So, if it’s not already obvious, I’m kind of what you’d call a fan of John Scalzi’s work. Old Man’s War remains one of my all time favorite books, and sets the bar high for science fiction. I recently went to listen to Mr. Scalzi speak at our local library (which, if you ever have a chance to do to the same, I highly recommend it) and while there, I snagged a copy of his latest effort, Lock In.
It’s not your Old Man’s War type of science fiction, this book. Lock In is set in today’s world, with a twist: a new disease, Haden’s Syndrome, has sprung up across the planet. In some cases, Haden’s leaves the victim (although, suffers of this side-effect do not care for the term ‘victim’) in a perpetual state of ‘lock in.’ To be locked in means that you are fully aware of everything that goes on around you, but you no longer have command of your body. Every bodily function must be controlled and managed by a caregiver.
Due to a high profile political figure having contracted the disease early on, money has been thrown hand over fist at Haden’s Syndrome research, searching for a cure, yes, but also to devise ways for those suffering from lock in to live a ‘normal’ life. Entire industries have grown up around this, funded by the government. We’re talking big money here – billions of dollars worth of contracts and research are in play.
FBI agent Chris Shane is a well known and well connected poster child for people living and thriving with Hadens. Chris’ partner is the volatile and possibly unstable Agent Vann. When a bill passes that will significantly decrease the amount of funding for Hadens, Shane and Vann are thrown into a case involving radical Hadens, the government, and Big Business, all of whom have something to lose (and gain) now that government funding has dried up.
Lock In is a fascinating tale of crime and intrigue, and it examines what it means to be a part of society – what it means to be human. Throw in some amazing world building by way of Integrators (people that can be wired up and hired out to those locked in, so that lock ins can experience life once more in a human form), Threeps (a human-like machine – and a lovely nod to Star Wars – which allows those who are locked in to transfer their consciousness to an automation so that they can maneuver in the physical world), and the Agora (a virtual reality exclusive to Hadens), and you’ve got a story that is next to impossible to put down.
If you haven’t tried Scalzi yet, do yourself a favor and pick up Lock In. You won’t regret it. There is also a fabulous novella that delves in the history of Haden’s Syndrome, Unlocked, that expands upon the world created in Lock In. A fun, fast read.