Nataliya's Reviews > Lock In

Lock In by John Scalzi
Rate this book
Clear rating

by
3672777
's review

really liked it
bookshelves: 2014-reads

If you ever want a morbid exercise to kill some time, imagine living through this: full consciousness, full comprehension - and the complete inability to control your body, a physical paralysis that does not affect your mind, a complete and total helplessness that does not even provide you with a merciful unawareness but instead leaves you just lying there, conscious but immobile and unable to communicate.

This is what hell is like, I'd imagine - imprisonment within your own self. This is what living with a locked-in syndrome is like. If you're not up to reading articles about it, try The Diving Bell and the Butterfly: A Memoir of Life in Death - it gives you a good idea of what it's like.
-----
John Scalzi takes the idea of locked-in syndrome and imagines a world few decades in the future where, due to a pretty indiscriminate pandemic virus, it strikes a significant proportion of the population, forcing people to (a) care and (b) pump insane amounts of funds and technology into the research (hard not to, given that even the a First Lady succumbs to the disease, and the toddler of a media darling cum real estate tycoon, and so there's no shortage of cash flowing into the search for a solution). And so the affected, those with the locked-in syndrome (now known as Hadens, after the former First Lady Mrs. Haden) eventually are able to resume their lives through neural networks implanted in their brains enabling them to communicate and basically download their consciousness into androids (colloquially referred to as 'threeps', after C3PO, of course), resulting in a huge community of people leading their existence outside of their human shells, discovering that physical and 'virtual' existence can feel quite the same if you are a 'Haden'.
“[...] For a Haden the nonphysical world is as real as the physical one.”


And suddenly what happens is the emergence of a completely new community, people of all walks of life - regardless of gender, sexual orientation, race, socio-economic status, beliefs - suddenly becoming distinct from everyone else, by necessity forming their own community of 'alikes', the quickest creation of another human race or even species, one can say. Officially they are 'victims', a view that is becoming unpopular with many a taxpayer and politician, but also with quite a few in the Haden community as well as they progress to living full lives, not quite really constrained by their condition. Difference or disease? Depends on the where you stand.
“Bring us back from what, exactly?” Hubbard said. “From a community of five million people in the U.S. and forty million worldwide? From an emerging culture that interacts with but is independent of the physical world, with its own concerns, interests, and economy? You’re aware that a large number of Hadens have no memory of the physical world at all, aren’t you?”


In Scalzi's book this new world of 'conventional' humans and 'Hadens' is in disquiet. A controversial law has passed, severely limiting government assistance for the Hadens, cutting the enormous flow of social support that many of taxpayers have found, well, taxing (a frequent sentiment in the US, as we know). A Haden march on Washington DC is about to happen. And a series of strange crimes linked to a few prominent Hadens and the Integrators (a select few people able through specialized neural networks to allow a Haden's consciousness to basically hitch a ride in an Integrator's body) swipes through Washington.

Chris Shane, one of the most prominent Hadens by the virtue of being a child of a celebrity real estate tycoon, is a rookie FBI agent involved in the investigation of these crimes with his partner Leslie Vann - and he has his android hands quite full very quickly:
“Today I fought with a ninja threep, saw two women view the last video from a dead relative, had a woman explode twenty feet from me, and watched my dad kill an intruder with a shotgun.” I took a cup and poured the bourbon into it. “If I had any sense I’d take this bottle and attach it to my intake tube.”
-----
It was my second Scalzi book (first was'Redshirts'), and so far it's been two for two for me. Apparently Scalzi's style, confident cleverness and the ability to integrate humor and seriousness in the way that seems juuuust right works for me quite well. It does a splendid job at seamlessly integrating a sci-fi story with a police procedural, making it a fun and thrilling ride. It's well-plotted and moves smoothly along - even though at times a little *too* smoothly, sliding along the well-oiled narrative rails, occasionally falling into a cliche or ten, and sometimes in the smooth flow skidding right past the moments on which I wish more time had been spent as they would have added some hefty substance to counterbalance the surface lightness of the story (but maybe the implications of some of the revelations and plot points will be revisited in the future as it does seem to be a good intro to, perhaps, a series? Would be a shame to not revisit this world again.) Yes, some of the exposition made me eye-roll (there's easily accessible and then there's clumsy over-explaining) but it is not grating enough to dull the enjoyment of the story.

So yeah, it would not be the first (or second, or fifteenth) choice of a literary snob. Oh well, their loss. But hey, it's engaging, entertaining and relevant, and overall quite decently written. And I would not hesitate recommending it, even of you really have to work at carving out some time for it in your busy schedule, like I had to. It's worth the few hours, no doubt.

4 stars.
More Scalzi, please. I'm convinced now.
96 likes · flag

Sign into Goodreads to see if any of your friends have read Lock In.
Sign In »

Reading Progress

September 23, 2014 – Started Reading
September 23, 2014 – Shelved
September 24, 2014 – Finished Reading

Comments Showing 1-22 of 22 (22 new)

dateDown arrow    newest »

message 1: by Mike (new) - added it

Mike Great review Nataliya. Scalzi is a "buy on sight" for me and it looks like the streak will continue.


Nataliya Mike wrote: "Great review Nataliya. Scalzi is a "buy on sight" for me and it looks like the streak will continue."

