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Lock In: A Novel of the Near Future by John…
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Lock In: A Novel of the Near Future

by John Scalzi

Series: Lock In (1)

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Reading Lock In was a comfortable experience as it had many of the hallmarks of a John Scalzi novel and it was the fourth of his novels I have read - hopefully not my last. Lock In relates the consequences of an incurable disease; however the cause of the virus or as it is known in Lock In “Haden Syndrome” is irrelevant. Lock In is a futuristic conspiracy thriller. The pandemic that led to the spread of this virus killed many millions, but also left many with "locked in" bodies that could be maintained even while immobilized.

The main character in Lock In is Agent Chris Shane, who is starting his first week as a full agent for the FBI. Agent Shane is one of the Locked In, he gets around by using a Threep, an artificial body that connects to his mind so he can interact with people that are still able-bodied. Agent Shane’s first week also coincides with a strike being held by the Haden community, as a bill has recently been passed by the government that will cut funding significantly from subsidies and programs that support Haden sufferers.

Through Agent Shane and his partner Agent Vann - whose work specifically deals with those who have Haden Syndrome - different perspectives are demonstrated between the people affected with Haden’s and the people who do not understand them. In their daily routine, as they're called to the scene of a murder, we instantly see that there is misunderstanding and discrimination between Haden’s and normal humans which is escalates throughout the story. Scalzi develops his characters well - though Agent’s Shane and Vann at the beginning of the book have only just met there is a good camaraderie between them, it feels like an odd couple pairing, but you can see the trust building between a veteran agent and the rookie.

This book also focuses on the differences between the rich and poor in society. John Scalzi poses the question - what makes us human? When a virus has rewired 5 million people’s brains in the US alone, allowing them to do things that the un-afflicted are unable to do, does this make you more or less human? With access to Threeps, for some travel is now instantaneous, while for others race and gender are no longer an issue. This has a concomitant affect by also causing tensions where previously there were none. I felt that this sociological aspect really grounded the characters in their reality. They also became real as Agent Shane demonstrates emotions that one would not expect from a machine.

This is an inventive sci-fi story, with so many ideas floating around (another Scalzi specialty) that you should feel disorientated and yet it is so well written that you never feel frustrated or lost by what has not yet been revealed. This reader felt the technology levels were not beyond my comprehension; they appeared to be reasonable given the current direction of technical progress. The political and business aspects that are based on power struggles work really well in this context. If you have never read anything by John Scalzi, this is a good place to start; and if you have read some Scalzi I can reassure you that he is on top of his game in this novel. ( )
  jwhenderson | Sep 4, 2018 |
I was lucky and won an ARC of Lock In from Goodreads. I loved Redshirts and was excited to read more by Scalzi. I also really enjoy his blog, Whatever. Basically in Lock In, a virus plagues the world. Most people are affected and most end up okay, but one percent suffer from "lock in" being trapped in their own bodies, yet completely conscious and aware. Chris Shane, becomes the most famous child with Haden's - the disease gets its name from the president's wife and daughter. Technologies are created to help those who suffer from being locked in. Everything is about this one percent, which in America, where the story is based, is 1.7 million people. If you think about it globally, that's 70 million people. There is no cure, so people are continually being affected. The American president throws money at research and no one argues, everyone supports it since they all know someone locked in. After a generation of this, a couple of senators sign a bill cutting funding to Haden's research programs; that's when things get violent.

The description doesn't do it justice. The book is amazing. The Agora is fascinating, people with Lock In can exist there and make it whatever they want it to me. Threeps, aka Person Transports are fantastic and I love who they're named after. Scalzi invents things I wish were real and I wonder if one day they will be. I can't express how much I enjoyed Lock In. I hope that Scalzi writes more about Shane and Vann, I want to know what happens next. ( )
  Loni.C. | Aug 17, 2018 |
When this book first came out, I apparently only paid a little attention to the pitch, because I thought "it's about a plague of total paralysis? sounds like Oh-No-Disability-Is-Terrible stuff, I'll pass". But it turns out I was completely wrong about that! This book picks up a couple decades later and is largely about disability culture, rights, and politics. It's really good! I like the worldbuilding and the characters. ( )
  lavaturtle | Aug 8, 2018 |
I knew it was going to be a good science fiction novel, after all, this is a John Scalzi book, but, I was surprised that it was a pretty good mystery too.

