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Heather Anastasiu
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The Softwire

The Softwire by P.J. Haarsma
P.J. Haarsma
Candlewick Press
Release Date:Aug-22-2006

Rating
(0 - 10 scale)
9

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Age Level
9-12

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Flamingnet Student Book Reviewer  BDav
Growing up alone on a spaceship with only two hundred kids and a talking computer named Mother to keep him company, Johnny Turnbull never knew that he was any different than most people. Sure, he's the only one who can talk to Mother, but until he arrives on Orbis 1, he doesn't think that this skill is anything too strange. Soon, however, he finds out that he's the first human softwire, a being able to communicate with computers. This ability is very rare, and has never been seen in humans, not only on Orbis, but ever. Unfortunately, though, this isn't the biggest surprise in store for Johnny and his companions. No, it turns out that the children's parents were indentured servants, and now that the adults are no longer alive to do the jobs that they had been promised for, the kids will have to work twice as hard to pay off their debt, slaves to the aliens living on Orbis. It's bad enough that everyone wants to use Johnny for their own purposes, but when he discovers a virus bent on destroying the planet's computers, he's the one who is blamed for everything that goes wrong. Unless he can prove what he's seen, Johnny will become an outlaw on a foreign planet, and be lucky to escape with his life.

When I picked this book up, I was a bit nervous. The plot sounded intriguing and the cover was beautiful, but what if Haarsma's book wasn't all that it appeared to be? After all, in the first few pages the reader was abruptly introduced to entirely unfamiliar, nameless characters in the midst of a transition from one planet to another-- in all of the action, when was I going to find a chance to sympathize with them? I needn't have worried, however. "Virus on Orbis 1" is one of the best science fiction books I have ever read, intriguing and easy to understand from the beginning. Haarsma expertly introduces readers to a cast of characters so diverse, and yet so easy to identify with, that even in the midst of the action the reader comes to know them. The setting is beautiful, the prose effortless, and the plot flowing as we follow Johnny through his adventures. The events are sometimes a bit overly mysterious, but this is the book's only discernible flaw - truly nothing major. Haarsma's new series is sure to follow in the footsteps of Harry Potter and Eragon by helping kids everywhere to realize the joy of reading.

Reviewer Age:15

Reviewer City, State and Country: , Maryland United States



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