YA Science Fiction
Available March 2011
Review copy provided by EgmontUSA
BLURB: The Millgrove talent show has the same performances as any other small town — a cheesy ventriloquist, off-key karaoke singers, and bad dance routines. But after Kyle Straker is hypnotized as part of his friend’s mysterious new act, Millgrove will never be the same again. When Kyle and the other volunteers awaken, the entire audience, the entire town, and possibly the entire world, is frozen still. Telephones, radios, televisions, and computers no longer work— only a strange language flashes across the screens. When everybody suddenly wakes up, it becomes clear that they have changed—and that Kyle is now an outsider, one of the 0.4. Is Kyle still under hypnosis, or is this chilling new world real? Will he awaken from a dream to roars of laughter, or is there something much more sinister happening? One of the last of his kind, Kyle records his story on a series of cassette tapes, describing the shift, and what it means for the future of mankind.
MY THOUGHTS: Wow. This book kind of freaked me out. It was one of those where, after I finished it, I needed to sit and absorb what happened in the story. And then read something light and cheerful to rid myself of the lingering creepy feeling.
Oh, it starts out unassuming enough. Kyle’s a regular guy with some regular friends in an average little town whose major form of entertainment is a talent show on the village green. Then he gets hypnotized, wakes up and everything’s different. Everyone’s different. Except for him and the three people who were on stage with him. Very pod people, in its own, unusual way.
The first (and only) time I saw the movie Invasion of the Body Snatchers (the 1978 version with Donald Southerland), I couldn’t get it out of my head, I was so creeped out. HUMAN.4 affected me in the same way. What would I do if the whole world changed? Would I want to be one of the masses or would I fight to remain the person I am? When Kyle and the survivors are given that same choice, I wondered what I would do if I were in their position.
Back to Kyle. I liked how he was an average guy put in a very atypical position. He handles it admirably (after a couple freak outs), especially considering his entire world has gone wonky and is completely unfixable. His interactions with the other three “survivors” is realistic and well written, as they struggle to figure out what happened and how they’re going to deal with it. Poor Kyle—think of how you would feel if you saw your dorky little brother suddenly sprout filaments out of his hands or your friend light up a room using his own bioluminescence.
The whole book is written as if it were transcribed from tapes Kyle made describing the days right after people changed. The scientists, who have no first-hand knowledge of the world before the “incident”, do their best to analyze Kyle’s words through editorial notes. There are also notes containing definitions of words no longer in use. One of my favorite examples is when they try to explain Kyle’s reference to Teletubbies, which one scholar is sure is a collection of gods or goddesses almost exclusively worshipped by children.
Unputdownable, HUMAN.4 will haunt you long after you finish it.
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