REVIEW: Human.4 by Mike A. Lancaster

23. Human.4 by Mike A. Lancaster
Publication: EgmontUSA (March 8, 2011), ARC, 232pp / ISBN 1606840991
Genre: YA Sci-fi

Rating: Buy it
Read: February 24, 2011

Source: Publisher

Summary from Amazon:

Humanity, like computers, can be upgraded. And old versions disappear. . . .

At some unspecified point in the future, when technology is as advanced as possible and we are a race of super beings, some old audio tapes are discovered. On the tapes is the story of fourteen-year-old Kyle Straker.

Hypnotized, Kyle missed the upgrade of humanity to 1.0. He isn’t compatible with our new technology. And through the recording, he narrates what the upgrades really mean. And it’s absolutely terrifying.


If there’s one thing I love it’s a good YA sci-fi novel. Human.4 reads like it could be an episode of The Twilight Zone, one of the super creepy ones that gives you nightmares for a few days after watching it. There’s also maybe a bit of The Blair Witch Project in it, where the frailties of technology occasionally fail and bits of Kyle’s story is lost forever. It’s sort of like a futuristic archaeological project, where only a few important things show up and the rest is left unanswered and unknown.

Unfortunately this is one of those times where I can’t say a lot about the book without massively spoiling everyone, but let me just say that reading the book and letting the horror unspool for yourself would be a really, really good idea.

It’s a short book, but it packs so much into the space it has that it felt longer– which I like. The world-building is done subtly through “editor’s notes” which intersperse Kyle’s transcripts, and it’s SO subtle that sometimes I’d read something and then have to double-check that what I just read was what I thought I’d read.

The editor is an upgraded human, and though Kyle’s experiences with upgraded humans is pretty scary, the things the editor says is even scarier because he relates them so matter-of-factly. The editor’s notes are also sometimes funny– normally when he’s trying to explain something from Kyle’s culture that doesn’t exist in the upgraded world. Coldplay, for instance, or…lips.

One thing I’m wondering about is that, in my copy, the editor says he deliberately chose to release Kyle’s story in paper because it meant the un-upgraded humans could read it and know that they hadn’t been entirely forgotten after all. I wonder– does it say that in the ebook version? It doesn’t even really make sense to have an ebook version, since it entirely negates that aspect of the story. While I support ebooks and love to see publishers putting more out, I do think that sometimes a book’s story can get ruined by being put into electronic format. Kyle and the un-upgraded humans can’t be around (modern) technology, which means they couldn’t read the ebook, which means the upgraded humans’ compassion is voided. It makes the story way less effective, don’t you think?

At any rate, I really enjoyed Human.4. The characters seemed real, the “monsters” seemed real, and it’s just a thoroughly likeable novel. If you like your sci-fi mixed with horror, you should definitely get Human.4!


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Other reviews: The Book Sp(l)ot | Cornucopia of Reviews | Lauren’s Crammed Bookshel

TSS (Mar. 20): BEA Prep & IMM (19)

The Sunday Salon (March 20)

The Sunday It is now about two months until Book Expo America happens! I’m still going, of course, and I’ve started planning and prepping for the trip. I like planning trips– it’s one of my favorite things to do– and since this is my first big trip on my own, I want to do a really good job of planning and preparing so I don’t bring shame down upon my super-organized family.

So far I’ve picked a hostel and reserved a room, I’ve bought my plane ticket, and I’ve made a travel journal for the trip! Next I’m going to put together a binder of Important Information: locations of street carts, which of the tourist places are free, and how to get from my airport to my hostel. I’m tempted to pick out a book for the journey (I’m not bringing my Kindle because, er, I won’t need it. It’s a BOOK convention, duh) and start packing my suitcase, but even I know it’s too early for that.

Are you going to be at BEA? Have you started planning yet?

In other news, I have made some fancy headers for the blog! They rotate whenever you go to a different page (or just refresh the page you’re on), which is pretty nifty.

