworld, #29)

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