John Scalzi has always been an ideas man. He’s one of the most active writers in sci-fi right now, winning the Hugo Award for best novel last year. His 2005 novel Old Man’s War showed his legion of loyal readers the type of inventive mindset he had, by creating different alien species, technology and weapons, all while weaving it into a story that was compelling and interesting. In his newest novel, his brain is at it again, but this time he tackles a pandemic, worldwide disease type situation that kills some of it’s sufferers, but also leaves a share of them in a comatose, but highly aware state.
In a not too distant future, a disease called Haden’s strikes the world by surprise. At first they aren’t sure what it is, but as the symptoms change and it begins to mutate a bit, the researchers begin to get a handle on it. It turns out that Haden’s affects most of it’s victims with flu like symptoms, but an extremely unlucky one percent experience what is termed as “lock in”. What happens then is the victim is fully conscious, but unable to move or respond to anyone. They essentially lie in a bed all day, every day. As more and more people are stricken with the “locked in” version of Haden’s, researchers begin to devise a way for them be able to leave their bodies. One way is they are able to link their brain and consciousness with a robot version of themselves called a “threep”. In the threep they are able to do all the things they would in their normal human body, except perform human exclusive functions like eating, drinking and going to the bathroom. The other way that a Haden’s victim can leave their body is actually in the form of another human. These human’s are known as Integrators. What happens with them is basically the same thing, but instead the “locked in” Haden’s victim will be allowed to “drive” or use the Integrators body for their tasks. It’s basically a job for the Integrator. When Lock In starts we meet rookie F.B.I. agent Chris Shane and veteran agent Leslie Vann. The two of them work in a division dedicated to Haden’s related crimes and are sent to investigate a possible Haden’s related incident at the Watergate Hotel. Someone has been murdered and it appears that one of the people involved in the murder was an Integrator, one who allows a Haden’s victim to control their body. If this remains true then identifying who was involved in the murder will be doubly difficult. However soon after they start investigating this crime, many other pieces of the puzzle begin falling into place. Even pieces that belong to a whole other puzzle they didn’t intend to solve.
For anyone that has ever read a John Scalzi novel, this will undoubtedly make it on their to-read list. Everything that’s great about Scalzi’s writing is present here: the amazing inventiveness of his worlds, great action sequences, snappy and smart dialogue and most importantly: the story. While I didn’t initially imagine Scalzi to write a detective story in a world such as this, it works really, really well. One of the most important elements to Lock In is that it’s a detective story set in a futuristic world where this disease is sweeping around the globe. Although the novel starts right with the characters and there’s only two and a half pages of information about the backstory prior, it doesn’t ever feel like the story and setting don’t connect. Just like all of Scalzi’s other novels, Lock In seems like a fully realized world that this story could be set in. He does a fantastic job setting up the backstory through those few pages in the beginning so when the reader jumps in, they aren’t treated to a whole lot of confusion. Lock In is definitely one of the summer’s best novels and a pure sci-fi treat.
Rating: 9 out of 10 – Lock In is another knock out of the park for John Scalzi. His ideas here can be greatly appreciated through the story that he tells. His vision and ideas of a futuristic world, with a new deadly disease is one that’s both terrifying and completely enthralling to read about. His fans will be sure to read this, but this would also be a great jumping on point for people not wholly familiar with his work thus far.