While playing the computer game “Only You Can Save Mankind”, 12-year-old Johnny Maxwell receives a message from the captain of the ScreeWee wishing to surrender. At first Johnny is bewildered; weren’t aliens in computer games only there to be shot at and die? But soon he accepts the mission to save the ScreeWee from annihilation by his fellow game players.
With this book Pratchett has written a commentary against the 1990s Gulf War, which can apply to all wars in general, in a way that is easy for his young readers to comprehend, and he manages to make it entertaining as well. To humans the ScreeWee are the enemy, and to ScreeWee we humans are the enemy. It is all a matter of perspective and of whose side you are on, so who is to say that what one side is doing is the right thing and what the other side is doing is wrong?
Pratchett also shows his readers that one need not be intelligent or talented like Kirsty/Sigourney to make a difference. Even someone as ordinary as Johnny can do it, because he was the only one who listened and was willing to try. Every one of us is given the opportunity for change, and it is up to us if we are willing to take on the challenge.
“Only you can save mankind.