on 3 January 2011
Reminiscent of such genre classics as John Christopher's Empty World and John Wyndham's The Midwich Cuckoos, Brit author Mike Lancaster's debut novel 0.4 is the kind of book you pick up with a feeling of mild intrigue and eventually put down hours later having completely forgotten to eat, sleep or possibly even blink for the entire duration.
0.4 comes to us from a future where humankind no longer reads. An editor's note tells us that what follows is the transcript of a series of cassette tapes recorded by a boy named Kyle Straker during the early part of the 21st century. There's a reason these tapes have been reproduced in book form, and that reason - the editor hopes - will become clear as we read. Kyle Straker had a story to tell, and it began on the day his entire community gathered for their village's annual talent show. One minute Kyle is volunteering to take part in a friend's amateur hypnotist act, and the next he's waking to find that things are... not as they were. Not at all. Along with three other volunteers, he emerges from hypnosis to find all the other villagers frozen as still as statues and all phone lines dead. The world is still - except for the four who were hypnotised. And they have no idea what has happened.
At once eerie and rivteing, 0.4 is the story of this mysterious and inexplicable event as seen through the eyes of teenager Kyle. As far beyond our comprehension as it is Kyle's, it's a situation that leaves reader and protagonist alike struggling to come up with a theory to explain what has happened and why. Seasoned fans of the genre will no doubt be able to come up with a hypothesis or two, but the beauty of 0.4 is that it offers a genuinely 'now' take on some familiar sci-fi territory. There's no way I'm going to risk spoiling this one's secrets, but what I will say is that when it comes, the big reveal is well worth waiting for.
Fast-paced and engrossing, 0.4 combines a heavily plot-driven story with substantial food for thought. While Kyle perhaps isn't the most memorable protagonist you'll encounter, he's exactly the kind of everyboy that this novel calls for. He's easy to identify with, and his instinctive urge to puzzle his way out of his plight will resonate with readers gripped by the unfolding mystery. The occasional footnote brings a lighter note to Kyle's narrative as the editor attempts to illuminate the intended audience's interpretation of the tapes - and, in doing so, gradually reveals to us just how much the world has changed since our time. And as a whole, this novel has a haunting power that might just leave you with an uncanny sense that your world might not be quite as it seems, either.
0.4 is pure sci-fi genius, created around a mindblowing central concept. It's fascinating and thought-provoking and, like all of the best sci-fi, curiously convincing. In fact, I can most definitely see future generations of readers citing 0.4 as the book that got them hooked on the genre. With a sequel already planned for 2012, Mike Lancaster's version of humankind's future is one I can hardly wait to revisit. Brilliant.
on 11 February 2011
This story is set out in a very unusual way. It starts out with an Editor's note explaining about some audio cassettes that have been found and passed on to the authorities. The tapes are then transcribed by the authorities and written down as told on tape by Kyle, the main character. There are no `chapters' in the book as such, just Tape One, side 1, Tape One, side 2 etc. I know it sounds strange, but it works. Really well.
0.4 was a very quick read at just 273 pages and I devoured it in just two sittings. It tells the story of Kyle Straker, a teen from Millgrove, a small village in Cambridgeshire, England and three of his fellow villagers. Lilly is a teenager like Kyle, but the other two main characters Kate O'Donnell and Mr Peterson, are both adults, which I thought was unusual for a Young Adult book, but it worked well. Although there's not a lot of information about the characters' lives before the `event' took place that changed everything for them, I really felt like I knew the characters. They were all likeable and totally believable.
Mike Lancaster has an awesome imagination to come up with a plot like this. Just as I thought I understood where we were going, everything changed and I was kept guessing right up to the last page. 0.4 isn't a scary book, but the concept will creep you out. I'm getting goose bumps again just thinking about it and I can guarantee it's not a book you'll forget about in a month or two!
As you've probably guessed, I really enjoyed this book. There's no blood and gore, sex or bad language and I think it will be enjoyed by teens and adults alike. I would really love to hear more about Kyle and Lilly and what happened after this book ended. I read on a book blog which reviewed this book that there is to be a sequel, which is great news!
