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The Softwire: Betrayal on Orbis 2

The Softwire: Betrayal on Orbis 2

4.8 22
by PJ Haarsma

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On Orbis 2, Johnny Turnbull has a new home and a new job, one that pushes his softwire abilities to painful limits. JT is the only one who can communicate with the Samirans, large aquatic aliens who have cooled the crystals on Orbis for nearly two thousand rotations. But as the Samirans' work rule ostensibly comes to a close, they have grown dangerously agitated, and


On Orbis 2, Johnny Turnbull has a new home and a new job, one that pushes his softwire abilities to painful limits. JT is the only one who can communicate with the Samirans, large aquatic aliens who have cooled the crystals on Orbis for nearly two thousand rotations. But as the Samirans' work rule ostensibly comes to a close, they have grown dangerously agitated, and JT must find out why. What he learns is that the prosperity of Orbis is built on a brutal system of enforced labor --- and that everyone seems to have something to hide. Can JT appease the Samirans before their threat is realized? And if he doesn't, will his friends survive? In this second episode of THE SOFTWIRE, PJ Haarsma takes readers on another lightning-paced, cyber-fueled ride through the amazing universe he introduced in THE SOFTWIRE: VIRUS ON ORBIS 1.

Sci-fi fans will tear through this new adventure as Johnny Turnbull --- first human softwire --- finds more danger and intrigue on the next ring of Orbis.

Editorial Reviews

School Library Journal

Gr 5-9- A sequel to The Softwire: Virus on Orbis 1 (Candlewick, 2006). Johnny Turnbull, 14, is a "softwire" who can use his mind to communicate with any computer. He and fellow "knud-niks," who were enslaved to alien Guarantors on the Rings of Orbis to pay off their parents' debts, are sent to Orbis 2 now that their duties on the first ring are complete. Here they encounter harsher conditions, crueler Guarantors, and a web of political intrigue centered around the harvest of valuable crystals. JT is the only one capable of communicating with the Samirans, the gigantic aquatic aliens who have been cooling the crystals for many rotations and are now showing signs of unrest. The story and mysteries are compelling but complicated, and a working knowledge of the first book's events and vocabulary is essential. The characters are recognizable types, but the actions are morally nuanced: in one of the most memorable scenes, cruel Odran puts JT in charge of the other young human workers and forces him to punish Switzer, a bully, with an electric-shock device. Themes of family, political maneuvering, tension between races, and the desire to escape captivity are palpable throughout.-Megan Honig, New York Public Library

Kirkus Reviews
In this disjointed sequel (The Softwire: Virus on Orbis 1, 2006), Johnny and his young shipmates have new indentured positions in the alien community of Orbis feeding a pair of Samirans, massive whale-like creatures who are necessary for the financial well-being of Orbis. The Samirans, like Johnny and his friends, labor unwillingly in Orbis's corrupt economy. Only Johnny-who is more clever, sensitive, resourceful and empathetic than any of his companions-cares about the well-being of the Samirans, with whom only he can communicate. Meanwhile their employer, Odran, has been plotting intrigues with some less-than-honest Citizens of Orbis, and Johnny suspects that the Samirans will be the victims. Johnny will have to work this one alone: Nemesis Switzer would get the whole crew punished if he found out. Johnny's friends and sister serve primarily as set dressing, the prose is clunky and the plot illogical; these flaws notwithstanding, this volume's not a bad way to kill some time between stronger works. (Science fiction. 10-12)
From the Publisher
"PJ Haarsma’s spectacular universe will take you further and faster into the future. even non-sci-fi fans will blast off on this one." — Frank Beddor, author of the Looking Glass Wars trilogy — Frank Beddor

Product Details

Candlewick Press
Publication date:
Softwire Series , #2
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Sales rank:
630L (what's this?)
File size:
986 KB
Age Range:
10 - 14 Years

Read an Excerpt

"Here it comes!" Theodore Malone shouted.

"But we're not ready yet!" I yelled back, scoping the sorting bay for any sign of it. I snatched the hand laser off the floor and hid it inside my vest.

"Give me that," Maxine Bennett protested, and took the tool from me. She pointed it at the scavenger-bot now dissected on the metal floor in front of us. "This is the last one. If that thing gets its paws on this before we fix it, who's gonna clean this place up? Not me," she said. "I plan to do more on this ring than just pick up after Switzer."

I did too. I just hadn't figured what that was yet. I strained my neck to see past the huge cranes rooted on the inner dome at the center of Weegin's World. There was no sign of it.

"Fine, Max. Then you keep working, and I'll find some way to block the lift," I said, standing up and tearing back toward the other kids.