The central plot point of the story is a disease called Haden's Syndrome (named after a first lady who had it). It starts with a horrible sickness. Some live, some die, but it's the third group of people inflicted with Haden's that the book revolves around, those who suffer from a form of Locked In syndrome. Their brains are in perfect working order, but their body is entirely shut off from the brain.

The two main characters are Agent Vann, a senior, non-Haden FBI agent and her brand new partner. Chris Shane. Chris has Haden's. And like others who have the Syndrome Chris uses a robot like contraption, called a threep by most people, to get around and interact with non-Haden people. Even while Chris' body is safe somewhere else.

Chris and Vann catch a murder that's possibly been committed by a Haden sufferer on Shane's second day as an FBI agent, and from there they get pulled into a mystery that has some twists and turns they didn't see coming.

I have to say, as a life long mystery reader (from Encyclopedia Brown and Cam Jensen onward) that was one of the teensy tiny things that I didn't absolutely love about this book. The twists and turns didn't really surprise me personally. Then again, as I said, if you're a Sci Fi lover instead of a Mystery and Sci Fi lover like myself, the turns may be more surprising.

Here's the thing though, I can write about how the mystery was great, the world building was outstanding, how everything fit together so so well. But, honestly, if there's one thing that I took away from reading this book it was this. Who is Chris. Is Chris male or female (or perhaps neither or both)? And what does it tell us about each of us who have read the book. Do we assume Chris is a he, he did this, he did that. Do we assume Chris is a she, she did this, she did that. Or Chris is a they, they did this, they did that?

And, as much at first I thought I was reading too much into this, then I found out that on the Audiobook version there isn't one, there are two, one voiced by Amber Benson, one by Wil Wheaton. So, once you've read this book, I suggest thinking, did you assume the pronouns of one gender or the other, or non-binary pronouns? And what does that say about each of us. I know that I will never read a book again where pronouns aren't used in the same way (and I'm glad of that).

As you can read, I really did love the novel on all levels. It was different, and eerily creepy (because I could see how our world could easily turn into this one, and on a metaphorical level perhaps it already has). The characters were oh so unique, and hilarious and easy to like (or hate depending on the character). And I'm so glad that Scalzi chose to make this more than just a one off, but write at least one more book in the series. Because, this world is just awesome. ( )
  DanieXJ | Jul 30, 2018 |
Ok. Very talky -- much telling of things that could be shown. Felt like it was written so it could easily be made into a movie. I stopped being interested about 3/4 way through but that's typical for me. ( )
  karolynslowsky | Jul 22, 2018 |
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To Joe Hill, I told you I was going to do this.

And to Daniel Mainz, my very dear friend.
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Haden's syndrome is the name given to a set of continuing physical and mental conditions and disabilities initially brought on by "the Great Flu," the influenza-like global pandemic that resulted in the deaths of more than 400 million people worldwide, either through the initial flu-like symptoms, the secondary stage of meningitis-like cerebral and spinal inflammation, or through complications arising due to the third stage of the disease, which typically caused complete paralysis of the voluntary nervous system, resulting in "lock in" for its victims.
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"Fifteen years from now, a new virus sweeps the globe. 95% of those afflicted experience nothing worse than fever and headaches. Four percent suffer acute meningitis, creating the largest medical crisis in history. And one percent find themselves "locked in"--fully awake and aware, but unable to move or respond to stimulus. One per cent doesn't seem like a lot. But in the United States, that's 1.7 million people "locked in"...including the President's wife and daughter. Spurred by grief and the sheer magnitude of the suffering, America undertakes a massive scientific initiative. Nothing can restore the ability to control their own bodies to the locked in. But then two new technologies emerge. One is a virtual-reality environment, "The Agora," in which the locked-in can interact with other humans, both locked-in and not. The other is the discovery that a few rare individuals have brains that are receptive to being controlled by others, meaning that from time to time, those who are locked in can "ride" these people and use their bodies as if they were their own. This skill is quickly regulated, licensed, bonded, and controlled. Nothing can go wrong. Certainly nobody would be tempted to misuse it, for murder, for political power, or worse....John Scalzi's Lock In is a novel of our near future, from one of the most popular authors in modern science fiction"--… (more)

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