Lock In by John Scalzi

9/10 An inventive sci-fi story so well written.

It’s been a while since I have read a book about a pandemic that hasn’t been about zombies; in fact it’s been a while since I have read a book where the story doesn’t start straight after a pandemic. Although Lock In is still dealing with the consequences of an incurable disease, the cause of the virus or as it is known in Lock In “Haden Syndrome” is irrelevant. Lock In is a futuristic conspiracy thriller.

The main character in Lock In is Agent Shane, currently starting his first week as a full agent for the FBI. Agent Shane is one of the Locked In, he gets around by using a Threep, an artificial body that connects to his mind so he can interact with people that are still able-bodied. Agent Shane’s first week also coincides with a strike being held by the Haden community, as a bill has recently been passed by the government that will cut funding significantly from subsidies and programs that support Haden sufferers.

Through Agent Shane and his partner Agent Vann - whose work specifically deals with those who have Haden Syndrome - we get to see different perspectives between the people affected with Haden’s and the people who do not understand them. This can be seen in their daily routine, as they're called to the scene of a murder, we instantly see that there is a lot of misunderstanding and discrimination between Haden’s and normal humans which is constantly escalating throughout the story. Although Agent’s Shane and Vann at the beginning of the book have only just met there is a good camaraderie between them, it feels like an odd couple pairing, but you can see the trust building between a veteran agent and the rookie.

This book also focuses on the differences between the rich and poor in society. John Scalzi poses the question - what makes us human? When a virus has rewired 5 million people’s brains in the US alone, allowing them to do things that the un-afflicted are unable to do, does this make you more or less human? With access to Threeps, for some travel is now instantaneous, whilst for others race and gender are no longer an issue. This has a knock-on affect by also causing tensions where previously there were none. I felt that this sociological aspect really grounded the characters in their reality.

This is an inventive sci-fi story, with so many ideas buzzing around that you should feel disorientated and yet it is so well written that you never feel frustrated or lost by what has not yet been revealed. For speculative fiction the technology levels are not beyond our comprehension and at least communication-wise we seem to be heading in that direction. The political and business aspects that are based on power struggles work really well in this context. If you have never read anything by John Scalzi, I recommend going out and getting yourself a copy of Lock In as quickly as possible.

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