This is the second novel in this series by John Scalzi. I read the first book and remembered the central conceit of the world building, but don’t recall the actual details of the plot. I do have some of that restored to me from reading this one, but given that these books are otherwise structured as procedural mysteries within the world of the world-building, the actual plot is not super important. If Scalzi were to continue writing them, and I don’t know why he wouldn’t or if he were to shop these out to become like a SyFy (and I don’t know why he wouldn’t) this plotting would further serve the series.
Anyway, the conceit is that some twenty or more years ago, a virus swept through the country which causes flu-like symptoms and encephalitis. This eventually progressed to the point that those afflicted with the most advanced versions became “locked in” to their brains why their bodies were in a kind of persistent vegetative state. Because of the widespread nature of the disease, the government created a subsidized fund for them to receive treatment, but otherwise treated this as a disability and this helped to develop surrogate robotic body technology.
Now in the second book we learn about a new, growing sport that is a kind of gladitorial combat game played by those locked in individual where their robot bodies fight in an arena This sport is beginning to look at private funding when a player dies mysteriously, throwing this world into disarray. The FBI’s special task force is called in to investigate.
Like I said, it’s a solid conceit with a solid mystery. It’s not great, but it’s pretty god.