Book Reviews, Books, Reviews

Human.4, A Bio-Technology Thriller that Underwhelmed

I don’t know about you, but I’ve always wondered what it would be like to be hypnotized. The thought of being up in front of a crowd of people and having no control sounds like an interesting experience. But imagine waking up, and everything you have ever known is different. People are acting differently, everyone’s falsely happy, enemies are now friends, and the only people who notice the difference are those who were hypnotized with you. This idea is the gateway into the chilling novel Human.4 by Mike A. Lancaster, which was released on March 8th, 2011.

Kyle Straker agrees to be hypnotized at the town talent show by his friend. But when he awakes, it is like reality is actually a nightmare. Every single person is frozen mid-movement, and as he and the three others who were hypnotized with him run around town trying to see if it really is everyone, things only get worse. Because, when everyone does happen to wake up shortly thereafter, they act like nothing has happened. Kyle knows better. He sets off around the town with the other three like him to try and discover why they suddenly are the only people who remember what life (and relationships) was like before this strange occurrence.

Adding to that weirdness is the fact that technology, like television and computers, aren’t working any more. They just stopped and are fuzzy images of snow, or worse, nothing at all. The only thing that can be seen on the computer screen is a strange alien language that Kyle and the others don’t understand. There are a lot of loose ends and strange clues, leading Kyle on a chase to discover the truth.

In some ways this was definitely an interesting book to read. The entire book is a written transcript of cassette tapes recorded by the protagonist. I liked the fact that the story was told as a recording of his account of what transpired the day of the talent show. I also enjoyed the tension as the author prolonged revealing the truth to the reader. It really does take a while for the truth to come out, and until that moment there are a lot of rabbit-trail clues planted that lead to wild speculations of what exactly is going on.

I don’t want to give too much away, but the premise of the book was an interesting one, and one I enjoyed. The idea that biology and technology are essentially the same was fascinating, and really well-written. There were also a lot of thoroughly creepy scenes, due to the ignorance of the protagonist, and therefore the reader, which definitely were a highlight of the story.

However, having said all that, I still felt a little underwhelmed at the end. I didn’t like the shortness of this book. I’m not sure if it is a stand-alone (from the feel of it, I believe that it is), and if that is the case, I want more. I wanted to know what happened to them after the tape. But I know that, based on the structure of the novel and the way that information is communicated, this isn’t possible. I get that. But even knowing this, the book still left me wanting to see what really happened.  Granted, maybe I’m so used to reading complicated, long-winded novels that something only a little over 200 pages feels strange and too short. Maybe this was deliberate on the author’s part, to keep the reader wondering. But I personally don’t like that. You’ve written well-enough that I have connected to the characters; I want to know what happens to them.

Do I regret reading this book? No, not at all. There were definitely some interesting points presented that got me thinking. But I don’t know that I’ll be re-reading this book any time soon.  I’d definitely think about this one before picking it up, if you are on the fence about it.



Book News, Books, News

New Releases, Week of March 7th, 2011

Here’s a list of all of the sci-fi and fantasy coming out this week.

Released Monday, March 7th, 2011

Dante Valentine: The Complete Series, by Lilith Saintcrow

Necromancer. Bounty hunter. Killer.

Dante Valentine has been all three in her life. But in the beginning, she was a Necromancer for hire. And while she was choosy about her jobs, there were just some she couldn’t turn down. Like when the Devil showed up at the door and offered her a deal. Her life – in exchange for the capture and elimination of a renegade demon. But how do you kill something that can’t die?

Dante Valentine, one of urban fantasy’s hottest series, is compiled into one volume for the first time. Included in this omnibus edition are:Working for the Devil, Dead Man Rising, The Devil’s Right Hand, Saint City Sinners, and To Hell and Back.

Released Tuesday, March 8th, 2011

Afterwar, by Gloria Skurzynski

There’s only one thing more deadly than disease, more destructive than the forces of nature: jealousy. It’s been years since the world was nearly destroyed by natural disasters, but even the biggest earthquake couldn’t shake the evils of mankind. Of course, Corgan and Brigand are not normal human beings. Brigand is the product of a cloning experiment gone wrong and Corgan was conceived and raised in a sterile environment, conditioned to be a hero for the Federation’s virtual wars. They aren’t typical humans, but they are still flesh and blood. And their virtual competition spills over into the real world when the beautiful, rebellious Sharla comes between them. Corgan’s adventure, which began with Devastation, continues as Brigand launches an attack to eliminate his rival. Corgan is about to see that even battles fought with mind controlled avatars can have very high personal stakes.

Afterlife: An Evernight Novel, by Claudia Gray

Destiny awaits Bianca and Lucas . . .

Bianca and Lucas have always believed they could endure anything to be together. When a twist of fate not only transforms Bianca into a wraith but also turns Lucas into a vampire—the very creature he spent his life hunting—they are left reeling.

Haunted by his powerful need to kill, Lucas can turn to only one place for help . . . Evernight Academy. Bianca is determined to remain with him. But with the vampire leader of Evernight waging a war against wraiths, her former home has become the most dangerous place she could be, despite the new powers her ghostly transformation has given her.

A battle between wraiths and vampires looms, and Bianca and Lucas face a terrifying new reality. They’ve overcome every obstacle life has thrown at them, but is their love strong enough to survive the challenges after life?

The Hunt of the Unicorn, by C. C. Humphreys

Elayne thinks the old family story that one of her ancestors stepped through a tapestry into a world of mythical beasts makes a great fireside tale. But she lives in the real world. In New York City. And she’s outgrown that kind of fantasy.

Until she finds herself in front of a unicorn tapestry at the Cloisters museum and sees her initials woven into the fabric. And hears a unicorn calling to her. And slips and falls—into that other world.

Suddenly the line between fantasy and reality isn’t so clear. But the danger is real enough. Almost before she can think, Elayne is attacked by a ferocious beast, rescued by a unicorn, and taken prisoner by a tyrant king. Each of them seems to have an idea about her—that she’s a hero, a villain, dinner!

But Elayne has a few ideas of her own. She wants to overthrow the king; she wants to tame the unicorn. She wants to go home! And she’s willing to become both hero and villain to do it.

Human.4, by Mike A. Lancaster

Kyle Straker volunteered to be hypnotized at the annual community talent show, expecting the same old lame amateur acts. But when he wakes up, his world will never be the same. Televisions and computers no longer work, but a strange language streams across their screens. Everyone’s behaving oddly. It’s as if Kyle doesn’t exit.

Is this nightmare a result of the hypnosis? Will Kyle wake up with a snap of fingers to roars of laughter? Or is this something much more sinister?

Narrated on a set of found cassette tapes at an unspecified point in the future, Human.4 is an absolutely chilling look at technology gone too far.

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