Books read this week:
26. Bloodshot – Cherie Priest five-starsfive-starsfive-starsfive-starsfive-stars

Books reviewed this week:
22. The Great Perhaps – Joe Meno five-starsfive-starsfive-starsfive-starsfive-stars e

Currently reading:
Still on Madre! Read my Thursday Tea post for more of my thoughts on it. And then…

Thursday Tea (Mar. 17): Madre

The book: I’m about 25% in Madre by Liza Bakewell now. I actually meant to read this about two-three weeks ago, because the author was doing a discussion/signing here and I wanted to go! But then I, er, forgot. Almost completely forgot, in fact; I only remembered about the event two hours after it had already happened. Whoops.

Nevertheless, I’m enjoying Madre now that I’m actually making an effort to read it. I got a little bit of modern Mexican culture in Stephanie Elizondo Griest’s book Mexican Enough, but that one was more about an American in Mexico both trying to find her heritage and understand how the whole of Mexican culture worked (and how that culture fit into her own worldview). Madre is also about an American in Mexico, but it’s more about trying to understand a specific aspect of Mexican culture rather than the whole thing all at once. Also, Bakewell isn’t worried about being “Mexican enough” or even about whether or not she fits into the local scene. Instead, she’s worried about understanding the concept of madre in the context of Mexican culture, which is a lot harder than it might seem at first.

It’s interesting to compare the two books because while they’re both memoirs I think SEG was more personally invested into her time in Mexico, and she focused more on how Mexican culture affected her and how she fit (or didn’t fit) into it. That’s probably because she was both doing some soul-searching and also because she’s a journalist, so she felt sort of…compelled? to try and understand everything.

Bakewell is an anthropologist rather than a journalist, so I think maybe it was easier for her to think about Mexican culture as pieces of a whole– and to dissect those pieces without worrying overmuch about how she, personally, fit into the whole picture. Rather than using her personal history to connect to Mexico/Mexican culture, she’d finding a way in via looking closely at a a specific aspect and then working out how that aspect fits into the whole. It’s a good way to do it, I think, as Mexican culture is pretty confusing to anyone who didn’t grow up in it.

The tea: No tea today, unfortunately. I’ve run out of Earl Grey and I can’t STAND drinking something else at the moment. I’ve got a cup of coffee, though!

Do they go together? I do think they go together, yes. Not only because I think I read about someone drinking coffee in Madre, but also because Madre feels like a very energetic book to me, and coffee always perks me up.

REVIEW: The Great Perhaps by Joe Meno

REVIEW: The Great Perhaps by Joe MenoThe Great Perhaps by Joe Meno
Published by W. W. Norton & Company (2009), eBook, 416pg
Filed under: Adult, Fantasy, Fiction, Magical Realism
Got my copy from: Bought
Buy your own copy at Amazon or BookDepository (affiliate links | info) or add it to your Goodreads shelf


The sky is falling for the Caspers, a family of cowards. When the parents decide to separate, this family is forced to appreciate the cloudiness of this modern age. (from Amazon)

Okay, true fact: I bought this book solely because of the cover. Well, and the summary– but mostly the cover. I love that cover. That cover is amazing, and it’s such a shame the inside doesn’t match it.

I don’t mind literary fiction. In fact, most of the time I even enjoy it! But what I don’t enjoy is when all literary fiction starts to sound the same. You know what I mean: the lit fic cliches. Cheating spouses. Disaffected modern (Western white) man. Descriptions of sex and/or masturbation that make me want to hurl. These things have become boring to me, and their presence in The Great Perhaps hurt my enjoyment of it big time.

However, The Great Perhaps isn’t a total loss. I really liked how the kids were fully fleshed-out people, and that they did, in fact, act like teenagers instead of miniature adults. I liked that the book had a happy ending. I liked that the beginning of the book reminded me of a Wes Anderson movie, and that if Wes Anderson ever decided to adapt this book to screen it would make for an interesting near-art house film.

The best part of the book was, for me, being able to follow these people around as they went through their lives messing it up and then repairing it at the end. Normally with lit fic books I think the ending leaves you with a bittersweet aftertaste, but with The Great Perhaps all I felt was satisfied.