Thanks, Mike!


Ashley Scalzi makes no secret that he writes commercial books, but he does it really well, I think. They're smart commercial books, and fun. (Like you, though, I wished there was a bit more *substance* to this one.)


message 4: by Lyn (new) - rated it 4 stars

Lyn Confident cleverness is an apt description of Scalzi's style, nicely written


Nataliya Ashley wrote: "Scalzi makes no secret that he writes commercial books, but he does it really well, I think. They're smart commercial books, and fun. (Like you, though, I wished there was a bit more *substance* to..."

The more I read, the more I realize I'm perfectly fine with 'commercial books' as long as they are well-written. After all, once upon a time Shakespeare and Dickens were very much 'commercial', and in the realm of fantasy and science fictions so were and are Bradbury, Le Guin and the one and only Sir Terry Pratchett.
But yes, expanding on the 'substance' would have been nice; but as I write it I realize that thanks to it I already did a bit of that 'expanding' somewhere in the dark alleys of my brain, so I guess to me that has to count for something.


Ashley If you haven't read it already, I'd suggest checking out the novella Scalzi wrote to accompany the book. I actually found it more interesting than the main story (it's an oral history of Haden's as a disease).

Also, there's something you didn't mention in your review, and which I didn't notice until I read this post. It adds depth, but only after the fact and not really to the story as much as the context, so I don't think it really counts. Also: mind blown. I was CONVINCED (view spoiler)


Nataliya I did read 'Unlocked' after I finished this book. I think it does expand the universe of this book quite neatly.

As to the link you provide - wow. I realized that I easily assumed Chris Shane was a guy even though there's absolutely no reason why Chris Shane could not be a woman. I wonder what it was - the fact that Scalzi is a guy and the narration is in the first person, or the fact that male is the current default in sci-fi. In any case, it's a great observation, and yet another thing that proves that strict genderized division of the world is not in fact that necessary.


Ashley I went into the book assuming he was a guy (probably because of his name, and I think he was mentioned in the novella, but now I'm doubting myself on that one, too) and the book itself didn't make me question that assumption. I've been thinking about checking out the Amber Benson version of the audiobook to see how it plays with me imagining Chris as a girl instead. Should be interesting.


Brendon Schrodinger Great review Nataliya. I agree completely with your verdict on this mighty fine and entertaining read :)


Nataliya Brendon wrote: "Great review Nataliya. I agree completely with your verdict on this mighty fine and entertaining read :)"

Thanks, Brendon!


message 11: by Natalie (new) - added it

Natalie Cavernelis Great review. The book sounds both appealing and far too frightening.


message 12: by Justin (new) - added it

Justin Is this due to a failure of dopamine receptors to re-uptake dopamine at receptor sites? I've heard it said that a similar malfunctionong of dopamine receptors is responsible for negative symptoms of schizophrenia like avolition and flat affect.


Nataliya Natalie wrote: "Great review. The book sounds both appealing and far too frightening."

Thanks, Natalie!

Justin wrote: "Is this due to a failure of dopamine receptors to re-uptake dopamine at receptor sites? I've heard it said that a similar malfunctionong of dopamine receptors is responsible for negative symptoms ..."

Don't think so. Parkinson's and dopamine have a connection, yes, but I do to think it works the same with locked-in syndrome. Plus, locked-in syndrome is not related to schizophrenia/flat affect.


Plainbrownwrapper Thanks for this review. I've enjoyed Scalzi books in the past (his update of Fuzzy Nation and Agent to the Stars), although I bucked the trend and wasn't too fond of Old Man's War. But locked-in syndrome is a scaaaary thing in real life, so I probably would have avoided this one. Your review makes it sound quite appealing, though. :-)


Nataliya Plainbrownwrapper wrote: "Thanks for this review. I've enjoyed Scalzi books in the past (his update of Fuzzy Nation and Agent to the Stars), although I bucked the trend and wasn't too fond of Old Man's War. But locked-in sy..."

You're welcome!
You know, Scalzi gives the locked-in syndrome sufficient sci-fi flare to manage to distance it from the real thing enough to make an enjoyable book.


Cecily This sounds fascinating - so much more than it might of been, based on the premise alone. Thanks for reviewing it so well.


Nataliya Cecily wrote: "This sounds fascinating - so much more than it might of been, based on the premise alone. Thanks for reviewing it so well."

Thanks, Cecily! This book is definitely interesting, both thanks to what it does and does not say.


message 18: by Oni (new) - rated it 4 stars

Oni Great. This will be my next Scalzi reading. I enjoy Redshirt also, it is hilarious and I have plenty of laugh. By reading your review, I am sure I can enjoy this one too.


message 19: by Ellie (new)

Ellie Thanks Nataliya-I want to try this. Sounds like fun.


message 20: by Mike (new) - rated it 4 stars

Mike Calvo I am reading this book myself and like it. The review is, as usual, spot on and a great one. Thanks for sharing!


Nataliya @ Oni and Ellie - this book is indeed interesting and quite fun. I think you will enjoy it if you choose to read it.

@ Mike: thanks!


Cecily You certainly pick out all the best bits. It's such a good concept for a book. (Unfortunately, I don't think he told it very well.)


back to top