Tuesday, 10 December 2013

Book 43 of 2013: Only You Can Save Mankind by Terry Pratchett

I finished reading all of the Discworld books earlier in the year but I still have quite a collection of Terry Pratchett books to read. Only You Can Save Mankind was the first non-Discworld Terry Pratchett book that I've read in, well, a long time.

This is the first in the Johnny Maxwell series of books and introduces the character of Johnny, a teenager who unexpectedly finds himself in a computer game. It's the classic sort of game, you have to kill the aliens, except that one day while playing the aliens in the game surrender, which is not supposed to happen. It's up to Johnny to save the aliens, whilst having to deal with school, homework and 'Trying Times'.

I wasn't sure whether or not I would enjoy this. I mean, I love Terry Pratchett and everything he writes, but I've got into the way of the Disc and I was concerned that coming back to the real world might not suit me so well. But I got really into it. I had to keep putting it down to go to work and things, but I read it really quickly because I just didn't want to stop!

In a way it's a little bit dated. The games Johnny plays are on discs on his computer, there's no mention of a console anywhere and yet, it's surprisingly undated at the same time. One of his friends is able to break pretty much any copy protection on the games and keeps Johnny supplied with all the latest hits. There's no mention of motion sensors or photorealistic games, but the idea of teenage boys holing themselves up in their bedrooms defending the galaxy is still fairly common.

It was kind of nice because I remember those old games. I used to love playing The Hobbit, the old text-based game. Me and my Dad made a project out of it and worked out what would happen at each turning point on a massive map. I remember getting our first Playstation and thinking that all the graphics were fantastic, only to go back to the same games years later and realise that everyone in the Harry Potter games had cuboid heads. Nowadays TV adverts for games show actual clips from the games, not a bunch of funky images with a little disclaimer at the bottom saying that's not actual game footage. Reading Only You Can Save Mankind made me feel a little nostalgic.

I really like the character of Johnny. I think modern kids would still relate to him. His parents are going through a sticky patch and computer games are his way to escape. It still has the classic Terry Pratchett humour that I've come to expect as well. I love some of the things that Johnny and his friends end up coming out with as they hang out together.

This is the first book in a trilogy and I have the others on my bookcase just waiting to get around to them. Unfortunately studying Children's Literature is delaying me somewhat, which is ironic, considering these would probably be classed as Children's Literature. I'm looking forward to when I am finally able to read them.

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