This was my second attempt to read this book, and I’m glad I gave it another go. I haven’t been let down by Scalzi before, and Lock In was no different.
This is a fairly typical Scalzi novel, in that the world is well developed and multi-layered. From what I’ve read of him (Redshirts, the Old Man’s War series, and The Dispatchers), he’s very adept at centering his stories around a big idea, and this is no different. Set in the future, a disease has ravaged the world. One percent of all people suffer from “lock in”, or Haden’s Syndrome. Sufferers are essentially in a coma, only they’re not unconscious. Technology has been developed that allows Hadens to take control of personal transport vehicles, or “threeps.” Chris Shane is a Haden and FBI agent, and is assigned to investigate a Haden-related murder.
In a way, this reminded me of Ready Player One, in that there’s an artificial reality that serves as an oasis for Hadens sufferers. The books are markedly different from one another, don’t get me wrong, and this is a fairly minor plot device in Lock In, but it was a pervading thought that followed me through the novel.
As in most books, science fiction works best as a mirror. To some degree, I think we’re all looking for something in our own lives in the art we consume. One of the defining characteristics of our culture is wealth inequality and corporate corruption. Unexpectedly, perhaps, one of the major themes in this book is corporate greed and the corruption felt at the individual level because of it. I don’t want to get too lost in the weeds, here, but the business policies at the heart of some of the events in this book gave the story a gravitas I wasn’t looking for when I started reading it. Like the virtual reality hinting at untouched layers to this world, the motivations for the villain were a flourish that set the book apart from yet another murder mystery. Scalzi pulls from different genres and adds enough depth to his work to always make his books fresh and interesting. I never feel like he’s following a template or trying to hit certain bullet points.
For all that, though, his books always seem to have a short half-life. I only remember them in flourishes and broad strokes. I finished this book over the weekend, and it’s already starting to become less defined around the edges. So I can’t quite give it five stars, though I do highly recommend it.
Reviewed 7 times over the last three years with an average rating of 4 stars.