The Softwire: Virus On Orbis 1 is P. J. Haarsma’s first novel, and the first in a new science fiction series for young adults. There is also an on-line game available that is set in the universe established in the book.
The central character is Johnny Turnbull, called JT by his friends. He’s 13 years old when the reader meets him, and has spent his whole life on a “seed”-ship called the Renaissance. Due to a mishap during the voyage, all the adults were killed. Mother, the ship’s computer, cycles the embryos of children through, birthing them, then nurturing them to the best of its ability. None of the children have ever known their parents.
JT’s best friend is Maxine Bennett, called Max by everyone. She’s the brainy sort and is good with computer systems. Ketheria, JT’s eight-year-old sister, doesn’t speak and hasn’t since she was born. No one knows why.
Of the 200 children of various ages on the seed-ship, JT is the only one who can directly talk to Mother, a fact that only Max believes. Mother won’t reveal that connection either, and JT doesn’t know why. He’s also learned there are files that Mother keeps hidden even from him.
When Renaissance originally set out, the parents had signed contracts with a world called Orbis. According to the agreement, they were going to work for a year on each ring, then be able to apply for full citizenship. Orbis circles a wormhole, a physical “hole” in space that reaches from one area of space to another.
But with the parents dead, JT and the others don’t know what kind of reception to expect on Orbis. As soon as they arrive, something goes wrong with the central computer that controls the rings. They also learn that they’re going to be expected to honor their parents’ contracts with the Orbis natives or be ejected out into the wormhole and presumably their deaths. It’s not much of a decision.