Kyle has no intention in participating in Daniel’s act but when no one else responds to his request for volunteers Kyle finds himself stepping forward. Daniel is surprisingly affective as a hypnotist and each of his volunteers are easily led into a light trance. But when Kyle opens his eyes again he is faced with a terrifying sight. Daniel and everyone in the audience are frozen in place with expressions of horror on their faces. Something had happened during the few minutes that Kyle was hypnotized and only he and the three other volunteers are unaffected. In just the space of a few moments the world as he knows it has come to an end, and his life will never be the same again.
Human.4 is narrated through a series of cassette tapes that were discovered at some point in the distant future. The book is prefaced with an editor’s note from the book’s author, Mike Lancaster, explaining about the tapes and their importance in relating a relatively unknown part of history. Occasionally footnotes are included explaining various words or phrases that Kyle uses; words that we, the readers, are familiar with but are archaic and foreign to those listening to the tapes.
I had picked up Human.4 at the library knowing nothing about it and I had really no idea in which direction the story would go. The story begins innocuously enough with the town’s preparations for the upcoming talent show, narrated to us by Kyle, an average teenage boy. We find out a little bit about his parent’s troubled marriage and his best friend Simon and his new girlfriend, who dislikes Kyle. But among the descriptions of his every-day activities Kyle slips in hints and warnings about the dark event that will soon be taking place, giving the story a feeling of menace from the very beginning.
- That’s my family Drives you absolutely crazy But you miss them when you’re no longer there When the bad stuff comes-and it always will- you look back at those moments with longing. The bad stuff was just around the corner. The talent show changed everything. Forever. That’s why I like to think about the way things were, however imperfect they seemed at the time. In extraordinary times, the ordinary takes on a glow of it’s own.
Readers’ curiosity is peaked early on as we are told that something catastrophic is about to happen, but not what. Tension slowly builds as the story progresses towards that event but then once it occurs readers are still left in the dark, along with the book’s protagonists, as to what exactly has occurred. The terror and confusion that Kyle and the other survivors feel is clearly expressed to readers and the surprising explanation, once provided, does little to alleviate it.
I was easily caught up in Kyle’s compelling narration and I read the whole book in less then a day. Lancaster does an excellent job of drawing readers in and keeping their attention as the sinister mystery is unraveled. The ending, when it came, was a bit of a shock for me since the resolution I had been anticipating never took place. Perhaps I should have expected this considering the hints provided in the beginning, but I was left feeling that there was too much left unaddressed. I think I'm just used to most of the stories I read being wrapped up in some way by the end, especially young adult books, and was thrown off balance when it didn't happen that way here. Though days later I’m still thinking about the story, which I suppose is a testimony to how effective it was.
Lancaster has already written a sequel to Human.4, which is scheduled for publication next year, and I'm very curious to see what the subject of that book will be. Will it pick up on the story told in Human.4 or follow the futuristic race that "edited" that story, or something else completely? Whatever the case may be Lancaster has certainly hooked me and I look forward to reading whatever he comes up with next.