"Net Bandits" is the first out of eight novels from the series "Internet Detectives" by Michael Coleman. The novel gives us a look into the teen lives of Tamsyn, Josh, and Rob who didn’t even knew each other in the beginning of the novel. They’ve met accidentally online.
The novel was published in 1996 when computers were far from what we know now. It was only the beginning of the internet usage so some terms in the novel might seem a bit outdated.
The author tried to bring his audience closer to a new form of communication that is today normal for us. The writer himself is an expert in computer science and his goal was to teach the youth something about software, computers, and surfing. In order to make his lessons seem interesting instead of boring he wrapped it up in an adventurous, detective novel series. The novel shows us what the internet meant for its first users.
Portsmouth, England, is where the plot is settled and the other characters mentioned live in Toronto, New York, and Perth so the plot jumps from place to place. Most of the plot in England goes on in Abbey school because the three friends are there. The writer tries to show the ways in which the internet brings the people closer and help us maintain friendships no matter the distance in between.
Also, the novel shows us the danger of modern age and how people make money online and use it in all kinds of different ways.
This is a story of a friendship and courage of young people who manage to help an unknown boy and stay friends with him for life.
The plot begins in Rob’s House Manor House while he surfs the net. He was looking for new internet users in his city Portsmouth. He found new users from the Abby School and looks forward to meeting them.
Meanwhile, Tamsyn Smith was running down the halls, reading David Copperfield by Charles Dickens and she was looking for the informatics department of the school. The school she attended bragged about having the most computers per student than any other school. Tamsyn didn’t understand the fascination with computers and why people spent days sitting in front of them.
She continued to the Computer club because she knew Josh, her friend, will be there. She had some questions about the French homework but, because of his game, he didn’t even notice she was there. He only mumbled that he copied the answers from the French department’s CD. She was a bit angry because he played a computer game before her so she pressed a button that turns off the power in the room and she went to her French class.
That day on informatics professor Findlay told the students about the school’s internet connection and how great it is that they can message each other and people who don’t even go to their school or live on the other side of the world. Since t was the beginning of internet usage the professor suggested that two students write a paper about the pros and cons of the internet. Josh volunteered for pros and Tamsyn for cons.
In the next few days, Tamsyn realized it was a huge mistake to volunteer for the assignment because she would rather be reading books. When Josh called her to arrange where and when they will be writing the paper she started to come up with excuses. In the end, they agreed to meet the next day after school. Josh taught Tamsyn some basics about the internet and messaging through email. He made two accounts, one for him and one for her and she was impressed when he sent her a message from another computer but she wasn’t impressed enough because she was still in love with books. He showed her that she can find books online so he copied to her inbox a part of the novel David Copperfield that she was reading at the time.
Soon both of them realized that time ran by fast and that they should be heading home. Josh went but she stayed. Tamsyn received a message from a stranger under the nickname Zmaster. He greeted her in a humorous was and asked her if her school was really as her name states.
Tamsyn was scared at first because she received an email from a stranger but she decided to answer because she thought that Josh will be a bit jealous when he finds out she got an email from someone outside the school. She wrote to him that her name was Tamsyn and not Tammy as she wrote and that her school isn’t a weird nor a dead place. She asked him for his name.
Zmaster was actually Rob and he answered quickly. Through the conversation, he realized that Tamsyn does not know a lot about computers so he started teaching her some phrases that are usually used online. She got furious, turned off the computer and went home.
The next day Rob’s teacher Elaine arrived and during his study break he went to read his emails. One was from tom Peterson from Perth, Australia. They’ve met while Tom was looking for one of his ancestors who used to live in Portsmouth but was banished to Perth. The other email was from Lauren from Toronto, Canada. She lived with her grandmother who, just like her granddaughter, enjoyed spending time on the computer. Also, Mitch had sent him a message. Rob and Mitch met because they share the same last name so they thought they might be related. After his study break was over Rob had to go back to the books.
