Lock In

John Scalzi
Lock In Cover

Lock In


The strongest Scalzi novel in the past few years, Lock In builds a near-future world that the reader can actually imagine coming into being. The action begins about 20 years after a devastating disease has literally decimated the human race. Horrifically, many of those who contract the disease but don't perish experience "lock in," meaning they lose all motor control of their bodies while remaining mentally awake and aware. In the decades since the disease first appeared, some solutions have been found that free these individuals from their solitary confinement; one solution allows the locked-in person to remotely operate a robot using only their mind.

The novel's protagonist, Chris, uses a robot to interact with the world, leading close to a "normal" life. In fact, Chris has just graduated and become an FBI agent. The hook that gets us into the story is a strange crime that Chris must unravel. The twists and turns of the plot feature lots of the Scalzi inventiveness and wit that frequent readers will immediately recognize. Chris is the usual Scalzi protagonist, exhibiting the same dry sense of humor and sharp reasoning ability (much like the main characters in Old Man's War or Fuzzy Nation).

But I have to give huge kudos to Scalzi for making Chris gender neutral, by which I mean, the reader is never given a hint as to whether Chris is a male or a female. I don't know if I would have noticed this, except for the fact that the audiobook is available in two versions. One is performed by Wil Wheaton, who has performed nearly all of Scalzi's other audiobooks. Because I think Wheaton does a great job interpreting Scalzi's works, I initially listened to his version of the book and assumed Chris was male. But then something happened to the audio file and the Wheaton version wouldn't work anymore, so I switched over to the other version, read by Amber Benson. And then it hit me: Chris could be female. This duality added greatly to my appreciation of the novel, and made me bump it up to 5 stars.

Lock In is a fully complete novel with no overt cliffhangers, but I must say that I really, really hope Scalzi writes a follow-up. The audio book includes a novella at the end called "Unlocked" which I thought was EVEN BETTER than the novel itself. Make sure you read the novella to get the full impact of the world Scalzi has created. Even better than a sequel would be a television series!!

[I increased the listening speed of the Amber Benson version of the book to 1.25 speed, because her style was just too slow for me. It sounded normal at the higher speed and was much more enjoyable.]