0.4 by Mike Lancaster

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0.4 by Mike Lancaster

Category: Teens
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Jill Murphy
Reviewed by Jill Murphy
Summary: Bookbag was very happy to see 0.4 - harder sci-fi than is the norm in teen books. It has a great premise about the nature of humanity and its reality and gives pause for thought about the future. It will inspire ideas, discussion and further reading.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 304 Date: January 2011
Publisher: Egmont
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 1405253045

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Kyle Straker's taped testimony begins with an editor's note:

The peculiar format that you are holding - a book - was still the dominant form of information storage at the time the tapes were made. There is a reason why I insisted on this archaic format which will, I hope, become apparent as the narrative progresses.

Kyle lives in the early 21st century in a quiet village full of ordinary people. Lives go on much as they have for generations until the day of the traditional talent show on the village green. Kyle's friend Danny is appearing in the show with his hypnotism act and his volunteers are Kyle himself, Kyle's ex-girlfriend Lilly, and a local teacher and postman. Snapping suddenly out of Danny's trance, the four find the rest of the village in a state of suspended animation, frozen as they watched the show. Looking further around, they find the phone lines and internet are down and the electricity is off.

And then, everyone else comes back to life. And that's where the problems really start...

Ooh! I really liked the whole idea of 0.4. We see a great deal of fantasy in teen books, but we don't get much in the way of the harder sci-fi - and that's exactly what 0.4 is. It's quite a scary, threatening premise too - are we humans really who we think we are? Or are we living in some kind of experiment or goldfish bowl? If there is something out there, is it a deity? Or could it be something altogether more mundane, but more malevolent too?

The narrative is in the form of a transcripted audio tape punctuated by editor's notes. Kyle's own story I found tremendously compelling - the boy himself is a thoroughly well-rounded character and not a cipher for the action at all. His narrative has great tension as the mystery of what has happened is gradually revealed. The notes themselves are interesting too - giving a sometimes funny, sometimes painfully accurate picture of 21st century humanity as seen by people hundreds of years into the future. However, I'm not so sure these two aspects of the structure work brilliantly together - for me, the notes detract from the tension of the story and I'd have preferred one at the beginning and one at the end so that I was distracted from it. Others may not mind so much.

Nitpicking about editor's notes aside, I truly enjoyed 0.4. We need more classy and intelligent sci-fi in teen books and 0.4 gives us a more than healthy dollop of it. I hope Mike Lancaster has more books in mind for this market - I'll be looking out for them.

My thanks to the good people at Egmont for sending the book.

If they like their sci-fi as hard as it comes, they should look at WE by John Dickinson - classy space thriller about free will, individuality and the genetic need to reproduce. Those interested in the idea of the nature of reality will love The Returners by Gemma Malley. Adults who sometimes wonder if our reality is actually one great big goldfish bowl will love The Restoration Game by Ken MacLeod.

Buy 0.4 by Mike Lancaster at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy 0.4 by Mike Lancaster at Amazon.co.uk.


Buy 0.4 by Mike Lancaster at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy 0.4 by Mike Lancaster at Amazon.com.


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