Author: Mike Lancaster
First published by Egmont UK Limited in 2011
Review by Miriam Atkinson
When I first stumbled across this book in my local charity shop, before I had even read the blurb, I knew that this was a book I had to read. Firstly, the title intrigued me. 0.4 – what did it mean? Certainly it gave no clue as to what the story was about. Then I pulled the book off the shelf and saw the front cover. It featured a hand with fleshy tendrils emerging from it which were reaching towards the hand pictured on the back cover. I had no idea what any of it meant but I was fascinated and I knew I wouldn’t be able to put this book from my mind if I did not take it home and discover its mysteries.
So, what is 0.4 about?
Set in a small village a group of friends are preparing for the village’s annual talent show. Things are progressing normally until Danny begins his hypnotising routine. Teenage protagonist Kyle Straker, fellow teenager Lilly, and adults Mrs O’Donnell and Mr Peterson all volunteer to be hypnotised by Danny. However during the process it appears that it is the rest of the villagers who fall under hypnosis rather than the four volunteers. When everyone awakens Kyle starts to wonder if the world is no longer the same place it was. Or is it the four volunteers who have changed?
What makes this novel so unusual and exciting from a reader’s perspective is the way in which author Mike Lancaster chooses to tell the story. Essentially this is the book version of a found-footage film. The novel begins with a warning and a note from Lancaster himself about what the reader is about to encounter thus placing himself as a character within his own novel called ‘The Editor’. The Editor explains that contained within this book are the transcripts of three audio tapes made by Kyle Straker, in fact that is how the story is divided. In addition to the transcripts, The Editor periodically offers his notes and opinions on what Kyle is describing.
The result of all of this is a mixture of science fiction and a psychological thriller. I wouldn’t describe this story as ‘scary’ but for a first-time reader it is definitely unnerving. As a reader I truly felt as though I had been placed with Kyle and Lilly on their journey, as characters and reader must together try to work out what is going on in this new world. The reader has an advantage over the characters in the form of The Editor’s notes although these could often be just as mysterious as the audio tapes. It enjoyably led me to make a series of theories about the story which I was often forced to revise as new events occurred.
Despite the elaborate set up and layout 0.4 is both clear and easy to read and most importantly it was instantly entertaining. I was delighted to stumble across a book that was unique and so completely different to anything I had read before.