Lock In by John ScalziLock In by John Scalzi
Narrator: Wil Wheaton
Series: Lock In #1
Published by Audible Studios on August 26, 2014
Source: Purchased
Genres: Science Fiction, Mystery
Length: 10 hrs
Format: Audiobook
Purchase at Bookshop.org or Purchase at Amazon
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Not too long from today, a new, highly contagious virus makes its way across the globe. Most who get sick experience nothing worse than flu, fever, and headaches. But for the unlucky one percent - and nearly five million souls in the United States alone - the disease causes "Lock In": Victims fully awake and aware, but unable to move or respond to stimulus. The disease affects young, old, rich, poor, people of every color and creed. The world changes to meet the challenge.

A quarter of a century later, in a world shaped by what’s now known as "Haden’s syndrome", rookie FBI agent Chris Shane is paired with veteran agent Leslie Vann. The two of them are assigned what appears to be a Haden-related murder at the Watergate Hotel, with a suspect who is an "integrator" - someone who can let the locked in borrow their bodies for a time. If the Integrator was carrying a Haden client, then naming the suspect for the murder becomes that much more complicated.

But "complicated" doesn’t begin to describe it. As Shane and Vann began to unravel the threads of the murder, it becomes clear that the real mystery - and the real crime - is bigger than anyone could have imagined.

Mystery and science fiction make a great pairing and Lock In by John Scalzi does it well. It’s a police procedural set in a future where a portion of the population has been affected by Haden’s syndrome, leaving some “locked in, ” awake and aware, but unable to move or respond without computer/mechanical help.

I find a read more sci-fi every year and really enjoy it. Lock In is light on the sci-fi side. It’s near future and the tech is obviously more advance, allowing human brains to connect with “threeps” (named after C-3PO), the robots that allow locked Haden victims to move, talk, interact with the real world and with the Agora, a virtual world that allows Hadens to communicate with each other, to have their own “spaces” and communal areas. But it all feels distinctly possible and here. It’s not space ships and AI robots. There are Hadens who never use a threep, who basically live and work in the Agora, while others spend a majority of their time in a threep. Through Chris, we get to see both.

As a police procedural it also worked well. Chris is a newbie FBI agent in the Haden division, but Chris is also famous and rich, which comes in handy. Vann is a former integrator turned FBI so between them they know a lot about Hadens and make an excellent team. Vann can be pushy and basically a jerk. Chris is smart and caring and obviously still learning the job. The suspects are all their and the clues are decent. I like how Scalzi keeps the motives believable even if the sci-fi trappings were taken away.

An interesting point that I didn’t realize until after having finished the book. Chris is non-gendered. According to Scalzi, “Because of that disease “Hadens” encounter the world through an online community called the Agora, and by remotely piloting android bodies called “threeps.” Chris is a Haden and presents in a threep, and threeps are not (necessarily) gendered. So when people encounter Chris out in the world, they would not know if Chris is male, or female, or non-binary, or other, unless Chris chose to say. My feeling is that Chris wouldn’t say—even to me. Because it’s not necessarily anyone else’s business. So there’s that.” You can read his whole article here. I will say that in my head Chris was male. I did listen to the audio narrated by Wil Wheaton, and since the story is told in the first person, he kind of became Chris. I’m not sure if I would have felt the same way if I had listened to the narration by Amber Benson. Yes, Lock In has two Audible versions, with two different narrators, as does its sequel, Head On. Also, Vann is a woman and 9 times out of 10 in police procedurals, if one of the partners is a woman, the other is a man. I’m honestly a little disappointed in myself though.

There is really a lot to discuss in Lock In, about identity and prejudice and what “human” means. Good science fiction can make you think about topics without preaching at you.

My Audible edition also came with Unlocked, the companion piece.

Lock In by John ScalziUnlocked: An Oral History of Haden's Syndrome by John Scalzi
Narrator: Wil Wheaton
Series: Lock In #0.5
Published by Audible Studios on August 26, 2014
Source: Purchased
Genres: Science Fiction
Format: Audiobook

In the near future--and sooner than you think--a new virus will sweep the globe. At first it will look like the flu, but then we will discover there is something else about it...something we weren't expecting. It will change society forever.

No, this isn't another zombie virus. And no, this isn't the apocalypse. It's Haden's syndrome. We'll survive it. But the world will be remade in its image.

''Unlocked: An Oral History of Haden's Syndrome'' is a novella that will take you through the heart of this terrifying disease, from its unusual and ironic origin to the frantic response of doctors, scientists and governments. You will see the ''moon shot'' response to free the people locked in thrall to the disease. And you experience the emerging society that those with the disease build for themselves--and for the rest of us.

A companion piece to John Scalzi's novel ''Lock In,'' ''Unlocked'' is an unexpected take on a frighteningly possible future.

Unlocked was interesting, but only in how that it gave more background to Lock In. In and of itself, it’s rather boring. It’s told in a documentary style and while it is interesting, if I had read it first I don’t think I would have gone on to read Lock In.

About John Scalzi

John Michael Scalzi II (born May 10, 1969) is an American science fiction author and former president of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America. He is best known for his Old Man’s War series, three novels of which have been nominated for the Hugo Award, and for his blog Whatever, where he has written on a number of topics since 1998. He won the Hugo Award for Best Fan Writer in 2008 based predominantly on that blog, which he has also used for several charity drives. His novel Redshirts won the 2013 Hugo Award for Best Novel. He has written non-fiction books and columns on diverse topics such as finance, video games, films, astronomy, writing and politics, and served as a creative consultant for the TV series Stargate Universe.


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