Lock In by John Scalzi and narrated by Wil Wheaton is a tense and engaging sci-fi mystery that has timely social commentary undertones that will make the reader think.
Type of Story: Sci-Fi Mystery with noir characteristics.
– The perfect mixture between mystery and sci-fi with neither overpowering the other.
– Believable future and consequences of a disease.
– Believable future technology and use for that technology.
– Characters with personal preferences and experiences dealing with the majority of the themes displayed during the book.
– Information is disbursed about the mystery at a pace that challenges the reader to figure out the mystery but not slow enough to get frustrated.
– Rushed ending that a twist might of worked really well in.
Similar Books/Media: The Matrix, Minority Report, and some John Grisham novels.
Plot – 5/5(Very Strong): Hadens is a disease that came from the H1N1 flu that caused Lock In to a small percentage of individuals in the world. Lock In is the afflicted being completely paralyzed and unresponsive in real life but their mind working completely fine. Hadens research, with the help of some high profile people, allowed Hadens sufferers to transfer their consciousness to either a robot or an integrator, someone that they can control with the permission of the integrator.
Our story follows, Chris Shane, a FBI agent that has Hadens, and uses a robot called a Threep. With his partner, Vann, they investigate a crime scene that just doesn’t make sense. Attempting to figure out what actually happened in the crime scene becomes a mystery with powerful and rich people involved, along with how the Hadens interact in the world, and how the integrators are used.
I thought the plot was extremely good. The setup for the story, the Hadens disease, was extremely interesting and relevant because of the illnesses related to the flu that happen in our current society. In fact there are so many things in this book that I related to real life but I’ll cover most of those aspects in the heart and mind section. The plot was just really well tuned, thought out, and inventive. Wheaton as the narrator was perfect because his voice and attitude fit Chris Shane perfectly. In fact, I believe the audiobook is probably better than the actual book.
What Scalzi does extremely well is that he holds back information and delivers information to the reader in the perfect amount of doses. This creates mystery and tension in the story, all because of Scalzi understanding how to put together a solid plot and delivering the reveals at the correct time. The mystery aspect of this story was right up my alley because I am a huge mystery genre fan and I felt that this mystery was just as good as some strict mystery books that I have read.
At first I wasn’t so sure about the robot thing because so many times robot integrated stories either hit or miss really badly. I think the reason why this worked so well was because these robots were basically just vehicles for the Haden sufferers. These were humans in all intensive purposes because their mind was in the robot. It just created amazing scenes and thoughtful instances that you took outside the book.
Characters – 4(Strong): Chris Shane, our main character and narrator through the eyes which we see everything, is going to be a polarizing character. I have read other reviews that felt that Shane was a little annoying. Shane did have an attitude about things at times that could be considered slightly whiny but considering his background I believe it was not only justified but expected. He is a Haden that is the only son of one of the most powerful men in the world and filthy rich. If Shane didn’t act a little spoiled at times I would question his character even more. The important thing is that he is doing a job that he loves, and that he is good at, when he really never had to work at all. Also, Wheaton does an amazing job as Chris Shane.
Vann, Shane’s partner, is a complex character with an interesting back-story that I won’t get into here because of spoilers. She is hard nosed, a chain smoker, and a sex addict. She does things to the hilt and not half way. She reminded me a lot of Lisbeth from The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.
The rest of the characters are diverse and interesting enough to keep your attention. The list of suspects are varied and you can see how each have a motive. Even though Shane and Vann are the main characters, the rest of the characters are fleshed out enough that you understand their aspirations.
Setting/World Building – 5(Very Strong): Scalzi creates an unique world that has changed drastically due to the Haden illness. More than anything, he creates an entirely new sub-culture that is reminiscent of physical ailment cultures in our current society. Where blind and deaf individuals now have what is considered their own culture, Scalzi creates a culture for the Hadens. Hadens live different than normal humans, they work differently, they interact and are social differently, and they have varying degrees of disagreements of what their culture really entails.
One thing that I found interesting was the Agora. The Agora is a virtual playground for Hadens. They can use it as a place where they can go to relax and be alone or as a place to socialize. It reminds me of the game Second Life only these Hadens are using it as their first life. In fact, one of the Haden activists, Cassandra Bell, only lives her life in the Agora. Even though this idea of a virtual world might not be the most unique, it was implemented extremely well in this book, and because I personally like virtual worlds myself, it really appealed to me.
Writing Style – 4(Strong): Since I listened to the audiobook, I can only judge the writing style by that. I found the book to be a typical Scalzi book, fast paced, but with quite a few intellectual interjections and dialogues. I really enjoy Scalzi’s writing because he seems really organized when it comes to the story he wants to tell. There is never a lot of fluff. This might be bad for some readers that enjoy more journey/character stories where the author lets the characters take them on a journey.
My main criticism is that the book ended rather abruptly. Once we found out the resolution to the story, it wrapped up rather quick, and usually when a story wraps up this quickly there is a twist at the end. I was expecting a twist at the end and maybe one or two more chapters but it cleaned up almost too neatly. I’m curious to know if this was Scalzi’s first and only ending or if he scrapped a previous ending.
Heart and Mind Factor – 5(Very Strong): Lock In really got a hold of me intellectually. I saw so many comparisons with the Hadens to our current culture. The biggest one for me is the debate about transgenders. I compared the way that Hadens were looked at in Scalzi’s book to how transgender individuals are looked at in our current society. A lot of transgenders feel locked in their own body because it is the opposite sex that they associate with. The Hadens were all locked in their body and were able to use robots and integrators to interact with the world. I guess it made me more sympathetic to the transgender culture after reading this book.
Also, the idea that a flu virus could do what happened in this book makes me more interested in researching what types of viruses are out there and how they are effecting people. It does give me hope that even though a tragedy like this happened in Scalzi’s world that they found a way to come together and allow these Haden victims to be a part of society. The political aspects of the novel really appealed to me as well. How that even though the Hadens were putting more into society than taking out of it they still decided to pass a bill to cut Haden funding. I think that is extremely relevant in our current society when it comes to health care and cutting services for people that might not be able to afford the help.
Recommendation: I highly recommend Lock In by John Scalzi. I enjoyed it greatly. It is currently the best audiobook I have ever listened too and if you consider listening to an audiobook as reading a book, one of the better books I’ve read. It is going on my favorites shelf. If you enjoy mystery books and you want some realistically believable sci-fi, pick this up. My interests in technology, the mystery genre, and the sci-fi genre made me love this book.