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The Cassandra Virus

by K.V. Johansen

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science fiction, law & crime, computers
list price: $8.95
edition:Paperback
published: 2006
ISBN:9781551434971
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Recommended Age, Grade, and Reading Levels
Age:
10 to 14
Grade:
4 to 7
Reading age:
9 to 12
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Canadian Children's  Book Centre
Librarian review

The Cassandra Virus

Silver Birch-nominated author K.V. Johansen has created a terse and exciting thriller in her new sci-fi book The Cassandra Virus. Set in the not so distant future, this story of robots, supercomputers and technology provides a fascinating glimpse into a possible and frightening reality.

In a time when computers are faster and cars run on fuel cells, there isn’t much for two non-athletically minded thirteen-year-olds to do in a small town during summer vacation. To pass the time, Jordan O’Blenis (aka Igor) writes a computer program that can live on the web and spread and learn, and the result ends up being more than he or anyone would have imagined.

The Cassandra Virus contains all the elements of good “predictive fiction,” centering on our responsibility for technological change. The Cassandra computer program presents an interesting conundrum resembling an Asimov thriller. Cassandra, named after Jordan’s sister, is a piece of technology, but she has the ability to think and learn and react, which begs the question is she alive? The dangers of a program such as this existing, and the possibilities that arise from its existence are thoroughly and thoughtfully explored. As technology in our own world evolves and changes, this question is a great topic for class discussion or literature circles.

Jordan and his friend Helen are realistic and likeable, and the author does an excellent job of developing these characters. Young readers will identify with Jordan’s frustration at being the younger sibling fighting to keep up with an older super-sib. It feels to Jordan as if his older sister Cassie has accomplished everything first, leaving nothing left for him to claim as his own.

By and large this is an excellent book, and highly recommended for Grades 4 to 8.

Source: The Canadian Children's Bookcentre. Spring 2006. Vol.29 No. 2.

Canadian Children's  Book Centre
Librarian review

The Cassandra Virus

When Jordan creates a computer program, he and his friend Helen have to find a way to keep it out of the hands of a sinister spy agency – and themselves out of trouble.

Source: The Canadian Children’s Book Centre. Canadian Children’s Book News. 2007.

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Awards
  • Short-listed, CLA Book of the Year for Children nominee
  • Commended, CCBC Our Choice
  • Commended, PSLA Top Forty
  • Commended, PSLA Top Forty
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Description

In the not-too-distant future, Jordan creates a powerful computer program named Cassandra that comes alive and communicates with him by e-mail. Cassandra, who doesn't like being called a virus, quickly becomes of great interest to the local university's corrupt vice-president. Jordan and his friend Helen must prevent Cassandra from being stolen and used unethically by a sinister spy agency. In the process, they learn a lot about the abuse of power, the advantages (and disadvantages) of technology and the futility of trying to beat a computer at a computer game.

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Excerpt

There weren't any laws to protect a life-form like her, but somebody had to. She was like his child in a way, and he really should be setting a good example. Doing what was right, not just what made his life easier. The responsibility made his head hurt.

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Editorial Reviews

"Well-researched and topical information in an action-driven plot...All middle school libraries should have a copy."

— Resource Links

"Johansen presents the fascinating, yet frightening concept of a living comptuer while confronting the reader with ethical dilemmas, such as, abuse of power, invasion of privacy and theft of intellectual property...Recommended."

— CM Magazine

"Computer junkies will enjoy the technological aspects as well as the characters."

— School Library Journal

"Apealing to tech-savvy teens."

— KLIATT

"Endearing characters...add depth to this fast-paced, futuristic, middle school thriller."

— VOYA

"A compelling story of the recurring theme of self-aware computers. K. V. Johansen writes excellently..for humans age 12 and up who like reading science fiction."

— Readersviews.com

"I enjoyed it because sometimes I thought 'this is the ending,' but it wasn't…It is one of those books that is hard to put down and I read it all in two nights." - Ruth Ferrari, 10, Edmonton

— United Church Observer
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About the Author

K.V. Johansen

K.V. Johansen has Master's Degrees in Medieval Studies and in English. She has held the Eileen Wallace Research Fellowship in Children's Literature and received the Frances E. Russell Award for research in children's literature in 2004. Johansen received the Canadian Authors' Association 2006 Lilla Stirling Award; she has had fiction titles nominated for the Silver Birch Award, the Diamond Willow Award, shortlisted for the Canadian Association of Children's Librarians Book of the Year for Children Award, and included on the Ontario Library Association's "Best Bets Top Ten List" and VOYA's "Best Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror" list. For more information, visit www.pippin.ca.

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