Thursday, January 17, 2013

What we're reading: Young Adult Sci Fi

I read Human.4, by Mike A. Lancaster, a year ago when it first came out, and was so taken with the premise that I recommended it for 8+9 Book Club this year. The verdict was about a 65/35 split in favor, which is pretty typical of book club!

The book reminds me of Stephen King's Cell, in which the apocalypse begins with the ring of a cell phone. A pulse sent through the cell phone network re-sets human brains back to their basest, instinctual level, effectively turning everyone who was on a cell phone at the time of the pulse into a zombie-like killing machine, making them the predators and everyone who wasn't on the phone at the time their prey. (I don't think Stephen King likes cell phones much...)

In Human.4, there is a similar significant event, but it's hard to figure out at first what has happened, because the results are not as immediately obvious.

Every year in Millgrove, they hold a talent show on the village green, at which they are treated to the likes of Mr. Peterson, the postman, and his ventriloquism act, "a whole bunch of hyperactive kids doing bad impersonations of Britney," and some "truly mind-numbing dance routines." This year, teenager Danny Birney, who has previously treated the town to a rather lame magic show, has been practicing to break out a new act: hypnotism. He asks for volunteers from the audience and gets four: his friend Kyle Straker, Kyle's ex-girlfriend Lilly, Mr. Peterson, and Mrs. O'Donnell, the checker at the Happy Shopper market. He puts them under, and when they wake up a little while later, the entire audience (and Danny) is frozen in place in whatever position they were in when Danny said "you're getting sleepy." An initial theory for what happened to them is that Danny hypnotized everyone (but then why is Danny a statue as well?). And then the four discover that phones, televisions, and computers aren't functioning...

The story is told via cassette tape, and the tapes containing the tale have been discovered far in the future by an antique music enthusiast, who still possesses the analog equipment to listen to them. Kyle Straker is the narrator, and is trying to create a record warning those who come after. The book is an easy read--fairly short and fast-paced--but also intriguing and a little creepy.

The sequel, The Future We Left Behind, which takes place a thousand years later, has just arrived on the Young Adult New Book Shelves, so science fiction fans who are just discovering the first one won't have to wait! Check them out today!

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