Book Reviews

Lock In (John Scalzi)

Lock In (John Scalzi)Lock In by John Scalzi
Series: Lock in #1
Published by Macmillan on August 26th 2014
Genres: Fiction, Science Fiction, Thrillers
Pages: 336
Length: 10:00
Source: Purchased

Fifteen years from now, a new virus sweeps the globe. 95% of those afflicted experience nothing worse than fever and headaches. Four percent suffer acute meningitis, creating the largest medical crisis in history. And one percent find themselves “locked in”—fully awake and aware, but unable to move or respond to stimulus.

One per cent doesn't seem like a lot. But in the United States, that's 1.7 million people “locked in”...including the President's wife and daughter.

Spurred by grief and the sheer magnitude of the suffering, America undertakes a massive scientific initiative. Nothing can restore the ability to control their own bodies to the locked in. But then two new technologies emerge. One is a virtual-reality environment, “The Agora,” in which the locked-in can interact with other humans, both locked-in and not. The other is the discovery that a few rare individuals have brains that are receptive to being controlled by others, meaning that from time to time, those who are locked in can “ride” these people and use their bodies as if they were their own.

This skill is quickly regulated, licensed, bonded, and controlled. Nothing can go wrong. Certainly nobody would be tempted to misuse it, for murder, for political power, or worse....

Plot: ★★★
Characters: ★★
Readability: ★★★


Chris Shane is one of the most famous Hadens in the world.  Chris has ‘lock in’; unable to move, or speak, Chris interacts with the world through a Personal Transport (also known as a threep, after C3PO).  Chris is a rookie FBI agent whose first week involves a Haden related murder case which needs solving.

I really liked Chris, but I found the other characters mostly just uninteresting.  Chris’ partner, Leslie Vann, had the potential to be interesting, but I also found her unlikable: her sloppiness on the job was frustrating, and I felt the ongoing battle between her and Trinh grew tiresome pretty quickly.

Wil Wheaton’s narration was great, although I did find the number of ‘he said’ and ‘she said’s off-putting, so maybe I would have enjoyed this more in print.  I also didn’t find Lock In as gripping as Ready Player One, which was surprising when the story is all about a mysterious murder case…It’s pretty clear early on who’s involved, so I didn’t find the mystery hugely gripping or surprising; reading Lock In felt a bit like watching one of the more predictable episodes of something like Criminal Minds, just with slightly unusual settings.  The setting itself is really interesting, but for me, that isn’t enough without some great characters I care about, some relationships to invest in, or a mystery that keeps you up until all hours because you just have to know.

The audiobook also includes the novella Unlocked: An Oral History of Haden’s Syndrome, at the end, so Lock In itself is somewhere around 8 hours if I remember correctly.  I really enjoyed the novella, learning more about the spread of Haden’s, and indeed about Margaret Haden and her husband, who I found myself caring about more than the characters in Lock In itself!

 Buy it? This is one that I’d probably borrow personally.
In a nutshell: It was interesting, it made me think, and I loved the concept, but the pacing was too slow for me, and I found the characters disappointing. 

Other Reviews of Lock In: Not Yet Read | The Infinite Reach | Reading Diva

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