"Lock In" by John Scalzi | Book Review
Genre: Mystery, Science Fiction
Page Count: 336
First Published: August 26, 2014
In the near future, a highly contagious virus sweeps through the world. The lucky ones experience flu-like symptoms and move on with their lives. The less lucky ones face stage two—meningitis, which can cause serious damage. Stage three hits a very small percentage of the victims, and it's my personal idea of hell: being fully conscious and aware, but unable to move or respond to any kind of stimulus—lock in. Thanks to the advances in technology there are a couple of options for those locked in: they can either use an integrator (control another human's body and experience the world that way), or use an android (referred to as a "threep") to continue interacting with the outside world. Our main character, Chris Shane, is an FBI agent investigating a peculiar crime scene, but he is also locked in and using a threep.
This was my first foray into John Scalzi's work, and I have to say I'm off to a very good start. This novel grew on me the further in I got, and the writing style is very smart and intelligent. There are a lot of details, and definitely some very interesting ideas. For instance, Lock In presents a very interesting argument as far as cure vs. adjustment goes. On one hand, you have people advocating for a "cure", thinking those who are locked in want to be brought back. But many of the afflicted (referred to as "Hadens") are actually pretty comfortable in their own community: they have ways to access the world, but they can also spend time in this virtual reality world, free from any bounds. To them, there isn't much to "come back" to.
I also thought the choice of a threep for a body was an interesting one. They are made to look like C3PO (and that's where the term comes from), which is reminiscent of a human body, but also much more durable and provide the used with certain technological advantages useful in everyday life. At the same time any crime against a threep is treated the same way as a crime against a human. There are legal and social details, which I'm not going to get into, that make this futuristic world seem real. When it comes to the integrators (the humans who allow themselves to be controlled by a Haden) there are psychological and physical implications to consider.
My main complaint about the novel has to do with the characters themselves—it took me a while to really care about anybody. Sure, the crime investigation was interesting to follow, and I was invested in the story lines, but with the exception of Shane's parter (whom I warmed up to eventually) I never really felt connected to anyone. The only other issue I had was with the ending—I thought it was a little too neat. This is a minor problem though, since I did like the way everything wrapped up.
Something you may want to know about is that there is a companion novella called Unlocked: An Oral History of Haden's Syndrome. I read this after I read Lock In and immediately wished I read it first. As you can imagine, this is a short background for the virus told through multiple perspectives. The thing is, I found myself a bit confused for about a third of Lock In, and most of my confusion had to do with details about Haden's Syndrome—all of my questions would have been answered if I read the novella first. It's definitely not something you absolutely NEED to read, but if you're the type of person who likes to know as much as possible I would actually recommend reading the novella first.
Overall, I really enjoyed Lock In and John Scalzi's writing style. I would definitely read more of his work, and I'm curious about a couple of his other novels. Suggestions are very welcome!
Have you read Lock In? Do you have a favorite Scalzi book?