Sci Friday - review of Human.4

Welcome back to Sci Friday! This week's focus is a middle grade appropriate science fiction tale with a "Matrix" feel, where everything goes dreadfully wrong.

Human.4 by Mike Lancaster (click to visit the book's site at Goodreads)

                                                 Goodreads Summary: 
Kyle Straker volunteered to be hypnotized at the annual community talent show, expecting the same old lame amateur acts. But when he wakes up, his world will never be the same. Televisions and computers no longer work, but a strange language streams across their screens. Everyone’s behaving oddly. It’s as if Kyle doesn’t exit.

Is this nightmare a result of the hypnosis? Will Kyle wake up with a snap of fingers to roars of laughter? Or is this something much more sinister?

Narrated on a set of found cassette tapes at an unspecified point in the future, Human.4 is an absolutely chilling look at technology gone too far. 

What I thought:
     This book had an interesting narration style. The main character, Kyle, has narrated his story onto a set of old fashioned cassette tapes. The story is presented as almost an archaeological find, with the futuristic society jumping in with commentary and explanations as Kyle's story progresses. At first, I found this a bit jarring. As the book neared the halfway point, though, it got easier to follow. The outside narrator didn't jump in as often, and the flow smoothed out. It was an interesting experiment in narration, and I found I liked it more when the interruptions didn't occur as often. 
     The book also had very short chapters. While I'm not always a fan of short chapters (some of Patterson's book that do this feel too choppy to me), in this one it helped to keep the pacing of the story fast and furious. I think it will also appeal to the middle grade reader audience, and help them keep turning the pages to get more of the tale. 
     What really appealed to me was the Matrix flavor to the storyline. Viewing humanity as a series of programs that keep getting upgraded was fascinating. This will definitely hook readers who are interested in technology - and that's an AWFUL lot of kids! I know I was hooked by the world Lancaster created, and I was thrilled to hear there will be another book out in November. 

Scientific concepts:
Time and relativity 
How the brain perceives reality
Technology / digital vs. analog

Wonders and what ifs. 
What do these future people look like? (There are some small clues and hints that could drive discussion)
What might humanity look like in the distant future? Why might we evolve that way?

Narrator - As is true of most of the middle grade science fiction I've read, the main character is male. He does have a female partner - Lilly - who has a significant role to play in the story.  

Age range: The characters are teens, and there are boyfriend/girlfriend relationships. Happily, though, there is no real concern about mature content or violence. I've also been assured by a friend (Karen, aka @TLT16) who read the second book as an ARC that it also is appropriate for middle grade readers. 

And I'm continuing last week's tradition of giving you some links to recent science news and information. Enjoy!

UK Fireball - On Friday, something big and bright burned up in the atmosphere. Universe Today has some videos linked up. Fair warning, you can't show these to kids. The adults taking the video were REALLY amazed, and there was some 'colorful' language involved.

UK Fireball Update: More information on what may have happened to create that wild fireball in the UK.

Apparently I follow a lot of UK based science news sites...

The BBC has a feature about sending humans to Mars. This one was published last week.

One last site - take a look at a gorgeous image of an exploding star!

Next week's plans include a review of another middle grade science fiction book - 
Cosmic by Frank Cottrell Boyce. 


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