April 07, 2013

Mike Lancaster: "1.4" (or "The Future We Left Behind")

Title: 1.4 (U.S.A.: The Future We Left Behind) [1.4 on Amazon - The Future We Left Behind on Amazon | on Goodreads]
Series: Point 4 (2nd of 2 books)
Author: Mike Lancaster [Site | Goodreads]
Genres: Sci-Fi, Dystopian
Year: 2012
Age: 12+
Stars: 4/5
Pros: Unique premise. Thought-provoking take on technology. Some interesting, highly speculative scenes.
Cons: More typical than the first installment - see: romance with the new girl (though it isn't overcharged), fight with parent, big cospiration.
Will appeal to: As with 0.4, those who are in for a different dystopian - not of the usual post-apocalyptic variety, but more of a creepy one. Also, those who are able/willing to see how technology is swallowing us up...And finally, those who need more action than 0.4 provided.

Blurb: Thousands of years in the future the divide between humanity and technology has become nearly unrecognizable. Each thought, each action is logged, coded, backed up. Data is as easily exchanged through the fiber-optic-like cables that extend from fingertips as it might be through ordinary conversation. It's a brave new world: a world that the Straker Tapes say is a result of many human "upgrades." Nearly sixteen-year-old Peter Vincent has been raised to believe that everything that the backward Strakerites cling to is insane. But when Peter meets Alpha, a Strakerite his own age, suddenly the theories about society-upgrades don't sound quite so crazy, especially when she shows him evidence that another upgrade is imminent*. And worse, there may be a conspiracy by the leaders of the establishment to cover it up. A conspiracy spearheaded by Peter's own father. (Amazon excerpt - from the Future We Left Behind version)

*Reviewer's note: actually, Peter is the one figuring it out. Alpha only uncovers the awaiting can of worms by accident.

Review: Note: as with 0.4/Human.4, despite being published with two different titles, it is the same book. I linked to the respective Amazon pages for the two versions because of the blurbs and reviews being different; but as for Goodreads, apart from the blurbs (taken from the Amazon pages I mentioned), the reviews are of course identical - so I didn't bothered :).
So, I've been pondering for a while if I was going to rate this 3.5 or 4 stars. On one hand, it didn't make as strong an impression on me as 0.4 did. On the other, it is definitely more articulated, and has its share of engrossing scenes - not to mention that it takes the tech issues much further. Which is logical of course, since this book is set a thousand years after Kyle Straker's story (that is, 0.4) took place. Later on, Lucas Whybrow, Professor of WorldBrain studies, discovers the Peter Vincent files, and decodes them. In other words, he kind of succeeds to Lancaster himself, who posed as the editor for 0.4. Also, like with Kyle's narrative, we're never told how much time has passed between Peter recording his files and Whybrow discovering them.
Don't be mistaken: like 0.4 - which was even awarded a "2012 YALSA quick pick for reluctant young adult readers" - this is a book that can be enjoyed from 12 to 90. It's easy to read and understand, but not simplistic. I'm far from being a teen anymore, but I found it satisfying.
Peter, the main character, is exactly the same age as Kyle was in the first book. We come to know him much better though - and his partner-in-crime Amalfi (Alpha) as well. [On a side note: I love unusual names, but sometimes they're a bit...extreme? Amalfi - really? Well, anyway, the author pays homage to an Italian town at least LOL]. Unsurprisingly, she's the new girl at school - that useful, old device. Luckily, their interaction is not described as instalove, though love is mentioned in the very end, before they meet their fate. For the most part, they are two outsiders (though of different kinds) who happen to meet and bond over a huge crisis.
I found the tech described in this book both scary and amusing - amusing in what it mirrors some of nowadays trends and obsessions, though obviously taking them much further. Everyone is literally, mentally linked together and to the world all the time; there are FaceSpace and MyBook and Linkypedia (well, MySpace is actually old story already as a social network, but I suppose Twitter or Pinterest wouldn't have worked well with the word game LOL); virtual games are state-of-the-art; and the most visionary aspect is, one can download a whole wardrobe from the Link (that is, the highly evolved net) under a template form. Also, memories can be revisited...and even hacked...and physically entered. The way it is done reminds me a lot of Johnny Smith's visions in "The Dead Zone" (I mean the TV show, since I haven't read the book yet), only it deals with one's past instead of future (though Johnny occasionally happened to visit the past himself. [...]

When the book starts, Peter's mother has been out of the picture for a long time, having left when he was a kid; his father is a worldwide celebrity because of his artificial bees. Father and son don't get along at all - and this is an understatement. To be honest, Peter's family life sounds a bit contrived to me. Can a son be so irrelevant - to say the least - to both his parents? Anyway, when Peter and Alpha unveil a big cospiration that may involve Peter's father, and understand that 1) nothing's what it seems 2) Kyle Straker's files are not a myth and 3) a new upgrade for the humanity is imminent, they embark on a dangerous journey in order to prevent it from happening. Only, this is not the only force at work, and they end up trying to stop something completely different in the process - though it may mean to let the actual upgrade happen...
I'm afraid I can't say much more without utterly spoiling the book for you. On the other hand, I have to underline that the world building is great, and the main theme from 0.4 has been not merely incorporated, but masterly used for further development. The extreme drift of technology is embodied here by Lancaster's most visionary creation (So. Not. Gonna. Spoil. That. You'll have to follow Peter's father during his conference...), but after the 0.4 events, it seems an unavoidable step - and what's even scarier, it doesn't even sound that unlikely to our 21st-century-people's ears. 1.4 does require some suspension of disbelief, but this has nothing to do with the tech itself. I found it necessary for a certain thing that happens at the beginning of Peter's and Alpha's quest (after the bees incident)...or better, for a thing that they actually find...and also, for buying that Peter can be so smart to figure out obscure clues all the time. Except being not so smart as to understand what his course of action may lead to eventually...
Alert: like with 0.4, this novel doesn't really have what you would call a proper ending. Though I guess we get what happens. But again, like with 0.4, it's not about the goal - it's about the journey. And it is a hell of a journey, to all purposes.

For quotes from this book click here
For my review of "0.4" (first installment in the series) click here.
For more Sci-Fi books click here.

Cover for the Edgemont USA version


  1. I'm not sure if I would like to mentally linked but downloading my whole wardrobe sounds awesome! I hate clothes shopping lol

    1. You're so unusual...we women are supposed to like that ;).


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