Saturday, January 31, 2015

Lock In: John Scalzi

Description on the dust jacket flap:
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. 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 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 insight into the cover design by designer Peter Lutjen and insight into John Scalzi's writing process for this book.

As far as recommending this book, I am on the fence. I loved the book. Obviously I would love for everyone to read it. But some readers don't want any elements of sci fi in their books, and this book would not be for them. Readers who prefer pure mystery novels may not find this satisfactory. I thought the mystery was fine and exciting, but I don't really care if it is a fairly-clued mystery or not. (I am not saying this one was or wasn't; I just did not notice.) This book looks at questions about disabilities and relationships and prejudice as much as it explores technology or a hunt for a killer, so if that sounds good to you, please give it a try.


Publisher:    Tor Books, 2014
Length:        334 pages
Format:        Hardcover
Setting:        Near future Washington, D.C.
Genre:         Sci fi thriller
Source:        I purchased this book.


col2910 said...

Glad you found your book of the month so enjoyable. A bit too sciency for me, I reckon

Kay said...

This one sounds quite interesting. I love the cover. I don't mind books that kind of have another genre creeping in. My book group is reading Ben Winters' THE LAST POLICEMAN for March and it has a little sci-fi thrown in. I'll keep this one in mind and thanks for sharing it!

Prashant C. Trikannad said...

Tracy, I have heard of this author, probably on your blog itself. I don't mind a good futuristic sf novel provided both the plot and the characters are fairly realistic though I'm not sure how LOCK IN scores on that front.

Anonymous said...

Tracy - This really does sound interesting. I think science can really add to a novel, and sci-fi elements don't at all mean that a novel can't also be a good mystery. May have to check this one out...

TracyK said...

You are probably right, Col. Some reviews complained about info dumps on science subjects. I did not notice that, I found it all interesting.

TracyK said...

It is a lovely cover, Kay. If you don't mind genre mixing, you would probably like this. I loved THE LAST POLICEMAN (and the rest of the trilogy). That sounds like a great read for a book club. Lots of potential topics for discussion.

TracyK said...

I think you would enjoy lots of John Scalzi's books, Prashant. Like all science fiction, there are unrealistic elements, but this seems very realistic to me for the most part.

TracyK said...

Margot, I knew I would read this one someday as soon as I heard that the premise was the aftermath of a epidemic. But when I realized it was also a thriller, I pushed it up on my list, and I was glad I did.

Places to Hangout in Gurgaon said...

Very interesting blog. A lot of blogs I see these days don't really provide anything that attract others, but I'm most definitely interested in this one. Just thought that I would post and let you know.

Elizabeth said...

First of all....GORGEOUS the plain, clean, white design. I also LOVE your blog's name.

I love this book's cover, but don't think I would read it. I don't like sci-fi, and I see you said it wouldn't appeal to folks who don't read sci-fi.

ENJOY your reading week.

Stopping by from Carole's Books You Loved February Edition. I am in the list as #11.

My book entry is below.

Silver's Reviews
My Book Entry

Laurie C said...

I don't mind s/f but like you, don't care much for the military s/f stuff. I have Lock In on my TBR list already, but you've gotten me to move it up closer to the top!

TracyK said...

Thanks for the kind words, Elizabeth. I checked out the book you reviewed (The Secret of Magic by Deborah Johnson) and it sounds very interesting. I will seek it out. I visited my cousins in Mississippi as a child and they still live there.

TracyK said...

Laurie, I think you will enjoy Lock In. A very interesting premise, and I enjoy Scalzi's writing.

Clothes In Books said...

My first thought was that the book wasn't for me, but I'd be interested in reading your review. But you've almost got me wanting to read it, even though it's not my thing at all. We'll see....

TracyK said...

Moira, it is obvious that I loved this book. But it is hard to say how much others would like it. I don't even know how much I would have liked it without reading the prequel novel; I am the kind who likes the fleshed out set up information up front. Others enjoyed it without the prequel. It was sci fi but not too sci fi, and a good novel overall, and a thriller too. Perfect for me.