BOOK REVIEW – LOCK-IN – John Scalzi

Woo hoo!  An honest to God book review on bookshelfbattle.com!  It’s about time!

Threeps are now walking around on my bookshelf.  They can hold their own in the never-ending battle.

Threeps are now walking around on my bookshelf. They can hold their own in the never-ending battle.

Without a doubt, John Scalzi’s Lock-In was the best book I read in 2014.  Unfortunately I waited until March of 2015 to review it, but better late than never.

If you’re planning to read it yourself, you might want to click off of this review.  I’ll try my best to avoid them, but some spoilers may emerge.

First off, the premise is unique and original.  In the near future, a virus ravages the world and inflicts one percent of the population with Haden’s Syndrome.  This condition causes people to “lock-in” to their bodies.  Their minds work, they understand what’s happening around them, but they can’t speak or move.  Their minds are trapped in paralyzed bodies.

These individuals come to be known as “Hadens.”  Technology grows and expands to help them.  A virtual community is created allowing them to communicate with one another in a simulated world.  Meanwhile, Hadens also have the ability to control robots known as “threeps” (aptly named as an homage to C-3P0).

Hadens stay at home and send threeps out into the world on their behalf.    The technology is so advanced that Hadens are able to hold down jobs with the assistance of their threeps.

Add to the mix integrators – humans whose minds can be “shared” with a Haden, thus giving the Haden the experience of what it feels like to have a functional human body.

The protagonist is Chris Shane – a Haden FBI agent whose threeps take a beating from the bad guys throughout the novel.  With the help of his partner, Leslie Vann, a former integrator, Shane is tasked with solving a murder case that intersects with the politics and intrigue behind the Haden world.

I am a big Scalzi fan.  I enjoy his ability to blend subtle humor into serious science fiction.  The premise makes for some interesting scenes.  For example, at one point, Shane uses his threep to foil an assassin trying to kill Shane’s defenseless body.

The book also gives rise to a discussion of virtual worlds and technology assisted realities.  Could tech ever grow to the point where the paralyzed are able to experience the world virtually?  What would be the ramifications?

I enjoyed it and highly recommend it.

STATUS:  Shelf worthy.

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7 thoughts on “BOOK REVIEW – LOCK-IN – John Scalzi

  1. Bridget says:

    I liked this one! (I keep pushing off posting my review because other things keep coming up that I want to post sooner, so right now it’s scheduled for mid-April…whoops.) My biggest issue with it was that he brings up all these interesting questions about whether people who are disabled “should” be “cured”—and do they even want to be “cured”? Should technology originally created for the use of specifically disabled persons (i.e. threeps) be expanded for use by the elderly, or people paralyzed by something other than Hadens, or by nondisabled people? These are really good questions. But then he doesn’t really answer any of them.

    It was a really good story, though, and I enjoyed it, but I think a deeper dimension could have been added if he actually answered all those questions he brought up in the first place.

    • All good points. Glad to talk to someone who read it!

      I’m not sure how great my review is because it is a book that’s tough to talk about without giving away spoilers. But what the heck? SPOILERS! People who don’t want to read spoilers be forewarned to stop reading.

      I think from a writing perspective, he took on a complicated idea that might have tanked in the hands of a less experienced writer. You have characters who are a) invalids in their natural states 2) but also controlling threeps so in all actuality, the character is in two places at once 3) and sometimes they switch threeps or use integrators.

      At one point, a male Haden uses a female integrator. And sometimes they also enter the virtual world.

      Ultimately, there’s a lot of stuff going on with the characters, who are they, where are they…lots of theoretical science behind it all but he gets us in quick, tells us a story that keeps moving along, and even with the characters appearing in different forms throughout the book. It was an ambitious undertaking and Scalzi pulls it off.

      You make good points about the tech and disabled people – will tech ever evolve to the point where disabled people can no longer be considered disabled is another big question?

      There were also a lot of interesting racial/gender issues in the book.

      A) I didn’t realize until the end that Chris and his family were black. That could be a whole other post in and of itself. With today’s diverse society, why is there often an assumption that the main character is white unless otherwise told? Or is there such an assumption? Maybe that changes depending on the reader’s ethnicity? I don’t know.

      B) Some interesting questions about gender as well. This is sort of a big spoiler, but did you catch that Chris’ name is sexually ambiguous? HE might be Christopher. In fact, I read through the entire book assuming HE is Christopher but after reading about the book online, I now realize it was entirely possible that Chris might have been a she i.e. “Christine.”

      Wow. I think this comment might have been more detailed than my review. I might be stretching myself too thin with this one post a day challenge thing.

      • Bridget says:

        Also very good points! I didn’t realize the Shanes were black for a while, either. And in my review (which I will eventually post, and link you if you like), I talked about how a lot of the stuff I mentioned above, while I would have liked to see more conclusions from it, could also have really bogged the story down, and as it is, it was paced pretty well. So I get his reasons. But I think going more in depth could have been interesting too.

        I didn’t think at all about Chris’s name being ambiguous! I could swear that he(????) was referred to as Christopher at some point or another, but maybe I’m making that up?? 0_0

      • If you scroll down to the first comment, Scalzi breaks it down on his blog. Most readers defaulted to thinking Chris was a male, some thought female. He leaves it up to the readers to decide.

        http://whatever.scalzi.com/2014/09/22/in-which-tor-com-reveals-a-thing-i-did-with-lock-in-lock-in-spoiler-thread/

        His blog is fun and a good resource for readers/writers.

  2. […] A Book Review of Lock-In by John Scalzi – Robots and viruses, mystery and deception, too much stimulation for your pitiful American minds!  We Siberian Yetis prefer to watch mold grow on rocks. […]

  3. bibliobeth says:

    This sounds really good! I’ve never read any of his work before do u think this is a good place to start? Thanks for the great review 🙂

    • It doesn’t intersect with his other stuff so it’s fine to start with this one. The only other one of his I’ve read is Redshirts, basically a parody of what it is like to be the token sci-fi characters that end up as cannon fodder.

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