By: John Scalzi
My Review: Four out of Five Stars
Scalzi, current king of SyFy, delivers again!
In this future, a global pandemic has killed millions. Some on the infected do survive, but the disease leaves them “locked in:” they have complete consciousness of mind and sensation, but they have no control over their body. These are “Hadens.” They are the 1% of the world’s population who look like they are sleeping but are actually waked minds trapped in their own bodies…which totally freaks me out.
It’s kind of like being buried alive.
Haden’s Syndrome became the necessity that mothered invention, and technology was developed that allowed neural networks to be implanted in Haden brains so they can control androids (called “threeps,” a nod to the most famous Droid of all). Humans and Threeps…living together. New laws, new ethics, new culture, new society, new sports.
Lock In and Head On are, um…medical SyFy…a buddy-cop procedural…a bit of a thriller…a bit of a drama…with a mystery to solve. Set in the near future. Totally unique. Totally Scalzi.
I’m going to flag this next part as a spoiler. It doesn’t spoil the story, but it will spoil a cool trick Scalzi played on the reader and didn’t tell anyone about it…he just did it and left it there for readers to discover. I didn’t find it until after I had finished the book and was reading an interview he did—still totally oblivious that there was even a thing. When I learned what he did, I had a “holy cow, I can’t believe I fell for that!” moment and immediately loved the book even more. So, to preserve that moment for you, I’m going to hide it behind this spoiler alert. If you’re interested, skip the this part now, but come back after you’ve read Lock In to read about how Scalzi tricked you—I bet you’ll be pleasantly surprised.
Or read it now, it doesn’t matter to me. Just giving you choice. Like I said, it doesn’t spoil the story.
Here is it (highlight to read): Scalzi wrote the whole book without disclosing if the main character, Chris, was a man or a woman. I had read him as a guy the whole book. Then I read this interview where Scalzi describes realizing that if these people were walking around as androids, race and gender didn’t matter so much. So he wrote Chris without identifying pronouns to see what would happen, but didn’t tell anyone he did it. He even went so far as to have two different audiobooks recorded, one by a male narrator, one by a female. There was this quote from the interview:
My editor got back to me after he read the manuscript and I said, “What do you think of Chris?” He was like, “I like the way that he has banter back and forth with Leslie Vann,” and blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. I was like, “Why do you think Chris is a he?” He was silent for a minute and he’s like, “You bastard.” https://www.denofgeek.com/us/books/john-scalzi/272694/john-scalzi-on-gender-sports-and-representation-in-sci-fi
He pulled it off brilliantly. I read the entire book with an assumption. Did you? Some great discussion material here. Come find me after you’ve finished, I’d love to hear from you.
Anyway, super cool. I love being surprised, and Scalzi surprised me.
Like I’ve said, Lock In is typical Scalzi, so you get the really cool speculative ScyFy explained in a way that non-nerdy people can understand. But you also get the potty mouth. It’s not nearly as bad as Old Man’s War, but there are four-letter-words to be found. Android violence. No sexual content in Lock In, but Head On has some PG-13 discussions about sex bots. Probably best for 18 and up.