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.
Lock In by John Scalzi was my favorite read in January. There are so many wonderful aspects of this book, and some of them I cannot talk about without spoiling some of the book. Later I may decide to talk about some of those points in a second post but not now.
I do like some science fiction books, but that is a small portion of my reading. Since I started this blog, I have read two books by John Scalzi, both in the Old Man's War series, Old Man's War and The Ghost Brigades. I avoided them for a while, even though I was a John Scalzi fan before he published his first book. I first encountered him as a reviewer of DVDs and then discovered his wonderful blog called Whatever.
I avoided the Old Man's War series because they are military science fiction and I thought I would not like that. I did like both of the ones I read. Scalzi's books in that series feature older humans who have elected to fight for the Colonial Defense Forces on other planets. They make this choice because the CDF will reverse the flow of aging. The volunteers are willing to risk military service and its dangers for a chance at a new life.
For this book, Scalzi goes in a whole new direction. This is a thriller set in the near future. The story picks up about 20 years after the world-wide epidemic, when technological breakthroughs have been developed to the point where the victims of the disease who have been locked in can move around, talk, and function in society in a robotic device while their bodies are lying in a bed elsewhere. The ramifications of a life like this and the society which deals with it is explored via a murder mystery.
An extra bonus for me was that Scalzi wrote a prequel novella, Unlocked: An Oral History of Haden’s Syndrome. I enjoy reading fiction told in that style. Tor.com says the novella "traces the medical history behind a virus that will sweep the globe and affect the majority of the world’s population, setting the stage for Lock In". Reviewers at Goodreads were divided as to whether the prequel helped in reading Lock In or not. From my point of view, it enhanced the experience of reading the novel. It is available for free at Tor.com. I paid a small amount for a Kindle version because I wanted to have it available to reread.
An article at the Huffington Post addresses how this book covers ideas and prejudices about disabilities. Obviously the book is about a section of the population that has been severely disabled, and the unique approach that was taken to deal with this. Honestly, while I was reading the book I did not spend a lot of time thinking about this. My focus was more on what life would be like for individuals who experienced their lives through a prosthesis, and the mystery.
Two posts of interest at Tor.com: insight into the cover design by designer Peter Lutjen and insight into John Scalzi's writing process for this book.
Publisher: Tor Books, 2014
Length: 334 pages
Setting: Near future Washington, D.C.
Genre: Sci fi thriller
Source: I purchased this book.