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

(Johnny Maxwell #1)

3.72  ·  Rating details ·  11,808 ratings  ·  496 reviews
It's just a game . . . isn't it?

The alien spaceship is in his sights. His finger is on the Fire button. Johnny Maxwell is about to set the new high score on the computer game Only You Can Save Mankind.

Suddenly, a message appears:
We wish to talk. We surrender.

But the aliens aren't supposed to surrender—they're supposed to die!
Paperback, 210 pages
Published July 25th 2006 by HarperTrophy (first published 1992)
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MRS EMMA L GREGORY It sounds like you're trying to avoid reading the book. You probably won't find anything specific, other than references to funny things happening aro…moreIt sounds like you're trying to avoid reading the book. You probably won't find anything specific, other than references to funny things happening around Johnny.

It's a fun book, especially if you were around for early home computers in the 80s.(less)

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Average rating 3.72  · 
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Eddie Owens
Nov 16, 2016 rated it liked it
So this is Terry Pratchett outside of Discworld.

It was ok, but I think it was a short story stretched into a book.

The big theme of war being real and not a game was a bit preachy, but maybe that's because it's aimed at the YA audience.

Then the author touches on universal problems faced by kids everywhere: parents on the verge of a break up, trying to fit in with the other kids, surviving in the inner city, etc. But since these are not the main story, he never goes anywhere with them.

I wasn't en
Apr 21, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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. ...more
Better with age.

Older Review
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.

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.
Jan 05, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sci-fi, kids
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
Feb 24, 2010 rated it liked it
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
Melissa McShane
I'd never read this series before, but I picked up the second and third at library sales a few years back, and in preparing for a month of reading, I came across them on the shelves and thought it was time. The Johnny Maxwell series is solid middle-grade SF with a touch of typically Pratchett-esque humor. In this book, Johnny is playing a video game that involves slaughtering invading aliens when his screen displays the message that the aliens want to surrender. They're tired of dying (when a pl ...more
1st Read 4/5

Reread mother says they were creations of Satan."
"Yes, but your mother says that about practically everything," said Wobbler
"This is true," said Yo-less gravely "It's her hobby."

Oh i so over invested in this one :lol . I rated it before from my vague memories of reading it as a kid and this time, my inner child still liked it but my outer adult was SOooo into it :) .

Firstly this would make a great film, espeically with all the 80s/90s nostalgia around now. Also while in the 90s
Mike (the Paladin)
Nov 19, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: fantasy
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
Jan 13, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sci-fi
I picked up this book to read something short and light in between another books. Oh, and because it’s Terry Pratchett.

I was surprised by this book. It’s definitely short but not as light as I was expecting. Even the title of the book is not how it seems. You don’t need to save mankind from aliens. You need to save mankind from…well, mankind.
Only You Can Save Mankind is about war and Johnny Maxwell coping with it. It’s about the difference between reality and a dream. Or, to be more precise, it
Allen Holt
Apr 13, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A surprising book that left me with a tremendous sense of appreciation for Pratchett's ability to inject seemingly silly or small stories with heart and message. Appropriate reading for teens and adults, like most of Pratchett's work, I'd heartily recommend this quick read to anyone.

The book does an effective job of portraying the early 90s computer gamers. I was especially taken by the nostalgia of it all as I myself was roughly Johnny's age during that first Iraq war and often in front of a co
If not you, who else?

Many people who are worried about female role models love Terry Pratchett because he has a LOT of realistic female characters of varying ages and sizes. While I fiercely love his women, I think his male character are underrated as role-models, especially the hero of my childhood Johnny Maxwell, who is thoughtful, empathic and generally favours non-confrontative and clever approaches to his otherworldly problems.

In a world in which even well-read and scientifically oriented
A nice but old novel, with starships, aliens and video games.

The story was a nice mix of scifi and fantasy, with a good pace and characters with interesting backgrounds. The crew wasn't really fleshed, but various topics were addressed, like dealing with familial difficulties, and I liked how the friends were different but fitted with each others. If the writing didn't have a distinct Pratchett's touch in my opinion, on another hand the focus on "there are 2 sides to a war" felt very much like a
“If not you, who else?”

I enjoyed this fun YA story, it reminded me of The Last Starfighter. What if your game aliens weren’t just in your game, but actually real & searching for help! Plus with Pratchett there’s always an underlining meaning, think before you automatically push that fire button, just because it’s what you are supposed to do, doesn’t mean you should do it!
Apr 04, 2012 rated it did not like it
From BBC Radio 4 Extra:
Sci-fi drama from Terry Pratchett.

This is not my cup of tea.
Eva Hartshorn-Sanders
This book was excellent. Recommended for teens and adults who want to (or need to) be considering ethical questions of war, virtual reality, human behaviour, diversity and culture change.
Got My Book
Nov 05, 2016 rated it really liked it
Also posted on my blog Got My Book.

