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  • 0.4
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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.
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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!
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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.
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on 30 April 2012
This is one of those unassuming books that actually far exceeded my expectations. Rather overlooked in the current wave of YA paranormal and dystopian fiction, this is the kind of novel that can be enjoyed by the full sweep of the YA target audience, and is a proper little page-turner to boot.

The whole novel is centred around the mysterious event which takes place - unlikely though it may seem - during the local talent show in the little English village of Millgrove. As part of the show, Kyle and Lilly, along with two adults, Mr Peterson and Mrs O'Donnell, agree to get up on stage and be hypnotised by their madcap friend Danny. To their horror, when they 'awaken' a few minutes later, everyone in the village is frozen in place where they sit, shocked expressions on their faces. When they begin to move again, it's clear that something has changed. Now these four must try to work out what happened - and why - before it's too late...

Lancaster has been especially clever in that the structure of the novel, and even the paper-book format, tie in intrinsically with the plot. The chapters are written in a normal narrative style, but are divided into tape sides - this is supposed to be a kind of transcript of the testimony of Kyle Straker, which has been recorded onto old audio tapes and discovered later. Lancaster takes on the role of 'editor' and there are occasional futuristic notes inserted into the text to explain popular culture references and some of our more unusual idioms.

I found it a quick but hard-hitting read, with some deliciously creepy moments along the way, fusing the quiet menace of Invasion of The Body Snatchers [DVD] with the thought-provoking ideas of The Matrix [1999] [DVD] into one exciting premise. The pithy, amusing and occasionally revelatory text notes are a nice touch. Between the testimony and the 'editorial input', everything starts to come together, but until the big reveal I still wasn't quite sure what had happened! One for boys AND girls to enjoy, and I'd say it was suitable for younger YA readers as well, though they might not pick up on some of the references and humour that an older reader would. Recommended!
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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!
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TOP 100 REVIEWERon 12 June 2012
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!
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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.
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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+
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TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICEon 19 May 2012
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.
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on 31 May 2011
I absolutely loved the format of this book, told as transcripts from old cassette tapes, interspersed with notes about phrases or words in Kyle's narrative. The story is based in the distant future, when mankind is completely changed, but Kyle's recorded story tells what happened to him in the early 21st century. It is hilarious to see a note on the narrative in very formal tones speculating through quotes from serious academic texts on what a "teletubby" might be, or "reality TV". The chapters in the book are set out as "tape 1, side 1" etc, but this works so well, and cleverly increases the excitement when the next vital tense part of the story is cut off at the end of a tape.

Kyle is a teenage resident of a small village, where, along with his friend Lilly and two other adult members of the community, a very strange event takes place, setting off a string of weird happenings. They become a minority figure- the 0.4, and must leave everything they know behind. I really can't say more without spoilers!

I really enjoyed this book and was fascinated by the chilling idea of it. Although the events that Kyle is recalling are revealed gradually it is at just the right pace to keep you guessing and intrigued but are no point are you left wondering what is going on. This is a brilliant story, a very tense and creepy tale that will leave you wondering what is real!
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