Johnny Maxwell likes playing video games on his brand new computer. Even though his parent's marriage isn't going well, he can always count on his video games to help him forget the trying times around him. But even that changes one day when Johnny starts playing “Only You Can Save Mankind.” This phenomenal new game is supposed to have ultra-realistic graphics and stunning action. But just as Johnny prepares to blast another alien ship and make it to the next level he sees a new message on screen: “We wish to talk. We surrender.”
At first Johnny thinks that this is just part of the game, but soon he begins to experience strange dreams. What is just a game to Johnny is a life or death situation to a strange breed of aliens who have now surrendered to him. When Johnny dies in the game he comes back again, but the alien forces really die. Johnny suddenly finds that rather than protecting Mankind from the aliens he has to protect his alien prisoners from Mankind.
“Only You Can Save Mankind” has a very interesting theme and core message. Terry Pratchett wrote the novel during the first Gulf War. Terry Pratchett explains the background behind “Only You Can Save Mankind”:
Computers were just getting powerful enough to run realistic-looking games, although they were pretty clunky by today's standards. At the same time, people were watching the first “video war.” Every night the news showed the views from bombsight cameras, in what looked like live action, often represented by General “Stormin' Norman” Schwarzkopf, who was in charge. On your computer: games that looked like war. On your TV: a war that looked like a game. If you weren't careful, you could get confused...
Although “Only You Can Save Mankind” was written over a decade ago its message has become more and more meaningful as games become more realistic. Terry Pratchett shows young readers that what may seem like a harmless game may, in fact, be deeper than you think. In reading “Only You Can Save Mankind,” I also felt that Pratchett did a great job of highlighting the way that news makes war seem like a game, even while the video game industry does its best to make war games seem like harmless fun.
I definitely recommend “Only You Can Save Mankind” because it is a fun to read book with a valuable message.
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