The novel takes place in a future United States where 1.7 million people suffering from Haden’s Syndrome are “locked in.” They are mentally spry and fully aware, but their bodies can’t move or respond. The scientific community responded to this issue by creating new technologies to help locked in people. The first is a virtual-reality where these people can control real life robotic avatars. These threeps (a Star Wars reference to C-3PO) allow locked in people to interact with the real world while their bodies sleep in hospital beds. The other technology developed allows Haden’s sufferers to connect with certain able individuals called integrators and use those bodies as if they were their own. Integration technology is tightly controlled by the government to prevent misuse. When integrators start getting killed, new FBI agent and threep user Chris Shane is called on to help unravel the mystery.
Scalzi very cleverly fuses a buddy-cop mystery with a sci-fi setting. The result is a very pleasing page-turner with interesting characters and good plotting. The setting creates layers that wouldn’t exist in most procedural stories. Because so many characters are locked in, Lock In examines what disabled means to different groups of people. Another fascinating thing is how race and gender perceptions change (or don’t change) when such a significant part of the population is walking around in genderless/raceless threeps or as a diverse set of integrators. Scalzi doesn’t dwell on it, but it is interesting to think about gender in terms of performance. The main character’s gender is never specified. I read Chris as a woman because the audiobook was narrated by a woman, but you could just as easily read Chris as a man or as having no gender.
Anyway, this would be a great read for both sci-fi lovers or people who are interested in crime/mystery fiction. It’s not too long of a book so it’s pretty easy to breeze through if you just want a fun, well-written book.