Only You Can Save Mankind
By Terry Pratchett
Unabridged edition published by Random House AudioBooks
Read by Richard Mitchley
The Mighty ScreeWee Empire ™
is poised to attack Earth!
Our battleships have been
destroyed in a sneak raid!!
Nothing can stand between Earth and the
terrible vengeance of the ScreeWee™!
But there is one starship left…
and out of the mists of time comes one warrior
one fighter who is the last Hope for Civilization!
YOU are the Savior of Civilization.
You are all that stands between your
world and Certain Oblivion.
You are the Last Hope.
ONLY YOU CAN SAVE MANKIND!™
That is the beginning of the first book of the Johnny Maxwell Trilogy. In this story young Johnny received a pirated copy of a new video game from a friend whose main interest in games is figuring out how to get past the copy protections. This friend has also written a game called “Journey to Alpha Centauri” which is played in real time. That means it will take three thousand years to finish the game and if you manage to play that long you get the message, ”Welcome to Alpha Centauri. Now go home.”
It turns out that the ScreeWee, and probably every other video game menace going back to “Space Invaders” is real and that by means of our insidious video games we have been defending Earth for generations. Johnny doesn’t have to play the game very long before the ScreeWee desperately attempt to surrender to him. On accepting their surrender, Johnny finds he is now responsible for helping to get them home, defending them from other game players until they can get far enough from earth that the other players’ screens appear blank unless they chase into deep space a very long time. Finally, with a help of a girl named Kirsty, but who calls herself Sigourney, the ScreeWee are able to return to their homes safely, the war over and, of course, all video screens blank when playing the program forever.
I am told the story has been adapted into a BBC radio play and as a musical, though I haven’t seen either. One or two of the other books in the series, I know, have made it to TV, but I guess the special effects budget on this story might have been prohibitive.
In any case it is a delightfully off-beat story in the classic Terry Pratchett style. It twists and turns conventional notions into ideas and situations most of us do not even see coming. Yes, it is marketed as children’s literature, and it is certainly written as though from a child’s point of view, but I think it should appeal to a wide range of ages. Amusing and dramatic… a great read.
This story was followed by Johnny and the Bomb and Johnny and the Dead, which I may review in the future. I enjoyed this first story the most, however. The other two were, I thought, a bit darker in nature. This story sparkled with all the flashing lights of a video arcade
To date, I have yet to find a bad performance by a reader of one of Terry Pratchett’s. Is it that his stories are all so good they are difficult to demolish? Do the publishers only choose the very best narrators for them? Or is it just that the British accents cover a multitude of sins? Probably a combination of the above and possibly more.
Regardless of why, I think Richard Mitchley does a fantastic job of reading this book. He varies his voice perfectly from character to character and expresses just the right touch of emotion to the reading. In some ways I think this is easier with children’s stories since childish emotion in them is so on-the-surface that it is harder to go over the top with it… or at least it is on this story.
But no matter, this is a thoroughly enjoyable reading of a thoroughly enjoyable story! I recommend it in any format!