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

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

by Terry Pratchett


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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!

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780060541873
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 07/25/2006
Series: Johnny Maxwell Trilogy Series , #1
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 224
Sales rank: 213,783
Product dimensions: 5.12(w) x 7.62(h) x 0.45(d)
Age Range: 8 - 12 Years

About the Author

Sir Terry Pratchett was the internationally bestselling author of more than thirty books, including his phenomenally successful Discworld series. His young adult novel, The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents, won the Carnegie Medal, and Where's My Cow?, his Discworld book for “readers of all ages,” was a New York Times bestseller. His novels have sold more than seventy five million (give or take a few million) copies worldwide. Named an Officer of the British Empire “for services to literature,” Pratchett lived in England. He died in 2015 at the age of sixty-six.


Salisbury, Wiltshire, England

Date of Birth:

April 28, 1948

Place of Birth:

Beaconsfield, Buckinghamshire, England


Four honorary degrees in literature from the universities of Portsmouth, Bristol, Bath and Warwick

Read an Excerpt

Only You Can Save Mankind

By Terry Pratchett

HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.

Copyright © 2006 Terry Pratchett
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0060541873

Chapter One

The Hero with a Thousand Extra Lives

Johnny bit his lip and concentrated.

Right. Come in quick, let a missile target itself -- beep beep beep beebeebeebeeb -- on the first fighter, fire the missile -- thwump -- empty the guns at the fighter -- fplat fplat fplat fplat -- hit fighter No. 2 and take out its shields with the laser -- bwizzle -- while the missile -- pwwosh -- takes out fighter No. 1, dive, switch guns, rake fighter No. 3 as it turns fplat fplat fplat -- pick up fighter No. 2 in the sights again up the upcurve, let go a missile -- thwump -- and rake it with -- Fwit fwit fwit.

Fighter No. 4! It always came in last, but if you went after it first, the others would have time to turn and you'd end up in the sights of three of them.

He'd died six times already. And it was only five o'clock.

His hands flew over the keyboard. Stars roared past as he accelerated out of the melee. It'd leave him short of fuel, but by the time they caught up, the shields would be back and he'd be ready, and two of them would already have taken damage, and . . . here they come . . . missiles away, wow, lucky hit on the first one, die die die!, red fireball -- swsssh -- take shield loss while concentrating fire on the next one -- swsssh --and now the last one was running, but he could outrun it, hit the accelerator -- ggrrRRRSSHHH -- and just keep it in his sights while he poured shot after shot into -- swssh.


The huge bulk of their capital ship was in the corner of the screen. Level 10, here we come . . . careful, careful . . . there were no more ships now, so all he had to do was keep out of its range and then sweep in and We wish to talk.

Johnny blinked at the message on the screen.

We wish to talk.

The ship roared by -- eeeyooowwwnn. He reached out for the throttle key and slowed himself down, and then turned and got the big red shape in his sights again. We wish to talk.

His finger hovered on the Fire button. Then, without really looking, he moved it over to the keyboard and pressed Pause.

Then he read the manual.

Only You Can Save Mankind, it said on the cover. "Full Sound and Graphics. The Ultimate Game."

A ScreeWee heavy cruiser, it said on page seventeen, could be taken out with seventy-six laser shots. Once you'd cleared the fighter escort and found a handy spot where the ScreeWee's guns couldn't get you, it was just a matter of time. We wish to talk.

Even with the Pause on, the message still flashed on the screen.

There was nothing in the manual about messages. Johnny riffled through the pages. It must be one of the New Features the game was Packed With.

He put down the book, put his hands on the keys, and cautiously tapped out: Die, alein scum/No! We do not wish to die! We wish to talk!

It wasn't supposed to be like this, was it?

Wobbler Johnson, who'd given him the disk and photocopied the manual on his dad's copier, had said that once you'd completed level 10, you got given an extra 10,000 points and the Scroll of Valor and moved on to the Arcturus Sector, where there were different ships and more of them.

