Lock In

John Scalzi
Lock In Cover

Lock In review by Joey Turner


Imagine a world where more than half of the earth's population is infected by a deadly virus that forces its victims to be locked into their own bodies. Imagine if technological research allows the "locked in" victims to take possession of those who willingly let them. Now imagine if one of the locked in started abusing such a privilege without the possessed knowing or their voice. What comes out of all this is one of John Scalzi's most epically thrilling and compelling novels, Lock In.

This sci-fi mystery adventure takes place 25 years after the breakout of the deadly Haden's Syndrome, a fictional disease that causes the victims, or "Hadens," to be trapped within their own bodies, and can even re-shape the brain a bit. Thankfully, years of research has developed two ways that these victims can rejoin society; one of these is for the victim to take over a robotic body, called a "threep." The other is when a volunteer, called an integrator, consciously allows the victim to take control of their bodies for a short amount of time.

However, it is not long before things take a turn for the dark; in the goriest ways. An integrator is found dead in a hotel with his throat slit open. To make it even worse, a video from the victim to his family reveals that he may have been integrated without consent, and forced to slit his own throat. With this grim murder underway, two FBI agents are called in to solve the mystery: former integrator, Leslie Vann; and rookie Haden, Chris Shane.

Chris Shane serves as the protagonist, and narrator of the story. Shane has basically become a poster child in the Agora network, a neural network for Hadens to interact with each other in the comfort of their minds, for being one of the first children to be put inside a threep, only complemented by his father running for senator. Although he and his family are very wealthy and he could no doubt get through life easily, Shane instead tries to make his own name by joining the FBI. Even on his first few days as an Agent, Shane manages to aid his fellow agents with any and all knowledge of Hadens, even going so far as to seek the help of a Haden who knows how the integrator brain works inside and out.

Leslie Vann is a veteran to the FBI, and Shane's partner and, in some ways, mentor. She originally became an integrator to help pay off for college; but after several bad experiences with her Haden clients, she finally decided to quit being an integrator, and instead joined the FBI. Clearly she still holds the baggage of her troubled past on her shoulders, because she can usually be heard at a bar getting drunk and hoping to get laid whenever Shane contacts her with information. Despite her troubled past, she does show to be a good partner for Shane, sticking by his side whenever others are against him, and even coaching him through his first few days on the job.

What is really compelling about this novel is the world that Haden's Syndrome has created: from simply treating a disease, to a clash of society. Thanks to the Agora network, the Hadens feel as if they're their own human society. Unfortunately those without Haden's just view the inflicted as either worthless machines, or tragic victims. These opposing views perfectly clash at Shane's father's dinner party, where a non-Haden talks about finding a way to cure the disease, while a Haden argues that he and his people fit perfectly well in society with their affliction. Both these views make the reader wonder; would "fixing" Hadens really be helping mankind, or would it just be destroying an otherwise capable society?

Overall, John Scalzi's Lock In is a fantastic view on what life would be like if people were forced to adapt to a disease outbreak, without resorting to the the stereotypical post-apocalyptic grim future. Every chapter is a thrill to read, and is definitely a must read for any science fiction enthusiast. Also worth noting, apparently the story of Lock In has been picked up to be made into a television pilot; if it is anything like the book, it should be worth watching; but it will not take the place of this fantastic novel.

There is also a prequel to this novel called Unlocked, readable for free over at Tor.com. Those wishing to know the history of Haden's Syndrome should definitely give this prequel a read.