A fun little MG Paranormal SF that may require some explanation of history.

Only You Can Save Mankind by Terry Pratchett, read by Richard Mitchley, published by Random House Audio (2011) / Length: 4 hrs 11 min (this is the Unabridged version)

This is Book #1 of the "Johnny Maxwell" trilogy. All of them are available on audio.

Like most Pratchett book, this one is a pleasure to read for people who love interesting characters.

Note: I
Jan 08, 2012 rated it really liked it
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
Dec 19, 2013 rated it really liked it
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
Dec 10, 2012 rated it liked it
(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
Angel 一匹狼
You cannot go wrong with Terry Pratchett. "Only You Can Save Mankind" is a very simple book, a book for teenagers that can be enjoyed by everyone, with his trademark sharp and witty comments about humanity and society.

Johnny is playing the video game 'Only You Can Save Mankind'. But the aliens in the game do not seem to want to fight. They have just surrendered! Why? How can random bits of 1 and 0's do not want to do their job? What will Johnny do? Keep shooting or trying to help the aliens to g
Apr 18, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
At times a young adult book can fall into the trap of dumbing down the content, adding a love triangle (though that is usually more common in teen books) or talking down to its audience. Luckily the only real difference between an "adult" and "YA" novel is it has chapters and sometimes a younger protagonist.
The basis premis of the book, the aliens you're supposed to fight in a computer game surrender and ask you to save them, is interesting and a good one. The undertones are utterly brilliant.
Nov 22, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: terry Pratchett fans
Recommended to Angie by: no one
Even though this is a children's book it was still enjoyable to read and this is probably because its still a terry Pratchett novel. The book follows the character Johnny who instead of killing the aliens in his computer game accepts their surrender. He's joined by his friends and gets help in game by sigourney a kick ass girl. Lots of fun Pratchett style follows. This would be perfect for your younger children as well. ...more
Jan 07, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I'm giving this an even 3 stars. Highly enjoyable; reminds me of an 80's movie called The Last Straighter.

I think this would have been brilliant even more fleshed out. We meet Johnny and his friends Yo-less, Big Mac, and Wobbler. Johnny makes a new friend Kirsty along the way.

What happens when you play video games? What happens when you defeat enemies? What happens if they want to surrender?

Johnny Maxwell finds out. Games are hard; life is harder in Trying Times.
Dec 26, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Apparently Goodreads didn't save my review... The short version: I love this book. It's a quick read. Give it a try! ...more
Jenny Andersson
Feb 09, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Love Pratchett's writing! Really easy to get in to! ...more
Jun 29, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A big message in a kids story, about war and getting over differences.
Keith  Blodgett
Oct 30, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Terry Pratchett, the man was astounding. This is from the early 90s though I think it was freshened up a little later on. His stories have been part of my life a long time and many a happy hour has been spent laughing out loud at his works.
Johnny's friend, Wobbler, has given him a copy of the new, latest, greatest computer game and Johnny is having a blast. . . until the aliens surrender, to him, a 12 year old boy. Knowing that's not how the game works doesn't matter or much help. He's got more
Ted Heaps
Jul 30, 2020 rated it really liked it
This book is very good for people who like adventure stories. It’s a very good book because it has a good story line and it is very hard to predict what’s coming next so the book is full of surprises. But sometimes I got a bit lost because it wasn’t that clear on were they were sometimes. I didn’t have a favourite character because they all ha e very different characteristics but also all the kids have on similar one which is liking video games. This book was very good and I think that ages 7+ w ...more
Jun 10, 2008 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: young-adult, sci-fi
Johnny Maxwell is an ordinary kid who's having a difficult time because his parents seem on the verge of splitting up. When the enemy aliens in a popular video game surrender to him, at first he thinks that it's some kind of advanced feature. But then his dreams start taking him inside the game, and his actions to save the ScreeWee seem to have an effect on his waking life. As he leads the ships towards the border of the game, they disappear from the computer screens of everyone else. But some p ...more
Altivo Overo
Oct 30, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: everyone, but especially gamers
One could wish that a lot of "gamers" would read this and take it to heart. While the story is told in a humorous manner, it nonetheless makes the reader think "what if..." What if the game were real? What if the "aliens" were really people and they really died and stayed dead when you shoot them?

Johnny Maxwell finds himself confronted with this very situation, and has to figure a way out of it. Without any spoilers, and much to his (and Pratchett's) credit, he does in the end. But in order to d
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Born Terence David John Pratchett, 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, i

Other books in the series

Johnny Maxwell (3 books)
  • Johnny and the Dead (Johnny Maxwell, #2)
  • Johnny and the Bomb (Johnny Maxwell, #3)

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