Johnny wanted the Scroll of Valor.

Johnny fired the laser one more time. Swsssh. He didn't really know why. It was just because you had the joystick and there was the Fire button and that was what it was for.

After all, there wasn't a Don't Fire button.

We Surrender! PLEASE!

He reached over and, very carefully, pressed the Save Game button. The computer whirred and clicked, and then was silent.

He didn't play again the whole evening. He did his homework.

It was Geography. You had to color in Great Britain and put a dot on the map of the world where you thought it was.

The ScreeWee Captain thumped her desk with one of her forelegs. "What?"

The First Officer swallowed and tried to keep her tail held at a respectful angle.

"He just vanished again, ma'am," she said.

"But did he accept?"

"No, ma'am."

The Captain drummed the fingers of three hands on the table. She looked slightly like a newt but mainly like an alligator.

"But we didn't fire on him!"

"No, ma'am."

"And you sent my message?"

"Yes, ma'am."

"And every time we've killed him, he comes back. . . ."

He caught up with Wobbler in break.

Wobbler was the kind of boy who was always picked last when you had to pick teams, although that was all right at the moment as the PE teacher didn't believe in teams because they encouraged competition.

He wobbled. It was glandular, he said. He wobbled especially when he ran. Bits of Wobbler headed in various directions; it was only on average that he was running in any particular direction.

But he was good at games. They just weren't the ones that people thought you ought to be good at. If ever there was an Interschool First-One-to-Break-the-Unbreakable-Copy-Protection-on-Galactic-Thrusters, Wobbler wouldn't just be on the team, he'd be picking the team.

"Yo, Wobbler," said Johnny.

"It's not cool to say yo anymore," said Wobbler.

"Is it rad to say cool?" said Johnny.

"Cool's always cool. And no one says rad anymore, either."

Wobbler looked around conspiratorially and then fished a package from his bag.

"This is cool. Have a shot at this."

"What is it?" said Johnny.

"I cracked Fighter Star TeraBomber," said Wobbler. "Only don't tell anyone, all right? Just type FSB. It's not much good, really. The space bar drops the bombs, and . . . well . . . just press the keys, you'll see what they do. . . ."

"Listen . . . you know Only You Can Save Mankind?"

"Still playing that, are you?"

"You didn't, you know, do anything to it, did you? Um? Before you gave me a copy?"


