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Listening Corner

ONLY YOU CAN SAVE MANKIND. By Terry Pratchett. Age group: 10-15. 3 hours. Pounds 7.99; Corgi.

Johnny sits alone in his room, tapping away at the computer screen. Only he can save mankind from the deadly threat posed by the Skriwi. Only he can read the strange message which appears on the screen: "We surrender". What can it mean? How can the aliens surrender?

Johnny, meantime, has problems of his own. His parents are in the course of splitting up and life has got a bit random. His friends Yoless the uncool black boy, Mic Mac the runty skinhead and Wobbler the overweight computer nerd are supportive but indifferent as only 12-year-old boys can be. The Gulf War rages on the television screens. Can Johnny at least save a few harmless aliens and guide the Skriwi home out of computer space? Will the strange brainbox girl Kirsty offer some real companionship? Terry Pratchett's keen eye for the minutiae of contemporary realities "kicking butt" and tower blocks, exotic vegetables in the fridge and parents "making time" for their children combines with a lively compassion to produce a gripping fable about adolescent dilemmas. "Just because you've got a mind like a hammer doesn't mean you have to treat other people like a nail," snaps Johnny to Kirsty.

An absolute winner.

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