"Better hurry, JT," Theodore said from across the sorting bay floor and to my far right.

"You could help," I told him, but Theodore shook his head. He was safely out of the way, perched atop one of the electricblue sorting belts. The belts were placed every meter or so inside the curved factory. Theodore waved me over to join him on the gaseous device, but I needed to make it to the second-floor lift, located between him and the last belt. Our roommate, Randall Switzer, was dozing on that farthest belt. I could see a portable O-dat clutched in his oversize paw. It was a weak attempt to prove his intelligence, but I knew the lazy malf only wanted to nap.

I heard the lift squawk into action. Theodore stood up on the belt. "It's on the lift! Forget about the bot, JT-just run!"

I froze. From where I stood, I couldn't see the lift, but I could definitely hear what was on it.

"Work! Work! Now work!" it screamed over the machine's metallic hum like a distress beacon.

"It's getting off the lift-now," another kid said.

I turned back toward Max. "Leave it," I shouted at her.

I took my chances and charged toward Theodore. I hadn't even broken stride when my feet were knocked out from under me. Before I hit the floor, a heavy, clawed foot (the worst kind) thumped against the lower part of my vest, knocking the wind out of me. "I see you with tools. Where you get tools?" it screamed at me.

"I'm fixing the scavenger-bot," I shouted back. "You broke them all!" But I knew speaking to him was useless. The bald little beast just tilted his head whenever I spoke, as if amazed I could make sounds with my mouth. It was worse than trying to reason with Switzer.

"My tools!" he said, and pushed down on my chest. When I was first assigned to Weegin, almost one complete rotation ago, my Guarantor always cradled a yellowed larva in his thick, three-fingered hands. He nursed that puffy thing phase after phase, and I never once bothered to ask him what it was. No one did. Weegin answered most questions with a twist of your nose or your ear, or even a painful yank on your hair. If he had wanted me to know what it was, he would have told me. But the mystery was gone now. Two phases ago, right after I fought the Belaran, Madame Lee, inside the central computer, that puffy lump of flesh hatched into the little monster that stood over me as I gasped for air.

"Who gave knudnik my tools?" he demanded, and lifted his disgusting foot off my chest.

Previous confrontations with Weegin's offspring taught me to give up early since he never understood a word I said anyway. I simply curled up on the floor, clutched my stomach, and waited for the oxygen to find its way into my lungs.

Looking satisfied with my condition, the undersize monster set his beady eyes on Switzer. The alien was not exactly a miniature version of Weegin, as you might expect. His hands were far more muscular, and his legs appeared thicker and stronger than they should for a Choi from Krig. The bald protégé stalked the corridors of Weegin's World with his lower jaw thrust absurdly forward, the result of a severe underbite. A row of pointed teeth curled up and over his top lip as he marched around barking orders at everyone. Somehow this pink little maggot thought he was in charge.

He ran straight at Switzer and slammed the operation button next to his head. The sorting belts hissed into motion. "Work. You. Big thing. Work now!" he yelled, and stood guard so no one could get at the controls.

Theodore had jumped to the floor. Switzer, however, remained soundly asleep. Even the clatter of the awakened cranes did not stir him.

"Maybe he's deaf and dumb?" Theodore said.

"Switzer!" Max shouted, but he did not move. Switzer kept right on sleeping as the blue mist holding him up headed for the chute. The chute was a hole in the wall that led to a furnace burning deep beneath Weegin's World. It was a drop Switzer would not survive. Max and another kid tried to get to Switzer, but Weegin's hatchling snapped his large, protruding snout at anyone who moved.

I pulled myself off the ground. "Distract that thing," I told Max, and she chucked a wrench at him. The alien turned on his heels and stomped straight toward her, his lengthy claws clacking on the metal floor.

"Tools are expensive!" he screamed.

I stuck my hand in the greenish-gray radiation gel used to protect our skin when there was junk to sort. I slid over to Switzer and reached my hand under his nose. The ghastly smell-rotten meat mixed with crusty socks and a touch of recycled toilet water-did the job. Switzer wrenched his head away and fell to the floor as Weegin dashed out from his glass bunker. I ran to an O-dat at the other side of the bay and accessed the local computer network with my softwire. I shut the cranes down instantly.

Meet 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. He lives in Los Angeles, California.

