Book Review: ‘The Softwire: Virus on Orbis 1’ by PJ Haarsma

by on August 28, 2011

in book reviews, Entertainment

This is another book review from, for a novel from PJ Haarsma, titled “The Softwire: Virus on Orbis 1.” Read on to find out how I ended up selecting this book, thanks to Nathan Fillion, to read and why I liked it so much.

'The Softwire Virus on Orbis 1' - Theylor, a Keeper

It’s funny how I encountered and ended up reading “The Softwire: Virus on Orbis 1” and being motivated to do this book review. Going on blind faith on a recommendation, I found the book a surprisingly fun read. It was recommended by Nathan Fillion (Firefly and Castle) as just that, a great story written by a close friend of his. So I went out and grabbed the book, put it in my Kindle and away I went. Dang, I wish I had started it sooner!


The official teaser synopsis reads as follows:

When the children on the seed ship, Renaissance, are orphaned in outer space, thirteen-year-old JT and his sister Ketheria are forced to work as knudniks on the Rings of Orbis. Instead of beginning the new and better life he had hoped for, JT and his sister spend their days sifting through trash for their new Guarantor.

But JT soon discovers that he is the first human Softwire – he has a special gift that allows him to enter any computer with his mind. And when the central computer on Orbis mysteriously malfunctions, the Citizens point their fingers at the newcomers, especially the Softwire.


For me, the story is about a boys journey to another planet. Earth is now entirely covered in clouds and a seed ship with humans is headed from Earth to Orbis. A tragic accident takes place on the ship that kills all the adults in suspended animation and the AI on board decides to birth the stored embryos on board. The children, under the guidance of the computer, are raised during this journey and we the reader, come on board the story just prior to their ship docking with the Orbis space station. It’s here that we first meet JT (Johnny Turnbull), as he and all the children on the ship are all wondering what life will be like at their new home. But they have no idea what’s in store for them or why they’re really going to Orbis.

Orbis is located at the opening of a wormhole and is the destination for many different alien species. Like any desirous location, the political underpinnings of the place become more insidious than one might first expect. And then it gets complicated and uncomfortable as suddenly it’s discovered that Johnny is a ‘softwire’ and that makes the denizens of Orbis nervous, and it also makes him an unwitting commodity.


'The Softwire: Virus on Orbis' - the Aliens

When you read this book, it pulls you along with simple to understand details and delivers more complex scenarios as the well-paced story develops. Before you know it, you find yourself embroiled in a somewhat complicated set of themes, but you get it because of how the details were presented. For the record, I tend to dislike complicated political themes but this one was enjoyable because of how the concepts are introduced first in small doses and then expounded upon.

Throughout, from page one, we follow Johnny and his aspirations for his new life, his experiences and the resultant confusions as he tries to settle in to his new life on Orbis. We become acquainted with everyone and everything through this 13-year-old’s eyes. And don’t be fooled. Haarsma makes this 13-year-old a very very mature 13-year-old who is easy to relate to. And thus, we become embroiled in the journey as Johnny and his peers are forced to mature quickly while they settle into their new lives. A process that is engaging to follow.

Haarsma writes such a great story that it appealed to me by about half-way into the first chapter and I was sucked in thoroughly by chapter two. I found myself starting to not want this tale to not end by the last page of this book. Much to my pleasant surprise, I found out this is one of a 4-book series called “The Softwire,” about this young Softwire from PH Haarsma. And that made me happy.


'The Softwire: Virus on Orbis 1'

As I was looking up the author to make sure I had the correct spelling of his name, I came across an incredibly well-done website that supports the book series and discovered that a video game accompanies it. The online RPG game that is a visual companion to the game and is designed to help/encourage reluctant readers.

The book series already has some serious fans in the form of young school-aged readers, which is amazing, considering that the author did not set out to write for any particular age group, but rather, approaches his writing in a way to make it easy to digest. In fact that particular style is what made this book such a hit for me. It was easy to digest and yet engaging enough with developing details to keep me interested.

In a short conversation I had with the author, PJ Haarsma, he had this to say about his approach to writing stories for the genre in this exclusive quote for

I didn’t set out to write it for any particular age group.I did, however, have an agenda when writing my book. A lot of people dismiss the genre and I can see why. There are some sci-fi books that I pick up, and after reading three pages, I feel stupid. And I have a degree in science! I wanted a book that people could get into for the story. Keep the science sound, but push it to the back and write a book I would have read as a kid.

Thoughts and Recommendation

Admittedly, I came into this book completely blind about the plot and read it with nothing but some hopeful faith on Nathan Fillion’s tweeted word-of-mouth. (Nathan Fillion on Twitter) Glad I did. When I started reading it, I just let the words take me on a journey, much like our lives, wondering what’s around the next corner, with some hopes for the characters, but my eyes wide-open, waiting for the next development in the next page.


If you’re looking for a fun sci fi book that pulls together slivers of humanity, genius alien tech and a multitude of alien cultures, and asks the proverbial question, “Why are we here?”, (in this case, on Orbis), I’d say give the first book a try and see for yourself why I had such a fun time reading it and such a sad time seeing the last page hurtle at me.

That’s “The Softwire: Virus on Orbis 1” by PJ Haarsma. If you’re a sci-fi fan and love books, I definitely recommend it. Then come back here to and let me know what you thought of it also!

I can’t wait to catch the next book in the series, “The Softwire: Betrayal on Orbis 2.”

Book Review Footnotes

PJ Haarsma is associated (well, co-founder, if you must know) with the program ‘Kids Need To Read.’ (KNTR) and I thought you might enjoy this funny intro into the project that includes Nathan Fillion and PJ Haarsma. (PJ, you are too evil. In a funny, my kind of way!) You’ll see what I mean dear readers:


Snapshots from the rpg game, Rings of Orbis:

Rings of Orbis rpg game

And there’s nothing like having a few cool testimonials to back up your game… if you want to count Nathan Fillion, Alan Tudyk and Jerry Doyle amongst your supportive proponents!

Rings of Orbis rpg game fans - Nathan Fillion, Alan Tudyk, Jerry Doyle

Other great resource to visit for PJ Haarsma’s world: (book) Rings of Orbis (rpg game)

author’s website:

> The Softwire on Amazon.

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