Would I recommend this book? Most definitely! Go pick yourself a copy up this weekend. You won't regret it!
on 29 December 2010
0.4 is a terrific science fiction adventure story, following a group of teenagers in an English village as a strange transformation seems to take over the rest of the population. While the story has elements of "The Midwich Cuckoos" and "Invasion of the Body Snatchers", it is faster paced than either. 0.4 is clearly aimed at young adults (look at the ages of the protagonists), but has plenty in it for those of us who are a bit older, and the humorous footnotes that Lancaster includes add an extra dimension (the footnotes on "Coldplay" were a particular favourite). The plot zips along, and the story has that otherworldly strangeness that reminds you of the best episodes of the Outer Limits. Great as the Harry Potter books were, its good to see something new in the science fiction genre that isn't about vampires or wizards.
Back in the day some of Robert Heinlein's best work was aimed at young adults ("Have Space Suit, Will Travel", "Red Planet"), and 0.4 is very much in that tradition.
I always enjoy stories about the end of the world, or post-apocalyptic stories, or stories with a dystopian future. This book is probably aimed at a younger audience than me, but as they didn't have great stories like this when I was younger, I say that's reason enough for me to read them now!
The book is offered to the reader as a "rudimentary" "data storage unit" - transcribed from tape recordings made by Kyle Straker, and found by accident, the narrative tells of a time from an apparent long ago time - footnotes in the story make it clear that at the time of the current editing of the story many of what we know now in the twenty-first century is not clear to the people now in possession of these tapes - they are unfamiliar with terms, ideas, sayings and current idioms that we use all the time. So the reader becomes aware that time has passed since Kyle made his recordings - how much time? And what happened in the interim? The narrative by Kyle is well portrayed - short, chopped sentences, as they would be if they were transcribed from a verbal recording. The build-up to the unknown is good; and the reader, as they come to understand what Kyle believes is happening, feels the same horror as him at the unfolding scenario.
This is a great sci-fi story - it reminded me a bit of the old tv series about The Tripods; on the strength of which I have just brought the books so I can read them - I only recall the BBC series from what seems like quite a few years ago now, which I absolutely loved.
I believe there is a sequel to this, 1.4 - I shall definitely be reading it!
Set in the future where life and humankind as we know it has changed drastically. A set of cassette tapes with the recording of a diary have been found and are the basis of the story. The diary belongs to Kyle Straker, a teenage boy who lived in the early 21st century. The diaries have been reproduced in book format, which in itself is very unusual in this future world, as nobody actually reads any more, and throughout the diary the unknown editor adds his own explanatory notes to the text. These notes add a touch of humour, and also a touch of cynicism.
Kyle Straker was an average teenager, living in small village, hanging out with his mates, listening to music and fancying the local girls. It's the day of the annual village talent show and Kyle and three others volunteer to be hypnotised as part of one of the acts. This is where life becomes very very strange, when the four volunteers wake up, the rest of the village are standing stock still and are silent. The phones are dead, the internet is cut off. When the other villagers wake up and start to go about their business, Kyle and the other three soon realise that something catastrophic has happened - and they have been left behind.
To say any more would give too much away, but be assured that what follows is an intelligent and fast-paced story, sometimes very scary and often very insightful. I was totally and utterly transfixed by the story and the writing, the characters and the premise.
on 24 May 2012
I've always been a fan of dystopian fiction, and the book's Huxley-esque tagline, "It's a brave new world", appealed to me. Furthermore, I'm a classic horror fanatic and I love a good yarn about body-snatchers! This book combines these two loves and adds in a few lovely little twists, keeping it fresh.
"My name is Kyle Straker. And I don't exist anymore." So begins the story of Kyle Straker. He records his story over old Dire Straits cassettes and the use of this analogue technology is important to the tale. The story takes up four tapes, so it was never going to be an epic tale, but within those for transcribed sides is the story of how humanity changes forever.
It's hard to say much about this book without giving too much away, and I really don't want to ruin the twist for you. So I'll just say a few things.
The book is set out to be a historical document. As such, there are addendums and footnotes from a future civilization of humanity which add to the strangeness of the text. These little notes also emphasise the idea that humanity has forgotten so much of what it once treasured. (The note on the Teletubbies: a "pantheon of gods, exclusively worshiped by children (sic)" was hilarious).
