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
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!