Gary's Reviews > Lock In

Lock In by John Scalzi
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it was ok

Lock In is a near future sci-fi thriller in which a technology that was developed to help accommodate people with a specific disability is exploited by some very bad people to do some very bad things.
I had an unusually difficult time gauging my reaction to this novel. I'm a fan of Scalzi's Old Man's War novels (especially the first three), and I admire the news reporter-like thriftiness of his writing style - his ability to distill a lot of visual and emotional information in the most compact possible way, while maximizing the entertainment value of his stories. The OMW books move fast and reach far in the shortest space possible, and in the end, it feels like you got a huge, splashy sensational epic in an impossibly terse 80,000 words or less.
Unfortunately, these qualities don't translate well when he writes about a world that more or less resembles present day America.
For one, Scalzi gets a little lazy here when it comes to establishing location and atmosphere. In his far-future military space opera setting of OMW, he has to communicate enough visual information to give the reader a sense of being in multiple settings they have no way of observing in their everyday lives. In Lock In, he often shuts down the visual entirely, as if the reader knows what the inside of a house or cafe or police station looks like, so why bother? It allows the action to keep moving, but also leaves the reader hanging in terms of locating their visual experience in the novel. Some of the more future-y aspects of the novel are given their descriptive due, but that's all.
Then there's the plot and its momentum, in which the qualities that make his OMW books such a fun read actually work against him. The brisk, often breakneck pacing is present, but I wish it would have slowed down a bit and explored some of the more fascinating elements of the future he's built, in particular its examination of both the politics and the more practical concerns surrounding disability culture. Those aspects of the book are its best moments, and it feels like the novel sometimes elbows its way through them too quickly to get to the next story point. The biggest problem, though, it that in the end the overall story felt a little anemic, like he stretched a 40,000 word story out to twice that length, which left me trying to figure how a novel could move at such a breathless pace and still feel padded out.
If not for one big whopper of a plot hole that Scalzi seems to deliberately wave his hand at, this review might have included one of those "two-and-a-half star" disclaimers, but all things considered, two stars ("it was okay") feels appropriate for a book that was generally pretty entertaining throughout and contained some fascinating ideas, but overall just wasn't very good.
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Reading Progress

November 8, 2014 – Shelved as: to-read
November 8, 2014 – Shelved
November 14, 2014 – Started Reading
November 14, 2014 –
November 14, 2014 –
November 14, 2014 –
November 15, 2014 –
December 9, 2014 –
February 25, 2015 –
February 28, 2015 –
March 4, 2015 – Finished Reading

Comments Showing 1-3 of 3 (3 new)

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message 1: by HBalikov (new)

HBalikov Thanks for the excellent deconstruction...and the warning, Gary.

Gary HBalikov wrote: "Thanks for the excellent deconstruction...and the warning, Gary."

Sure thing. Strangely, I'll probably end up reading the sequel, even though I was kind of down on this one. Scalzi is always a quick and entertaining read, and Lock In almost got a bump up to three stars.

message 3: by William (new) - added it

William I enjoyed Scalzi's first book but not the second. I will probably give this a pass.

Thank you for the review!

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