The conflict of the story erupts when Kyle and three of his acquaintances are hypnotised during their village fayre. When they regain consciousness, these four individuals are confronted by the realisation that everyone they have ever known and loved is suddenly not...quite...right.
I expected a tale of "pod people" and "body-snatchers" to ensue, but 0.4 thinks outside that box. It looks at the idea of technological and human advancement in a way which I found intriguing.
I really enjoyed this quick and entertaining read. While it may be short, there is depth to the story which adds to its charm. Furthermore, the devices used by Lancaster are wonderfully and wittily employed. I would particularly recommend this book to any young, male readers you might be struggling to engage in your lives, classes and libraries!
It's a brave new world. `My name is Kyle Straker. And I don't exist anymore.' So begins the story of Kyle Straker, recorded on to old audio tapes. You might think these tapes are a hoax. But perhaps they contain the history of a past world...If what the tapes say are true, it means that everything we think we know is a lie. And if everything we know is a lie does that mean that we are, too?
So, firstly I'd love to tell you why this book is clever, but that would spoil it. But keep that in mind. Its clever.
Secondly this is a complete story. It works well as a complete story. You only really need this one tale. BUT there is a sequel - 1.4 - and I for one am extremely pleased about that. Because its clever. And I'm thinking it might get even more so...we'll see. Fairly soon I imagine.
I very much enjoyed reading this, following Kyle's story as he gets caught up in extraordinary events with a strangely ordinary feel to them. This works brilliantly - its kind of matter of fact. Kyle has a story to tell and has found a way to tell it. And you will be right there. The next time you see something out of the corner of your eye you may wonder what it is that you saw...
I'm being vague. I know it. So how about this - do you like John Wyndham? If you do, you may appreciate 0.4. Now I'm sure that Mr Lancaster will not mind one bit if I say he's not up (yet) to the standards of Mr Wyndham's writing but while I was reading this I was nostalgic for those days when I emerged wide eyed from such novels as Chocky and The Midwich Cuckoo's, wondering if such things were possible. For today's generation of young readers this could fill a gap...and as an adult you will certainly appreciate the humerous asides about such things as the Teletubbies. This book is kind of like one of those movies you see with your children where its aimed at the younger audience and yet there is plenty there to appease the adult sensibilities.
All in all a great little read - and whilst I hope for more from this world I am equally intrigued with what other strange and wonderful imaginings the author may have in store for us.
Happy Reading Folks!
on 26 April 2015
0.4 - Mike Lancaster
"My name is Kyle Straker and I don't exist anymore"
And so begins the life of Kyle Straker recorded onto old audio tapes. Set in an unknown point in our future, the tapes reveal they contain the history of a past world. But as the novel progresses it is revealed that everything as we know it is a lie, but if what these tapes say are true, doesn't that mean that we are as well?
This new generation sci fi is absolutely chilling, the whole concept and layout of the persona' s narrative is surprisingly well executed. The novel's plot is haunting and keeps the reader constantly on edge throughout each line and chapter. As it progresses there are so many questions that come to mind as this novel is entirely thought provoking and makes you question, wonder and hope. 0.4 (or Human.4 as it sometimes known) is complex and addictive, it is weird in the best possible way and quite simply brilliant. Lancaster's novel is wholly unique and was the book that made me fall in love with the science fiction genre all those years ago. Not only does it has the typical conventions of its genre, but it also subverts it and turns it entirely inside out. The novel is a transcript of the audio tapes and has annotations to the futuristic `audience' and intelligently comments on present day topics. This is not only entertaining for us as readers and even sometimes creates humour. The plot twists are surprising and are entirely unexpected providing a terrifying psychological horror as the characters become more frantic and as Lancaster develops the narrative. All of these ideas combine excellently and this is one of the main reasons why I love this novel.
This sophisticated plot is also heightened by the characters who are realistic and three dimensional, allowing us to sympathise with these characters in their desperate plight for answers. Their fears, hopes and anxieties are both vividly and believably drawn by Mike Lancaster. The desperate voices are engaging and wholly believable, every character was a pleasure to meet and become involved with particularly the protagonist of Kyle Straker. His voice resonant and completely sets the tone and emotions of the novel.