Josh and Tamsyn were working on their paper again. To Josh’s surprise, Tamsyn was already waiting for him by the computer. She was reading Zmasters message about the usage of the emoticons and their purpose of expressing feelings in emails.
He wrote her that he was kidding in the previous emails, as always. Tamsyn was still upset with him and Josh realized there were some mailing addresses added to the conversation. Rob accidentally added Mitch, Lauren, and Tom to the conversation.
Josh and Tamsyn thought that he was making fools out of him so they’ve decided to get back at him. Josh wrote an email, pretending to be Zmaster, and asked the others to send him the book "David Copperfield", a big file, so he would overload Zmasters email inbox.
The next day the Zanelli were getting ready for an important meeting and Rob’s father gave him the game on the market they would give it to Rob first so he would discover a mistake if there is one. The disk was incredibly valuable because it could make rich anyone who puts his hands on it and it would be a big financial loss for the Zanellis if it was robbed. The game was called "Net Bandits" and Rob couldn’t wait to try it. Elaine gave him another study break so he went online. Tom and Mitch had sent him the book but Lauren didn’t because she realized that the message wasn’t sent from Rob’s address. He realized the joke Josh and Tamsyn tried to play on him.
While Rob was on the computer someone rang and Elaine went to open the door. She told Rob it was just someone begging for money and food but when Rob heard some voices he got suspicious. When he got out of his room to see what was going on his teacher got in his way. he slipped by her and saw Brett Hicks, a former employee at his father’s company, exiting his father’s study. Brett was fired for stealing computer programs from the company and now he was trying to find and steal the disk with the new game. Rob’s teacher Elain was in it the whole time which meant Rob was alone and in danger because his parents weren’t supposed to be home for another 4 or 5 hours.
Elaine locked him in his room. Rob was in a wheelchair after a car accident he had with his parents when he was eight. He was helpless and had to figure out a way to get help. He remembered Tamsyn lived in the same city so he sent her a message. Brett knew that Rob could call for help online so he told Elaine to keep him away from the computer. Rob sent Tamsyn a message in code using emoticons and he hoped she’ll understand it.
Josh and Tamsyn thought that Zmaster was playing with them so they didn’t believe his message. In the end was the message in code: :-(( ¬:-D:-Vi-). Neither of them knew what it meant and Rob still believed he was joking with them but Tamsyn had a bad feeling about it. She emailed Lauren to tell her all about the message.
In the meantime in Manor House Rob was running out of time. Brett was unable to find the disk so wanted to find the family safe. He started threatening Rob until showed where the safe was. Elaine seemed scared as if she was sorry to get involved in this mess. Brett started opening the safe.
Lauren got Tamsyn’s email and tried to figure out the emoticons and her grandmother Alice helped her out. Alice thought that the “V” stood for yelling and that Rob was calling for help and for police. Lauren tried to files that Rob sent once to show her how to send files online. The files contained pictures of his neighborhood. She thought they could be helpful to Tamsyn. She also emailed Tom and Mitch to help out with some information, if they had any.
Tamsyn got a message from Mitch saying Zmaster’s name was Rob Zanelli and that it was all he knew about it. Tom already sent a message stating that Rob lives in Portsmouth. Tamsyn and Josh had more information than ever and started to look for Rob in the phonebook but they didn’t find him. They found two articles related to his family and the car accident they were in. Now they knew he was in a wheelchair and that his parents own the company "Gamezone".
Lauren had found the pictures of Rob’s neighborhood and she mailed them to Tamsyn. Josh and Temsyn decided not to call the police because it would take them to long to explain everything so they headed there themselves.
Brett opened the safe and still couldn’t find the disk. He thought that Rob might have it so he started going through his stuff.
