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Generally, it’s not difficult to get your kids excited about computers, since you’ll probably spend more effort restricting the amount of time they spend playing video games than encouraging them to do so. However, getting them interested in understanding how things work is another matter. One great way to do this is to give them a heroic role model whose superpower is to get get inside the machines and bend them to his will.
The Softwire: Virus on Orbis 1, by Haarsma, is the first book in a series about JT, a human orphan who has been enslaved by an alien race. JT isn’t just your run-of-the-mill sad case, though. He’s a softwire, someone who is able to communicate with computers with his mind. His rare ability puts him in the center of endless intrigue, and he has to use this innate hacking ability to survive. Once your kids have gotten into this series, they’ll be begging to learn the ways of the machine.
For an expanded experience, The Softwire has a companion browser-based game at http://www.ringsoforbis.com. The game is set in the same universe as the books, but takes a different angle, as the player represents a business person who employs servants to perform various tasks for profit. You also get your own softwire, who you can put to work or send on missions. While playing the role of the taskmaster may seem morally questionable to some players, the interaction between the books and the game are interesting and help flesh out The Softwire’s rich setting.