Overall this novel was complex and weirdly wonderful in the best possible way. The multiple layers completely balance each other and fit together brilliantly creating an eerie yet enthralling read.
Rating: Four Stars
For the original and other book reviews, check out my website https://emsview.wordpress.com/
on 22 October 2012
(Source: I own a copy of this book.)
This is the story of 15-year-old Kyle Straker, and the events that occurred to make him (in some ways) not exist.
The story is told by Kyle, and is split into 6 parts - the six sides of analogue cassette tapes that Kyle recorded his version of events onto.
Kyle's story starts at the talent show in his small village in Cambridgeshire, when something goes drastically wrong during a hypnosis act, and the four volunteers all awake to find the rest of the people of the village totally frozen. They try not to panic, and are relieved when after 1 hours everybody starts moving again. Only problem is, the people are not the same people they were before the event, and the people know that Kyle and his 3 fellow volunteers are now not the same as them.
This was an interesting idea, although the book itself seemed to be aimed at a younger teenage audience. The main character was 15, and the writing itself was fairly simple, so I'd say this was probably aimed at teens under 15.
I like dystopians, but this just didn't quite have the right dystopian feel for me. There was a bit of panic, the story was interesting, but it just wasn't of the same calibre as other dystopians I've read recently. Whether this was because it was aimed at a younger audience I don't know, maybe it was just that because nobody was trying to kill anybody, it lacked a certain element of danger and suspense. I have to say that this is probably the first dystopian I have read where there is no imminent threat of death from the `changed' masses.
The story was written as a story printed from Kyles story that he has recorded onto old cassette tapes. This was slightly annoying in that at the end of each cassette part of the story is lost where `the tape ran out', and there are also little boxes of information relating to certain things that Kyle says, and certain people's opinion of what Kyle means at times, which seemed to be trying to be witted, but didn't succeed.
I also had a couple of issues with the storyline - if the `changed' or 1.0 people took away all the electrical devices, how does Kyle use a cassette recorder? Why don't the 1.0 people try to get rid of the 0.4 people instead of simply ignoring them? And mainly - seeing as this is written as if it has happened in the past, and the intended audience is supposed to be 1.0 people, why are these 1.0 people not more like us? It just doesn't quite sit right that in actuality we are much more like the 0.4's than the 1.0's, another quirk that just falls a bit flat for me.
Overall; a `light' dystopian, obviously aimed at a younger teen audience.
6.5 out of 10.
on 3 December 2011
Wow. Wow! Roll up dystopian lovers, the newest generation is here!
Okay, that is basically all I can say to describe this book. The whole thing literally has me speechless. I read this book in one sitting.
Okay, let me start at the beginning, I wasn't sure about it to start with, I got it because I had nothing to read and I wanted a dystopian. I'd heard mixed reviews about it so when I first opened the book I was, naturally, unsure. About seven pages in I was absorbed (so has nothing to do with the Pokemon reference) and from there to the end I stayed in the same seating.
This book is a dystopian and takes place in the future, but unlike other books of this genre, most of the events are sort of flashbacks, or tapes recorded by somebody in the past. Very much like most other dystopians it treads on some pretty deep ground and leads the reader questioning the world around them.
So, I can't really say much without giving away some spoilers, but I will comment that the story is fantastic, thought-provoking and well planned out, there are so many twists and turns that you'll be stuck to your seat, staring at the book, rereading and thinking "what?!", I seriously though I'd figured it out at one point, as did pretty much everyone I know who has read this book, and then I found out I was wrong. I loved how this was written, in recordings so detailed that you forget that it is one, until an interruption comes, or the tape stops and then you realise. There's a lot of trailing off as well, which is clever and leaves a lot of holes for the reader to fill with their own events. I also loved the ending, so clever!
The main character Kyle is straight thinking, a little reckless but strong minded and I really liked how well he was written, I understood everything he did and every thought he had and did everything that I would in his situation, which is clever.
All in all, an intelligent, deep, well thought out and downright amazing debut! My mother is currently reading it as I thrust it in her face and shouted "READ!"
Overall rating: A+