“Lock in” by John Scalzi (Tor, 2014)

Lock In

John Scalzi’s latest book, Lock in, is one of those works of science fiction that just seems like a cool story at first, but then as the reader thinks more on it, realizes there’s a lot more going on that says something about our world today and where it’s possibly headed.

It is the near future and a highly contagious virus has swept across the globe. For most of the world population, it is nothing worse than a heavy case of the flu, but for the unlucky one percent, it causes a condition known as “lock in” or “Haden’s syndrome” where victims are fully awake and aware but their bodies are completely paralyzed. But there are “threeps,” mechanical human-looking bodies that these victim’s consciousnesses can be downloaded into and used. Then there are “integrators,” special people who after suffering from the virus who have the ability to have someone’s consciousness downloaded into their minds and have their bodies taken over for a limited time.

The story focuses on rookie FBI agent Chris Shane on his first case with tough partner Leslie Vann, investigating a Haden-related murder at the Watergate Hotel. The victim is also an Integrator which complicates things greatly. In a world where everyone has an opinion about Haden victims and they are about to lose some significant government funding, Shane finds himself involved in a seminal case that will have a great influence on how Haden victims will be seen and viewed by everyone.

Lock in is just good science fiction, with a diverse cast of men and women who feel real, living in a very real world. It forces the reader to question their thoughts and feelings on anyone with a disability. Scalzi poses perhaps the most important thought in the book when there are those looking to “cure” Haden’s syndrome, while Haden victims just want to be accepted into society as fellow people. Science fiction is supposed to make you think and question the status quo and Lock in does this very well.

Originally written on September 19, 2014 ©Alex C. Telander.

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