My reviewrating: 3 of 5 stars
One of the ways I judge series books is by how difficult it is to jump into the action in a later book; never having read the previous two Softwire books, I found this one to be relatively easy to grasp.
A "softwire" is someone that can self-link into a computer, rather that use the neural port that apparently we've been given (no idea how far in the future this book is set, but Orbis is not Earth, it's some other planet in the Universe). JT is a softwire, and at the start of the book he (and his friends, who appear to be slaves) are on a transport ship to Orbis 3, having had adventures on Orbis 2 and possibly 1. The ship is invaded by worm hole pirates (pirates who use a worm hole to hide before attacking), and they become a theme in the book - who are they? what do they want (besides the obvious)? how do they function?
JT and his friends are given to a newly-minted Citizen, Charlie, who will act as their Guarantor (which is roughly equivalent to a slave owner). They knew Charlie earlier and don't understand how he suddenly became a Citizen, much less a wealthy one who only wants them to go to school and learn rather than forcing them to work. At school, they are teased by other Citizen children and accused of cheating when they do well on the placement tests. Riis, an alien girl, semi-befriends JT, which has repercussions later.
Outside the questions about Charlie and the pirates, there's also a game, played in a holographic labyrinth, that is supposed to be unique to Orbis 3 but was taught to JT and the others by "Mother" on their first ship out of Earth (I think). This game, something like Survivor mixed with Caged Death Match, forms the real backbone of the book.
I think the series will be more interesting to MS-aged boys than older boys or girls; the world Haarsma has created is just foreign enough to feel different but not so confusing that it overwhelms what is ultimately an adventure series.
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