What’s the best thing that can come from a debilitating illness that renders your body useless? The internet, of course, and a bit of sci-fi neural networking voo-dooery.
Which brings us to our story and a future where people are “locked” in by Haden’s syndrome. While most people affected by this illness just experience flu-like symptoms, a small percentage of those afflicted suffer complete physical, but not mental, paralysis. Technology has allowed these individuals, known as “Hadens”, to live productive lives via brain downloads (or something like that). But not only can Hadens access the internet, they can download into mechanical avatars, known as “threeps” that allow them to operate in the real world, interacting with people and even holding jobs. Some Hadens don’t choose to live in mechanical bodies, but rather live virtual lives only (my brain kind of exploded trying to imagine that).
This is the reality and backdrop of Scalzi’s murder mystery. I can’t really recall the details of the mystery part of the novel, but that’s not what I found intriguing. The logistics of downloading into threep, then deciding you need to interview someone in another state and downloading into a different threep within minutes, all while your body lay motionless in a room somewhere was fascinating. Life in a threep also gives rise to certain possibilities, like not feeling pain if you so choose, or being virtually indestructible (depending on your threep’s capabilities). And this is the just tip of the iceberg.
Scalzi’s writing made it easy for me to buy into his premise and, while I wasn’t really interested in the murder mystery part of the story, the reality in which everyone operated was fascinating to experience.
I could go on, but I’ll just say I enjoyed this book and found the premise new (I’ll admit, I don’t read a lot of sci-fi). It was entertaining and just realistic enough that I could envision a world in the not-so-far future similar to Scalzi’s.
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