To look at him, you'd think that Johnny Maxwell is just an ordinary twelve-year-old. But weird stuff keeps happening to him. Of course, you could blame these Trying Times — his parents are in the middle of an acrimonious divorce — but really, the kinds of things we're talking about aren't part of a normal kid's routine. I mean, what would you do if......the aliens in your favorite video game surrendered instead of shooting back? At first, Johnny and his friends think it's part of the programming. But this scenario isn't in the manual. Then Johnny starts having incredibly lifelike dreams — where he's at the controls of a starfighter, and the alien fleet, hanging in space before him, is waiting for him to lead them safely home. As hard as it was trying to save Mankind from the Galactic Hordes, it's even harder trying to save the Galactic Hordes from Mankind. But hey, it's only a game, isn't it?...Or if you started seeing the dead — just as their cemetery was about to be demolished? Not many people can see the dead (not many would want to). But Johnny can, and he's got bad news for them: the town council wants to sell the cemetery and put up an office complex. But the dead have learned a thing or two from Johnny, and they're not going to take it lying down, especially since tomorrow is Halloween......And what if your local bag lady turned out to be a time traveler? Johnny and his friends discover Mrs. Tachyon semi-conscious in an alley. It seems there's more to Mrs. Tachyon than a squeaky wire cart and a bunch of mysterious black bags. Somehow this wizened little woman holds the key to different times and different eras-including the Blitz of 1941. Suddenly now isn't the safe place Johnny thought it was as he finds himself bound up more and more with then...The Johnny Maxwell Trilogy is a series of three books comprising Only You Can Save Mankind, Johnny and the Dead and Johnny and the Bomb, written by Terry Pratchett. It concerns the adventures of Johnny Maxwell and his friends, Wobbler, Bigmac, Yo-less, and Kirsty, as they deal with whatever weird thing the Universe throws at them this week. Only You Can Save Mankind has been adapted for radio, the other two for TV (The Dead for ITV in 1995 and The Bomb for The BBC in 2006). There's also been a stage musical of Only You Can Save Mankind, with accompanying soundtrack CD.
Johnny Maxwell Trilogy contains examples of the following tropes:
Deconstructed: Despite being good at anything she turns her hand to, her arrogance and aloofness kept her friendless until she met Johnny.
Air-Vent Passageway: Johnny and the Captain in Only You Can Save Mankind. Subversion, the Captain complains about it being hard to navigate.
Almost Famous Name: A running joke in Johnny and the Dead in regard to the local cemetery. For instance, Einstein is buried there — not Albert Einstein the physicist, but Solomon Einstein the taxidermist.
Commonality Connection: Kirsty thinks she has this with the alien captain who is female; Johnny, trying to recruit her support, does not mention that she's wrong about sexism being the captain's problem because it's a matriarchial species.
Condensation Clue: Wobbler writes down the license plate number of some thugs' van by huffing on a car window and using his fingertip, then keeps huffing on it so it'll remain visible.
Meaningful Name: Mrs. Tachyon. Tachyons are theoretical particles that appear to move faster than the speed of light; according to general relativity, they're actually moving slower than light, but backwards in time...
The Only One: Inverted. The players of the video game respawn, while the aliens are Killed Off for Real. Also, you're not the only one who can save mankind, and mankind isn't really in that much danger - the aliens are.
Riddle for the Ages: We never find out what United Amalgamated Consolidated Holdings actually does.
Ripped from the Headlines: The plot of Johnny and the Dead comes straight from a contemporary scandal when Westminster Council sold three cemetaries for 5p each.
Schrödinger's Butterfly: At one point in Only You Can Save Mankind, Johnny briefly becomes uncertain whether he's a boy who's having recurring dreams about being a space pilot or a space pilot who's having recurring dreams about being a boy.
Seinfeldian Conversation: While discussing the possibility of Tele-Frag (see below), they use the example of your body being teleported into occupying the same area as a fridge, and then get sidetracked by arguing about whether you can say a fridge is made up of 'fridge atoms' or 'fridge molecules' or not.
Serious Business: The entire series revolves around Johnny taking a serious look at things other people dismiss as unimportant. Also, Kirsty takes everything seriously.
Sesquipedalian Loquaciousness: The Captain trying to talk about Earth food. "Pressed wheat extractions treated with sucrose" indeed. Breakfast cereal.
Shoot 'em Up: Only You Can Save Mankind, the game-within-the-book, is this, which makes negotiation difficult - "they don't make joysticks with a Don't Fire button".
Space Is Noisy: Johnny finds out that space has a background noise, a low frequency hum. But since that part of the book may or may not take place in his dreams, it cannot be taken at face value. Maybe.
Wouldn't this be just the background hum of the gaming system instead?
Time Travel for Fun and Profit: Wobbler opens a fast-food restaurant after being trapped in the past. Also whenever someone gives Mrs Tachyon a coin, she goes to whatever date is printed on it to spend it, getting the maximum value for money, e.g. if a 10p given in the '90s is dated 1961, it can be spent as 2 shillings or 24pence in 1961.