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.
We wish to talk.
The aliens aren't supposed to surrender -- they're supposed to die! Now what is Johnny going to do with a fleet of alien prisoners who know their rights under the international rules of war and are demanding safe-conduct? It's hard enough trying to save Mankind from the Galactic Hordes. It's even harder trying to save the Galactic Hordes from Mankind.
But it's just a game, isn't it? Isn't it?
Master storyteller Terry Pratchett leaves readers breathless -- with laughter, and with suspense -- in a reality-bending tale of virtual heroism.
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1 . Fun little book for all ages
Posted June 24, 2007 by timjump , Oviedo, FLKnowing Terry Pratchett's work on Discworld very well, I knew at the very least I'd be diving into a fun book - and I was right. Every videogamer at some point has the thought "what if this were really happening?" In this book you'll get to see what happens along with the sometimes not-so-fun consequences. The book is a delightful mix of Pratchett's typical humor and biting commentary about current events; although some of the references are a bit dated (the book takes place during the first Gulf War) much of it applies today just as much as when the book was written. Then there's the author's excellent characterization - for someone who grew up geeky, you'll recognize Johnny's friends as if they were your own. My only real complaint about this book is that it's much too short - I finished it in an afternoon. If you don't mind the length, this book is definitely recommended for both young and - ahem - "mature" readers.
July 31, 2006
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Excerpt from Only You Can Save Mankind by Terry Pratchett
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?"