Human.4 by Mike A. Lancaster is a great easy read that I finished in a just a couple of hours. Kyle Straker is a typical British teen, mooning over his best friend’s girl, teasing his nerdy friend Danny and worrying about his parent’s marriage troubles. Kyle lives in a small British town that moves at a slow pace and is so bumpkin that there isn’t great cell or Internet connection. Therefore, the townspeople tend toward more old fashioned entertainment such as the traditional town talent show going strong for over a hundred years.
Kyle isn’t too crazy about the show after his own comedy act bombed years ago, but he goes to support his friend and when Danny calls for volunteers to be hypnotized, he surprisingly finds himself raising his hand, along with his best friend’s girl Lilly, and two adults from the town.
Instead of the usual hypnotist act of making people bark like a dog or telling them they have an uncontrollable itch, this turns out to be an act the like of which has never been seen before. Kyle opens his eyes to find the audience frozen. At first Kyle and the other three think the jokes on them and that when they were hypnotized Danny suggested to the audience they pretend to freeze, but they quickly realize it is not a joke. Unable to rouse any of their friends or family in the audience, Kyle, Lilly and the adult woman Kate set off into town to get help only to find that the mysterious phenomena isn’t limited to the site of the talent show. Just when the groups’ speculation takes a dark turn, they spot the townspeople returning home.
Although he is very relieved at first, it doesn’t take long for Kyle to notice that his parents are getting along unusually well for two parents whose marriage has been on the rocks. While he wants to hope for the best, he starts to notice other clues that his parents have changed. When he pours out his story about what he experienced during the talent show, it isn’t long before the town doctor shows up. Sensing that he is in some danger, Kyle pretends not to remember anything when the doctor questions him and he knows he needs to escape his house to find the others and see what has happened to them.
I won’t divulge more of the plot beyond that for those who haven’t read the book. I will say that one of my favorite writing devices was the fact that the book is supposedly based on the tapes that Kyle made and have been found in the future and have been the source of much debate among scholars, scientists and anthropologists. Throughout the book there are ‘Editor’s Notes’ where these people from a future time try to define or explain some of the references Kyle makes, word choice and slang, pop culture, and speculation on Kyle’s feelings and what ultimately happened to him. At the end of The Handmaid’s Tale, the main character’s diary was found and was used to tell the story of what had happened to the world, but that was only at the end of the story. I enjoyed the way the Editor Notes in Human.4 spotlighted some of the things about our culture that makes sense until looked at from a different time and point of view.