Thursday, August 11, 2016

Lock In - John Scalzi

Book Details

Book Title: Lock In

Author: John Scalzi

: Gollancz

Source: Library

Page Count: 334

Format: Paperback

Genre: Science-Fiction

Audience: Those who love a heavy dose of science and politics, with some action

Buy? Read? Avoid?: Read

Summed up in one word: Polished

Author Bio: John Scalzi is an american science fiction author. He is also is know for his blog Whatever on which he has been posting since 1998. John Scalzi writes fiction, non fiction and columns on a wide variety of subjects and interests. 
First Impression: I love science fiction, I have been reading a lot of historical fiction lately and I was really looking forward to a big dose of science, action and more science. Lock In is a well rounded, enjoyable read, was I blown away? Not really, but I did have some fun with this book. Heavy on the science and the politics, thin on action and suspense. There are elements here that I loved! The dynamics of Chris and the other Hadens was impressive. The writing was so polished and confident, which was needed for a story like this. There are a few problems here though so lets get to the the review.

Fifteen years from now, a new virus sweeps the globe. Most of those afflicted experience nothing worse than fever and headaches. A few suffer acute meningitis, creating the largest medical crisis in history. And 1 per cent find themselves 'locked in' - fully awake and aware, but unable to move or respond to stimulus.
It may not seem like a lot. But in the US alone that's 1.7 million people 'locked in' ... including the President's wife and daughter.
Spurred by grief and the sheer magnitude of the suffering, America undertakes a massive scientific initiative. Nothing can fully restore the locked in, but then two new technologies emerge. One is a virtual-reality environment, 'The Agora', where the locked-in can interact with other humans. The other is the discovery that a few rare individuals have brains that are receptive to being controlled by others, allowing the locked in to occasionally use their bodies as if they were their own.
This skill is quickly regulated, licensed, bonded, and controlled. Nothing can go wrong. Certainly nobody would be tempted to misuse it, for murder, for political power, or worse...
 (Synopsis from Lock In by John Scalzi)


Story: This was an ambitious storyline and Scalzi did a great job with it. Starting with a world wide illness that eventually left a percentage of the population with 'Haden's Syndrome' which has symptoms ranging from the flu, to meningitis or ultimately 'Locked In' syndrome, Scalzi shows us the aftermath of such an event and what we can achieve to bring some normality back to those who lost everything. Science is key in this story and though it is not an overly complicated story line, when the characters get into the computer/coding talk, I lost my grasp on what they were explaining several times as it is filled with technical speak and deep explanations that I could not fully understand. 

There are two key elements to this story that made it enjoyable to me. First, John Scalzi managed to write a half decent murder mystery wrapped in a technologically advanced version of our society set in the near future, doing this whilst also brewing an underlying plot between the Hadens (those afflicted with Haden's Syndrome) and those who don't accept their needs or existence. Secondly, creating this amazing technology that the Haden's need to maintain their lifestyle even after being confined to their beds. Unfortunately parts of this element of the book were under-developed which is a shame because they had major potential, such as 'The Agora' which is an internal social network system used by Hadens to communicate and have some interaction with other Hadens, but it is barely used and it is a shame.

Characters: The characters in this book are difficult to appreciate... The protagonist is a Haden called Chris Shane who is just starting his job in the FBI when we are introduced to him in the story. Now, he has had a troublesome life, contracting 'Haden's Syndrome' when he was 2 and becoming fully 'Locked In'. Shane was the poster child for the campaign to fund research to help those who have suffered with the disease. That said, he is a moody, reckless and childish sort of character who has some good qualities when he needs them. 

Alongside Shane there is his FBI partner Vann who is a bit of cliche, hard nut with a troubled past. Other characters include, politicians, rich people, members of the Navajo Nation and computer geniuses. Each character had some good bits and some bad bits but nothing that I can really get excited about. The villain was an evil mastermind who was turning people against the Hadens to accomplish his own twisted goals, but he spent the whole book in the background and only really came into play when the book was said and done.

Themes: Several potent themes here in Lock In. Worldwide suffering, technology, science, politics, discrimination and unity. 

Likes: The technology that helps the Hadens is amazing. The story telling. Diversity. Complex story with plenty of science and technology weaved in. This book is a smooth read in terms of writing, polished and confident.

Dislikes: Lost potential. Characters need some work. Lack of action or thrills. Overly technical in parts, hard for the lay people to follow the thread. Quite a lot of politics...

Rating: Overall, Lock In is immensely readable, The story and the version of our society that it occupies is top quality. The characters are a bit of a let down, they are nothing special but the characters here are just pawns in a much bigger game, The technology that the Hadens are given is interesting and inspiring, though parts that I thought could add more depth to the story were left under-developed. I would recommend this book to those who love science and technology, those who are looking for action need to look elsewhere.


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