It’s not my favorite book, and I wish that literary fiction would get some new ideas injected into it once in a while. But it’s not a terrible read. And after the story moved on from Jonathan’s penis and what he was doing with it, I enjoyed following the Caspers through their story.

Read: February 16-18, 2011

TSS (Mar. 13): While I was on break & IMM (18)

The Sunday Salon (Mar. 13)

The Sunday So I’m back! I think. Yesterday I was somewhat enthusiastic about posting again, but today I’m more ambivalent. Possibly that’s because of my allergies, which have become rather horrific over the past few days. Anyway, after thinking about it, I’ve decided to change some things around here.

Basically I’m going to:

  • post only two reviews a week (instead of three).
  • cut out the bi-weekly Free (& Cheap) Reads meme. Since I really only post about books I bought or downloaded anyway, this’ll be covered by my weekly In My Mailbox post.
  • Thursday Tea, Birdwatching, Out Soon and Classroom Takeover posts will still be posted on their original schedules.
  • I’m also not going to accept books for review from now until…some other time.

Hopefully by cutting down on posting a bit I’ll be able to keep from getting stressed out again for a while, and I’ll have more time to do other things!

Meanwhile, here’s what I did while on my blogging break:

  • I didn’t read a single books (although I did read bout 200 pages).
  • I watched a lot of TV shows (including all of Royal Pains, That Mitchell and Webb Look, the newest Doctor Who season, some Seventh Doctor Who episodes, and Misfits).
  • I made one and a half collages– I finally got some gesso! So that’s exciting. Also got some watercolor stuff and too many scrapbook pages.
  • Saw two musicals: The Music Man and Legally Blonde. They were fun! Well, Legally Blonde was fun. The Music Man suffered from some dismal singing and a half-broken sound system.
  • Applied for my passport!
  • Went to Build-a-Bear and built a bear.
  • Entered 52 contests/giveaways (no wins yet).
  • Played an entire video game on my Nintendo DS and got a decent amount into the newest Pokemon game.
  • Cleaned out my bedside table.

Currently reading:
I’m about halfway through Bloodshot, Cherie Priest’s newest book. It’s got vampires and werewolves and a government conspiracy! I’m also about 11% into Madre by Liza Bakewell, which is so far pretty interesting. And then…

Tiny break!

Okay! So this has been building up for a while. Yes! I’m going to take a tiny break, maybe for about a week or so. I’m not going to post anything and I won’t be on Twitter, but I WILL be checking my email still so if you need me for something try contacting me through there. Hopefully by the time I get back I’ll be recharged and ready to blog again! :D

Meanwhile, don’t forget to check out this month’s Classroom Takeover post, hosted by Tasha of Truth, Beauty, Freedom, and Books. It’s awesome and needs more love!

Thursday Tea (Mar. 3): Big in China

Thursday Tea is a weekly(-ish) meme hosted by yours truly. To play along, all you need is a cup of tea, the book you’re currently reading, and the answers to the following questions: what tea are you drinking (and do you like it)? What book are you reading (and do you like it)? Tell us a little about your tea and your book, and whether or not you think the two go together.

The book: I’m about 100 pages in Big in China, a memoir about this dude who moved to China and eventually became a pseudo-rock star. Or something. It’s actually kind of disappointingly boring– mostly because everything I actually want to read about, like the difficulties of adjusting to life in a foreign country, or even stuff about the people who LIVE in that foreign country and who aren’t ex-pats, that stuff is glossed over so the author can have more space to whine about being a stay-at-home dad or about having actual staff members to help run the household.

It’s not a BAD book (if it was horrible I would have dumped it before now), but I’m hoping he’ll finally start doing some actual music stuff soon because I need some excitement.

The tea: Trusty old Earl Grey. It’s my last bag, though, which is terrifying.

Do they go together? Well, really I should be drinking green tea, but I actually can’t stand most green tea. Sooo. Yeah.

What’s your Thursday Tea?

If you’d like to participate, please feel free to use the image in your own post! Here’s a code for it; just copy-paste it into your own Thursday Tea post.

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And you can link to your post in this Mr Linky, if you want!