Josh and Tamsyn came to Rob’s neighborhood and started searching for a driveway with an access for disabled. Rob saw two kids getting ready to ring the door. Brett opened and pretended to be mister Zanelli and he let them see Rob so they wouldn’t suspect anything. Rob pretended to know them and said he had called them because his family gave their school a printer. The kids gave each other hand signs and Josh and Tamsyn realized that Rob sent Brett to the basement to get the printer and not to the closet. When he opened the door Rob kicked him to the basement by bumping into him with the wheelchair.
Elaine, to everyone’s surprise, helped them lock the door and then wanted to escape but they didn’t allow it to her. Soon Rob’s parents were home and they called the police.
Rob spent the day sitting on the disk which he had hidden in his wheelchair in order to preserve the “Net Bandit” game from Brett. His parents were very thankful to Josh and Tamsyn for helping their son and they let Rob go to Abbey school instead of being homeschooled. After his enrollment to Abby School, he became best friend with Josh and Tamsyn.
Place: Portsmouth, New York, Toronto, Perth
Time: 20th century, the 90’s
Characters: Tamsyn Smith, Josh, Rob Zanelli, Tom Peterson, Lauren King, Mitch Zanelli, Tamsyn's mother and brother Nick, Rob's parents, Rob's teacher Elaine Kirk, Brett Hicks, Lauren's grandmother Alice
Tamsyn Smith - Abbey school student in Portsmouth. She loves to read books and doesn’t quite understand people who spend their days staring at the computer. She and Josh are best friends since elementary school.
She doesn’t differ a lot from girls her age – she goes to school, likes to watch TV in her free time and hang out with her friends. She volunteers to write the paper about the cons of the Internet with Josh who wrote about the pros. The paper writing helped them to get to know Rob and save him.
She showed herself to be intelligent and brave. She is a fast learner and dedicated to her job. Through her project with Josh, she started to love the internet and changed her opinion about Josh in a positive way.
Josh - also goes to Abbey school. He is a passionate lover of computer games and anything related to the new technology. He and Tamsyn don’t get along in the beginning of the project because she can’t understand his infatuation with computer games but later on they became best friends.
Josh loved to joke around and come up with pranks that didn’t always work out. One of his pranks was for Rob. The three of them were joking at first but later, when Rob was in danger, Josh didn’t believe him when he called for help.
In the end, Josh showed a lot of courage and compassion when he decided to help a complete stranger which became his friend afterward.
Rob Zanelli - 13 years old boy with brown hair who lived with his parents in their mansion Manor House in Portsmouth. His parents owned Gamezone, a company that produced video games.
When Rob was eight he was in a car accident with his parents that left him paralyzed and in a wheelchair. His parents didn’t allow him to go to school because they were scared something will happen to him so he was homeschooled. One of his biggest wishes was to go to a regular school and have friends.
Even though Rob had all the computer equipment he wanted, he had no friends to hang out with. Online he met three friends from different parts of the world.
Despite the accident he was in, he is still filled with life and optimism. He is intelligent, resourceful and a good friend. Unfortunately, he fell into his father’s old employee and his teacher’s trap. They were trying to steal the new game.
Rob had proven himself to be very brave in that situation and his paralysis didn’t stop him in defending his family. In the end, he became friend with Josh and Tamsyn and his parents let him go to Abby school.
Michael Coleman Biography
Michael Coleman was born on May 12th, 1946 in London. He is a British SF writer.
He is a big sports fanatic and as a young man, he was a successful athlete. He started writing about the sport after he stopped doing it and his first book series "Foul football" is dedicated to it.
Except for sports, Coleman enjoyed computers. He thought informatics at the University of Portsmouth and his love for technology was transferred into his books. One of his most famous novel series actually involves technology.
The novel series "Internet Detectives" consists out of 8 novels and their goal is to show the joy of informatics and internet to the young people whose life was already slowly being penetrated by technology.
The author wrote few picture book, novels for teenagers as well as adults. The first novel from the series "internet Detectives" called "Net Bandits" also got a movie adaption.