I’ll admit that my speed reading days for books left me in college. Even with my fun books that I read, it can take me a several days to finish one off. So when I go through a four book series in roughly a week (not counting the shipping time or waiting time at the library, you know it’s got to be amazing.Oddly enough, I have to thank Nathon Filion for tweeting a link for a free digital copy of the first book (Virus on Orbis 1). Nathan, if you’re ever in Prescott, AZ, I owe you a drink! The brief synopsis from P.J. Haarsma’s site (the author) really hooked me in.
Thirteen-year-old Johnny Turnbull has always known there was something different about him, even before he and two hundred other kids landed on the first ring of Orbis. But once their spaceship lands, he is identified as the first-ever “softwire” — a human with the ability to enter and communicate with computers through his mind — and becomes the focus of intergalactic intrigue. Johnny and the rest of the refugee orphans are put to work in alien factories, and very quickly things go very wrong. When the all-knowing, all-controlling, and technologically “perfect” central computer starts malfunctioning, suspicious eyes turn to Johnny. Is he the one responsible? This action-packed, fast-paced sci-fi novel will keep kids on the edge of their seats.
For this computer geek, the direct interface into a computer hooked me in instantly. Shoot, I would love to have something like that! I wonder how fast I could sling out web apps that way?! Through the first book you’re introduced to this amazing new world, with aliens that have been around forever, a few factions within them. The book takes you on a very fun adventure, and really captures the mystery and adjustment to a world completely different than your own.
But by the end of Book 1, you realize that everything isn’t quite as Utopian as you would like them to be. Through the next 3 books, you’re taken deeper and deeper into the Rings of Orbis, its deep history, and how Johnny (JT) and his sister play into it. You’re also taken into a lot of turmoil and grief that the “knudnicks” on Orbis are subjected to. The entire series does a great job at working through the struggles of class divisions between the elite and the poor.
On top of this is the transformation of JT himself. Starting out as a bright eyed, energetic 15 year old, he’s quickly given a large amount of responsibility because of his talents. He also has the entire universe looking over his shoulder, which causes a lot of struggles. But JT’s struggles go even deeper, dealing with free will vs. fate, sacrifice, and a whole range of emotions. There was so much going on by the fourth installment that I wasn’t sure how Haarsma would resolve it all, and do it in a manner that stuck with the whole of the story, but he did it amazingly well. There was even a small amount of romance and tragedy mixed in to the whole story that fit perfectly.
I’ll admit that this is a rather abbreviated and scattered review of the book, but my mind is still racing from all of the tech, adventure, and thought provoking things this book brought out. I also don’t want to spoil the surprises that occur along the way! I should also point out that the book is initially targeted for the 10 year old range, but it is written so well that adults (or really big geeky kids like me) will enjoy it thoroughly. If you still aren’t convinced, and have a Kindle, I believe I can even use the loan feature to let you borrow mine for a couple of weeks, and then you’ll have to get the rest for yourself. 8^D
Mr. Haarsma, if you’re ever in Prescott, I owe you a couple of drinks, and maybe a little discussion on the series as well!