November 23, 2014

Review: Lock In

Lock In
Lock In by John Scalzi

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I've read several books by John Scalzi, but this one is by far the best. Some of his notable tics (especially using "I/he/she said" for every freaking line of dialogue, which is a silly but inescapable pet peeve of mine--just let those quotation marks and the individual character's speech rhythms and word choice speak for themselves) are tamed down, and the book as a whole is generally written to a higher standard, as compared to the first book of his I read, Old Man's War.

This a near-future science fiction story. The incident that starts is all, the mini-pandemic that causes what ends up being named Haden's Syndrome, could begin tomorrow. Twenty-five years from now, the millions of people that suffer from Haden's (which is similar in some ways to ALS, although it's not fatal--and awake and aware mind is "locked in" to a nonresponsive body), have caused great societal changes, with their use of neural networks, "threeps" (Personal Transports, or androids, linked to Hadens via their neural networks), and their virtual reality space known as the Agora. Scalzi uses this setup to explore several issues, including gender presentations and disability rights, set against the backdrop of a rather pedestrian murder mystery.

But the mystery, although mildly interesting and rather easily solved, isn't really the point. What the author is doing with his world is. Among other things, he's writing some fascinating stuff about gender (the main character, Chris Shane, is never given a gender--a little easier to do when written in first-person, of course--and while I eventually came to the conclusion that Chris is male, that's strictly my projection as a reader, and not anything drawn from the text) and race. I believe Chris is biracial; his father is definitely stated to be black, and I think his mother is white. At any rate, that's the picture I have of him: a young, earnest, biracial FBI agent, like a darker, woolly-headed Fox Mulder. Your picture of Chris may be very different, and that's the beauty of this book. If there is a sequel, I hope the world of the Hadens, and the politics it inspires, are explored in greater detail.

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