Excerpted from Only You Can Save Mankind by Terry Pratchett Copyright © 2006 by Terry Pratchett. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Only You Can Save Mankind (Turtleback School & Library Binding Edition) 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 34 reviews.
harstan More than 1 year ago
Twelve years old Johnny Maxwell loves to play computer games especially those with alien battles. His favorite game at the moment is ONLY YOU CAN SAVE MANKIND in which he battles the ScreeWee. --- However, something weird out of virtual reality happens when a ScreeWee Captain announces to him that she and her troop surrender and ask for safe passage back to their sector of space. She explains that this is no game for when a ScreeWee dies they really are dead. A stunned Johnny does not know what to do with all these prisoners of war as he is only a preadolescent. Adding to his burden is when he sleeps he seems to enter the computer world in which he can only wake when he dies as the Americans bomb Baghdad in Gulf War I. --- Written during the first Gulf War, ONLY YOU CAN SAVE MANKIND is a powerful condemnation of war as a means to solve disputes. The story line targets the preadolescent crowd, but adults will enjoy the action-packed tale as the bewildered hero makes a plea for peace. Making no apology with his in your face claim that we are all humans whether we live in America, Darfur, Iraq, North Korea or ScreeWee, Terry Pratchett argue we need to live together in peace and harmony instead of sending our young (that is someone else¿s children) to fight when we ought to seek respectful peaceful solutions to a crisis. --- Harriet Klausner
Go4Jugular More than 1 year ago
First of the Johnny Maxwell Trilogy, it's also the least strong. The basics of a Terry Pratchett novel are there, but there's just not much to it - think Terry Pratchett light. Still, the signature humor is present in nascent form, the underlying concept is innovative, and it serves as a solid introduction to the main characters that return in the subsequent two stories. Worth reading to establish that familiarity, and for a quick, enjoyable read.
APMum on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This was the 1st of the Johnny books and is about a young lad who;s parents are having problems. the effect it has on Johnny causes him to enter a different world revolving around a computer game called "Only you can save mankind". It is witty, very readable both for children and adults alike and thought provoking
caro488 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Pratchet, Terry -Only you Can Save Mankind- Johnny gets sucked into a space invaders game when they surrender. How can he protect the aliens from mankind? He meets someone to work with -characterization is great- Yoless who makes ironic anti-racist jokes, Johnny the kid no one noticesI have always loved Terry Pratchett's sense of humor, tho in some of his books, you have to limit exposure - but this series is just perfect
shavienda on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I had trouble connecting with the characters, but theme itself was pretty interesting. The hero (non-hero type) was rather charming as well.
debnance on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Johnny Maxwell is shocked to find that the aliens in his computer game are talking back to him. They are conceding defeat. What can he do? What must he do?Though this book has apparently been updated (in 2004) from the original story (published in 1992), it probably needs to be updated again. Lots of computer talk and popular lingo that has changed dramatically in the past few years and would leave a modern child feeling a bit clueless.
ironicqueery on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
There's no familiar Discworld in this Terry Pratchett book, but the thought-provoking way of looking at the world still remains. Surprisingly enough, this book, geared towards young adults, proves to be one of Pratchett's most political and moralistic work yet. There is discussion about divorce, socio-economic conditions, race, class, and finally war. War seems the main focus, with the message of the book being quite anti-war, even in video games. Based around the Gulf War (the first one), there' s a strong message aimed at kids to remember that war isn't a game, despite all the new technology and media that makes it seem like one. Regardless of the books morals and messages, it still retains Terry Pratchett's humor. While not one of his funniest, it still manages to keep his messages wrapped in pleasant packaging. Overall, this is a surprisingly different book, but a very nice display of Pratchett's writing range.
readermom on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
It was written back in the early 90s. I think the most interesting part of the book was the forward explaining the few changes the author made when it was reissued. "If you were away from home you had to use a phone attached by a wire to the wall. It was terrible." It is funny to watch old movies, or not even that old movies and see how things have changed in just the last five or ten years. Watching someone talk on a cell phone the size of a brick and feel cool about it is pretty funny.This is a lot like the movie the Last Starfighter. Same basic premise. Or so my husband told me, I haven't actually seen that movie. It was alright, but nothing wonderful. Pratchett has definitely gotten better as a writer over the last fifteen years.
tundranocaps on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A young adult book, and rated as such. Good for a light and interesting read, raises some thoughts about "Us" versus "Them".I wish more adults had such thoughts running through their head.
julied on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The Johnny Maxwell books are not Terry Pratchett's usual Discworld books. They are set in a very ordinary run down town in England, centering around Johnny Maxwell and his three friends. Johnny, whose parents are going through Trying Times, is playing his favorite video game when the aliens suddenly surrender to him instead of fighting back. He and his friends suspect a computer virus but things get even stranger when Johnny finds himself in incredibly lifelike dreams piloting a starfighter, leading the alien fleet home where they will be safe from mankind, and communicating with a girl who also is dreaming of the alien fleet. Pratchett adds those extra touches that regular readers love such as when they go by the ruined hulks of Space Invader ships tumbling in space that the aliens use to show each other what happens when you take a stand. His special genius, to my way of thinking, comes in how he treats the conversations and thinking of the kids, along with those little unexpected twists.
kusine on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A fun introduction to science fiction for pre-teens. Some very amusing and cute moments.
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