Review: Human.4 by Mike A. Lancaster

Published by EgmontUSA
Released March 8, 2011
240 pages
Where I got it: Public library
Rating: 3 stars

When Kyle volunteers to be hypnotized by his friend at the town talent show, he has no idea that it will change his life forever.  The hypnotism works on him and the three others on stage, but when they come to afterward, the entire town is frozen in place.  Electronics no longer work, and a strange language appears on a neighbor’s computer.  When the townspeople awaken from their trance, they’re different–completely changed.  They seem to lack emotions, and make no effort at idle chatter.  Kyle and the three others need to find out what happened, and why they are the only ones left who seem to retain their humanity.  Was it aliens, or something even more sinister?

Human.4 has a very cool premise at the heart of it.  What if everybody around you completely changed, and you were one of the few who were left behind, made obsolete by mysterious conditions?  It would have been a great plot for a Twilight Zone episode, or a Stephen King story.

The story itself takes a bit to get started.  It’s presented as the playback, and interpretation by outside forces, of a series of cassette tapes that Kyle left behind as a record of his experiences.  Kyle acts like a young teenage boy–focused on things like girls, his pals, his parents’ strained relationship.  He also comes across as very immature at times, which I found a bit annoying, but really lent authenticity to his character.  The set-up had me wondering when things would get good; however, this book is quite short so it didn’t take too long.

I was expecting this book to be written at a higher reading level than it is.  I would put it as a strong middle grade/early high school read.  The concepts presented at the end, however, have the potential to generate a lot of real thought and discussion.  How did humans become so intelligent, and is there something greater than us that is manipulating our minds like the computers they are?  When followed along to its logical conclusion, Human.4‘s message is a scary one.

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