Today, I am reviewing Lock In by John Scalzi…. and it’s my first audiobook review in quite some time. Whilst I listen to them most days, I only get to enjoy them in short bursts. As a result, it takes me a little while to finish an audiobook. Then I forget to review them entirely because they are so infrequent. Good plan, neh?
Yeah, not really, but there we are! So, I have a few catch-up reviews to write. Let’s jump straight in!
Lock In – 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.
Even though Lock In delves into the realms of science-fiction, it’s an almost plausible reality. A deadly virus attacks the population; millions die and many recover, but an unlucky one per cent lives with “Lock In”. They are stuck in their own bodies and unable to communicate. Technology eventually intervenes and allows those “Locked In” to live a semblance of a normal life via the use of Threeps – essentially, a robot.
After the initial shockwave of the disease sweeps through the population, corporations are quick in recognising that a new market is emerging. Lock In patients need healthcare; there needs to be research into developing a treatment or cure. There’s profit to be made and the corporation wars begin. Things start to get pretty hostile when we get thrown into the narrative.
Agent Shane is one of the most famous Haden’s victims. Through his father’s influence, he became a poster-child for the Threep. Now an adult and keen to make his own way in life, he is assigned to work with Agent Vann in his new job with the FBI. Despite his privilege, Chris Shane is incredibly switched on to the ways of the world. His scepticism and dry wit had me laughing out loud almost constantly. Agent Vann is much the same, if not a little blunter. The duo works so well together that their partnership is effortless and enjoyable to listen to.
Unlocked: An Oral History of Haden’s Syndrome
The storyline and development behind the flu-like virus, how it affected people and the long-term consequences for its victims has been so well thought out! The version of the audiobook I listened to, narrated by Will Wheaton, had a novella tagged onto the end about the entire history of the fictional virus. I really enjoyed the multiple perspectives in this novella – it’s composed of reports by various medical professionals and participants of medical trials etc. It had a fresh feel compared to Lock In, which was more consistent in chapter length and narration.
Lock In is part sci-fi, part psychological thriller in its narration and execution. It’s a truly enjoyable narrative. I fully anticipate more of John Scalzi’s books landing on my bookshelf, and not just the sequel, Head On…