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The Softwire: Virus on Orbis 1 Hardcover – August 22, 2006

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Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Grade 5-9–Johnny Turnbull has spent all of his 12 years aboard the seed-ship Renaissance en route to the Rings of Orbis. Due to a mechanical problem, the adults on the spaceship perished long before Johnny and the other young passengers were born (they were stored as embryos and raised by the ship's computer). When they arrive on Orbis 1, the orphans quickly learn that they will be forced to work for the Guarantors (alien businessmen) in order to pay off their dead parents' debt for their passage. Johnny is immediately identified as the first human softwire, someone with the ability to enter and manipulate a computer with his mind. Because of his gift, he is a prime suspect when the central computer of Orbis 1 begins to malfunction. He must prove his innocence and solve the mystery of the mechanical failures before time runs out. The author deftly introduces the futuristic setting without getting bogged down in long and detailed descriptive passages, and the brisk plot will keep the interest of reluctant readers. Although a few of the secondary characters are not fully developed, Johnny and his sister are well drawn, and the scenes between the two are skillfully crafted. The first in a planned quartet, this book is a good selection for science-fiction fans.–Melissa Christy Buron, Epps Island Elementary, Houston, TX
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Like the other 198 parentless children on the spaceship Renaissance, 12-year-old Johnny Turnbull (JT) and his seven-year-old sister are headed to Orbis, a multicultural world made up of four rings orbiting a wormhole. Upon landing, the children are shocked to learn that they must work as slaves for Star Wars-like aliens to repay their passage. When it is discovered that JT is a softwire, a being able to communicate telepathically with computers, the boy, both feared and coveted by different factions, becomes the prime suspect when the computer that runs the operations on Orbis 1 malfunctions. It's obvious that this is the first book in a series, but Haarsma fills it with exotic aliens, dangerous situations, and fast-paced adventure. Younger sf fans will happily hang in with JT as he tries to stay alive and keep Orbis from being conquered from within, and they'll look forward to other volumes in the Softwire series. Diana Herald
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Product Details

  • Age Range: 12 and up
  • Grade Level: 7 and up
  • Lexile Measure: 650L (What's this?)
  • Series: Softwire (Book 1)
  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Candlewick; First Edition edition (August 22, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0763627097
  • ISBN-13: 978-0763627096
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1 x 8.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (63 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,245,419 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

PJ Haarsma has been gazing at the stars and wondering what's out there his whole life. After a successful career as a commercial photographer he finally decided to write about it. "It's our destiny. We're going to have to leave this planet some day and it's sooner than we think.

Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

23 of 25 people found the following review helpful By JPS on February 9, 2011
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
So, some reviewers have rated this book "one star" just because there are so many five-star reviews that they seem fake? And they think the reviews are fake because they are "too well-written"??
Anyways, I have just finished reading book 3 of this series. I have read books 1 and 2 a short time ago, and I can't wait to read book 4.
While reading book 3, I realized how well-planned out the plot lines are. You see everything start to come together in book 3, and you start to see the story arc of the entire series.
Book 1 really hooked me, and the rest of the series (so far) is just as good, or even better.
Recommended by N. Fillion to all his fans on twitter.
Sci-fi kids' series, but enjoyable to read as an adult.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By TeensReadToo on April 9, 2007
Format: Hardcover
I'm the first to admit that science fiction has never been my favorite genre, but I wanted to give VIRUS ON ORBIS 1 a try. I have to say that I'm very glad I did. Besides having an interesting and entertaining story, the true beauty of the book, at least for me, is the fact that I never felt so overwhelmed with the new world the author created that I wanted to give up. There weren't a thousand crazy names I had to figure out how to pronounce, or a million-and-one gizmos and gadgets that made no sense. With this book, Mr. Haarsma has created a world that even young teens will relate to, and that adult fans of science fiction are sure to enjoy, as well.

Johnny Turnbull, thirteen, is a resident of the seed ship Renaissance, along with his eight-year-old sister, Ketheria, and about two hundred other children. Children, and no adults, since all of them died and left the children as orphans. In Johnny and Ketheria's case, their parents had signed a contract to work on the Rings of Orbis (four rings surrounding a wormhole) for four years. Unfortunately, since the children have been on a ship with only a computer called Mother supervising them, no one knows what will happen once they finally arrive at the Rings of Orbis. They do know, though, that they'll be at the mercy of its citizens.

There's a problem, though, as there usually is. Johnny has recently discovered that he's a human Softwire - the very first human able to directly communicate with any computer using just his mind. He's been trying to warn the citizens of Orbis that a virus is attacking their central computer, but few are willing to listen. Actually, few are willing to even take the fact of his being a Softwire seriously at all.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Michael Gallagher HALL OF FAMETOP 50 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on November 4, 2011
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This is an enjoyable science fiction read that is not only good for adults, but late elementary school to junior high kids will also enjoy. It's unusual (at least for me) to find a book the whole family can enjoy without one set feeling as if it is too "dumbed down" for the younger set to understand and annoy the parents, nor too detailed or technical that the younger set will get frustrated.

The author does a good job of quickly getting you into the story as well as lots of action that has you eagerly waiting to turn the page. Your heart will race a little bit during some of the action scenes, and you get a feeling of actually being a part of the story vs. just someone reading a tale. I enjoyed this one quite a bit as did my children, now I'm off to purchase book 2 in the series.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Lucy Cat VINE VOICE on March 9, 2011
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I came across "Softwire 1: Virus on Orbis" while it was a free download for Kindle. The premise looked very interesting, so I decided to give it a shot. While I am a bit of a science nerd (aren't all Chemistry majors nerds?) and possibly outside the intended age range of this series, I was thoroughly pleased with the intriguing plot, exciting characters and mysterious universe.

Teen readers (probably boys grades 6 and up) will love the plot, the rebel leading character Johnny Turbull and the non-stop action. The story picks up from the first two pages and remains upbeat and exciting to the closing words.

Some things I especially liked: The author doesn't dwell on pedantic astrophysics yet he correctly applies concepts such as: wormholes, space-time, and dark matter. Furthermore, the "fictional universe" in which the novel is set could plausibly be our own universe (in a couple of million light years!) Even still, its a very creative universe with well-developed characters and environs.

If you're a teen reader (or adult for that matter) who enjoys Star Wars, Harry Potter, the Matrix, or anything related to adventures in deep-outer space, don't miss this novel and it's sequels.

Overall: A+
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful A Kid's Review on August 30, 2006
Format: Hardcover
i met author pj haarsma at Wondercon in Anaheim this weekend. I just had a one day pass and was trying to take it all in when i came to mr. haarsma's booth and saw this amazing 6 foot artwork depicting some sort of beautiful and hideous aliens from a distant i had to stop. he started telling me about his book Softwire --The Rings of Orbis and i was immediately into it. A spacecraft full of orphaned children coming to a distant world where they will have to work as slaves for these grotesque bullying aliens really grabbed my attention. i started reading on saturday night and finished sunday morning and it was just packed with everything i love about science fiction. the writing was fast and furious, the aliends were horrific and real, the kids were fun and the hero was kid who could interface with computers -- the softwire of the title -- and he possessed the power to flip out the aliens and destroy their world. but i won't tell you anymore..just read the book...
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