I am currently reading my way through a long list of science fiction and fantasy titles. (http://www.npr.org/2011/08/07/138938145/science-fiction-and-fantasy-finalists if you are interested in the list).
Fifteen years from now, a new virus sweeps the globe. 95% of those afflicted experience nothing worse than fever and headaches. Four percent suffer acute meningitis, creating the largest medical crisis in history. And one percent find themselvs “locked in”—fully awake and aware, but unable to move or respond to stimulus.
One per cent doesn't seem like a lot. But in the United States, that's 1.7 million people “locked in”...including the President's wife and daughter.
Spurred by grief and the sheer magnitude of the suffering, America undertakes a massive scientific initiative. Nothing can restore the ability to control their own bodies to the locked in. But then two new technologies emerge. One is a virtual-reality environment, “The Agora,” in which the locked-in can interact with other humans, both locked-in and not. The other is the discovery that a few rare individuals have brains that are receptive to being controlled by others, meaning that from time to time, those who are locked in can “ride” these people and use their bodies as if they were their own.
This skill is quickly regulated, licensed, bonded, and controlled. Nothing can go wrong. Certainly nobody would be tempted to misuse it, for murder, for political power, or worse....
Lock In is an interesting mash-up of genres—it’s a tale set in the near-future with interesting technology, qualifying it as science fiction. Part of the scenario is a nasty illness that causes people to be “locked in” to their bodies, making it somewhat of a post-disaster novel as well. Throw in a murder mystery/police procedural where the main character/investigator is a Haden (someone who is “locked in” and using a robot-like body to manoeuvre in the real world) and you have quite the combination.
Scalzi is an excellent writer and I especially like his dialog. I find that I read his books quickly and Lock In was no exception. But I really didn’t make any emotional connections with Chris Shane or any of the other characters. I suppose if Scalzi was to write more books starring Shane, I might be tempted to read them, but I won’t be rushing to do so, which I find odd since I really liked both Redshirts and Fuzzy Nation.
If you read Scalzi’s blog (Whatever), you will find many of the same ideas and attitudes toward society in his postings and in Lock In. Perhaps that was also a factor for me—kind of a “been there, done that” attitude with regard to his ideas on discrimination. If I had never seen his blog, the ideas might have felt “fresher.” But that is my problem, not Scalzi’s.
I would recommend the book to anyone who enjoys this author’s writing or who is looking for a good quick read. If you are interested in sci-fi which explores issues surround disability and/or discrimination, this would be a good pick. I think it would be excellent to use with teens to discuss issues of how we all treat those we perceive as “other.”