REVIEW: Lock In (Lock In #1) by John Scalzi
A blazingly inventive near-future thriller from the best-selling, Hugo Award-winning John Scalzi.
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.
But “complicated” doesn’t begin to describe it. As Shane and Vann began to unravel the threads of the murder, it becomes clear that the real mystery – and the real crime – is bigger than anyone could have imagined. The world of the locked in is changing, and with the change comes opportunities that the ambitious will seize at any cost. The investigation that began as a murder case takes Shane and Vann from the halls of corporate power to the virtual spaces of the locked in, and to the very heart of an emerging, surprising new human culture. It’s nothing you could have expected.
Dear John Scalzi,
I am still not very familiar with your back list but this book came highly recommended by several people so I finally decided to try it.
First and foremost: I really enjoyed it while I was reading the story. You can even say I tore through the book since it took me less than two days to finish it. It was exciting and fun. It had a lot of social commentary that was fully integrated in the narrative, which did not make the story preachy to me.
The blurb describes the imaginary illness “Haden’s syndrome” quite well. In this world because millions of people ended up experiencing the “lock in”, the government at first put a lot of money in the research and technology; however, one of the main reasons the government did that was because the first lady of the United States was one of the first victims of the disease and “Haden” was her last name. A couple decades later (I think it is couple decades later, apologies if I misunderstood the timeline in the book), some people decided that government spent too much money on Haden related research and development of the technology. Those people unfortunately convinced the people in power to vote for the bill, which would cut a lot of important things for people with Haden’s Syndrome and a lot of important things would be privatized. When the book begins, the bill is about to become the law very soon and of course many people with Haden’s syndrome are not happy about that; one of the prominent Haden activists is scheduling a protest march.
I just tried to give you a little more of the background than what the blurb described. The blurb describes the main storyline of the book very well though. Rookie FBI agent Chris Shane is our narrator and we are in their head all the time. I say “their” because Chris’ gender is not mentioned and I remember reading somewhere that it was done deliberately. When Chris starts the job, our newbie agent gets thrown right in the mix of things and those things start moving very quickly.
This case is testing Chris on many levels not just because they want to do their job, but because Chris also has “Haden’s syndrome” and is ultimately familiar with many hurdles and challenges caused by it. Chris is also one of the most famous people living with the disease because of the family being very well politically connected and the father being in politics for many years. So Chris also has had a lot of advantages growing up.
I really liked Chris. They were smart and funny and self-aware enough to realize the advantages they had growing up. Chris also seemed to be very invested in delivering justice and actually went into FBI in order to help people. I liked several other characters in the story and as I said above, I really enjoyed the plot. I thought the imaginary technology was inventive but made perfect sense considering the illness the story was dealing with. I thought plot moved really fast, but also let me catch a breath when needed.
So basically I thought that as SF thriller, the story delivered. There was one aspect of the plot I didn’t like however, and that was the mystery part.
Trust me when I say it – I went into the book not reading any reviews. As I said before, I had read earlier that the narrator’s gender was not mentioned so I did pay attention to that, but otherwise I knew nothing and formed no expectations.
Having said that, when I read about a dead body in the story and then *another one*, I did form an expectation and that expectation was that I wanted an interesting resolution as to the suspects reveal. I was very disappointed in that. As you can see from the blurb initially the integrator was a suspect, but it was only for a short period of time. Then we get a suspect/s early enough and *no other suspects ever appear*.
And the suspect/s whom we meet early enough in the books end up being the bad guy/s. I was hoping to be surprised, to be shown some red herrings. I had no such luck unfortunately. To be fair, the story seemed to be mostly concerned with how and why and I could not guess “how” till almost all of it was revealed, but even *why* was easy enough to guess if one is guessing very general motive.
So partially it is my fault of course, because the blurb says thriller; however, I do not think it is so unreasonable to expect an interesting solution to the dead bodies in the narrative.