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Softwire: Betrayal on Orbis 2 4.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 22 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Real Science Fiction, good characterization, aliens, not war/military, unusual story.  Strongly urge you to try it.  Downside: obviously part of a series. I have read only this book and would have preferred reading earlier book first, I fully enjoyed this on its own.  Also, target audience is probably youth based as protagonists are young. Since this wasn't a teen romance I didn't find this a problem.
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helen vazquez More than 1 year ago
Great book
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Guest More than 1 year ago
JT is a kid with the weight of the world on his shoulders. He lost his parents before he was even born, and then found himself and his friends pretty much sold into slavery. He gets teased by other kids because he¿s different and he suffers from self doubt. There¿s something about JT that makes him special and unique but he doesn¿t want to be that way, he just wants to be normal like everyone else so he sees it as a burden rather than a gift. JT starts to overcome his self doubt and uses his special abilities to make a real difference but not before making a big mistake. I was really looking forward to reading ¿Betrayal on Orbis 2¿ after having read the first book in the¿ Softwire¿ series ¿Virus on Orbis 1¿. I love anything to do with IT and I love science fiction. Science Fiction is a great way of escaping into another world where you don¿t have to worry about what¿s going on in the real one. These books have both and PJ Haarsma writes in such a way that I find once I pick it up, I can¿t put it down. I¿ve recommended Virus on Orbis 1 to a few people and they all seem to love it as much as I do. Now I can¿t wait for part 3!
Guest More than 1 year ago
Thank you PJ for another wonderful book I found myself again cheering for JT and his friends hating their oppressors it was so nice to get reacquainted with my Orbis castaways and to meet Toll, his family and friends. A good book will let you escape life and enjoy a different place and make you feel like laughing, crying, hoping, wishing and wanting more. This book did all that plus made my imagination run wild with what might come next ¿ please hurry PJ write the next part now Impatient Randy
Guest More than 1 year ago
I couldn't wait to get my hands on this second book of the Softwire series. I was so excited to continue reading about the adventures of JT and his friends and little sister. PJ Haarsma did not let me down! I loved the entire book from start to end. As the children are moved to the second ring to begin working their next rotation, their lives continue to be filled with adventure and mysteries to be solved. Orbis 2 is much different than Orbis 1 and has such places as underground tunnels with treasures and danger in them. The children learn how to work through challenging issues such as taking care of a younger sibling in a strange place and handling bullies and the caretakers who are mean to them. What I enjoy most about PJ's writing is his ability to create and describe unique alien beings, some friendly, some scary, and all quite interesting. The alien gadgets he comes up with are just as exciting to me. There are several in this book that are fun to dream about having. I was surprised how much I like the Softwire series as a grandmother and I'm sure I would have loved it just as much as a young adult. It was really hard to put down once I got started!
Guest More than 1 year ago
The Softwire: Betrayal on Orbis 2 by PJ Haarsma continues the exciting adventures of the space orphans first portrayed in The Softwire: Virus on Orbis 1. The action begins in the very first sentence of the book and continues throughout the fast-paced book, but not without quiet moments of reflection interspersed to bring real emotional depth to the story. In the first installment of this 4 book series, the protagonist, JT, and his fellow band of space traveling orphans, find themselves sold into slavery on Orbis 1, one of four alien-constructed rings situated around a wormhole used for trade. JT is discovered to have a very special ability not found in humans, which induces both fear and greed among the aliens living on the Rings of Orbis. It is how this gift is used or abused that propels The Softwire novels forward. In Virus on Orbis 1, JT struggles to deal with the ability he initially resents, but then learns to embrace that which makes him different. In Betrayal on Orbis 2, JT¿s maturation is highly evident as he takes on the burdens his uniqueness brings upon him. He comes to realize that powerful capability brings with it powerful responsibility to all life surrounding him, good or bad. Compassion is this hero¿s true special ability. Despite the narrative taking place on an imaginative world foreign to our own, everything about the emotions and reactions of the characters is identifiable to our own lives here on Earth. Most interesting is the downward spiral of some of the children as their slavery begins to take its toll on them. This is a realistic portrayal of the sadness and desperation that harsh conditions slowly bring about in people, but also the triumph of the human spirit to keep going despite it all. The winners in this story are the ones who move forward and look toward the hope they see for their future. The author never hits the reader in the face with these revelations, nor makes them too heavy for a young person, but they are there for the reader to feel as deeply as they are capable. Although the plot revolves around JT discovering and stopping a betrayal of terrible consequences, there are smaller instances of loyalties betrayed among the children, even by the flawed protagonist. The consequences of these smaller betrayals are profound. The book is also filled with good, old-fashioned action as the various betrayals deepen. One scene in particular caused me to literally jump out of my chair in thrilled disbelief. I felt as though I was in a movie. I look forward to the third installment of this series with great anticipation. Readers of all ages should enjoy this tale of a young boy who lights the way for others with his compassion, intelligence, perseverance and positive spirit.