John Scalzi's Lock-In



Just finished the audiobook (Will Wheaton version) and quite enjoyed it. It was solidly written, interesting, and entertaining. That said, it was also a fairly standard novel with little to set it apart from the pack. With Scalzi’s previous novel, Redshirts, I found I was recommending it to a lot of people, including people who didn’t generally read SF. With Lock-In, I’d recommend it, but there are other novels this year that I’d place ahead of it.


One thing I’d note - nowhere in the text is Chris’s gender specified. It’s easy to assume Chris is male (especially if one is listening to the Wil Wheaton audiobook reading) but the fact that the protagonist could just as easily be a woman is one of the neat things John Scalzi did here.


Coincidentally, I just finished it a few minutes ago. Spectacular book… I really hope it’s just the beginning of a long series in that world.

And the Vet’s Office is the best long lead-in to a drop-the-mic punchline I’ve read in a long time.

I didn’t notice that until mentioned here. It’s very subtle. Hell, despite what seems obvious, I wasn’t certain of the narrator’s ethnicity until 2/3rds of the way through the book.

I enjoyed the novel a lot… but while I was reading it, I slowly became annoyed at its American parochialism.
Sure, the police procedural aspect of it is a “local” story, and the global nature of the epidemic is mentioned. But that’s were it ends.

The US subsidies for research into and treatment of the disease are a central plot point, but somehow the novel seems to ignore the rest of the world. Has no other government instituted any subsidies? Will they all abolish them at the same time as the US?

Was the decision to classify the neural net technology as a medical treatment that is unavailable to healthy people a US-only decision, and the rest of the planet is already moving towards major changes in society because everyone lives in virtual worlds?

I’d assume that European welfare states would pay for their citizens’ threeps, but did they invest enough in research? Does the US therefore dominate the global market in Threeps and neural nets, thus making the local subsidies much less important for those companies than the novel assumes? Or is there a healthy threep & neural net industry elsewhere, that is just kept out of the US by the local competition or by red tape?

Or, if Hadens elsewhere are condemned to a completely locked-in life due to lack of funds and technology, wouldn’t that, too, be on the mind of Haden’s rights activists in America?

I think these questions would have been very relevant to the plot, and the novel suffers from not even making up an excuse for not dealing with them.

Is that for the same reason why Starfleet labels their ships “USS” and runs all their court cases according to US military law?


Is it weird that this is one of the reasons that I enjoyed the book even more? The ambiguity of Chris’ gender was a real eye-opener.

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It’s well worth reading Scalzi’s Unlocked: An Oral History of Haden’s Syndrome prior to reading Lock-In. It’s free on Tor or you can grab it for pennies on Amazon. It’s a great set-up for the main novel and done in a World War Z style (thankfully I mean the novel, not the movie).


Is Lock-In available in non-DRM form?

All Tor ebooks are DRM-free. The audiobooks are currently an Audible exclusive, so use its DRM.

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Not being a particular fan of Sportball, I’m pretty sure I made the “Protagonist is the same ethnicity as I” assumption, so had a minor jolt at the moment you reference, as which point I went, “Oh! Duh.” and carried on. I had been marginally aware that there was a gender issue with the book, so kept an eye out for it, and at about the halfway point I decided to use my contrariness to make Chris female in my head. That didn’t really stick though, until I listened to the Amber Benson version of the audiobook, at which point I started automatically referring to Chris as, “Her.”

Incidentally, I highly recommend the Amber Benson version (all geek love to WilW, mind you). Her characterization of Cassandra Bell, the Haden activist who had literally been a Haden her entire life, sent chills down my spine.

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Random thought… can a Haden take care of its own bio-body using the threep, saving on the nursework?

…similarly, the threep interfaces look to me like great way of user interfaces for e.g. micromanipulators or even vehicles (“be” a car/plane instead of just driving it) or for work on contaminated areas… With today’s advances in telepresence (Oculus Rift, anybody?), 360-degree video, low-cost robotics, and the beginnings of haptic VR, it does not seem that fantastic anymore.

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I’ll probably go back and do the Amber audiobook after a few months, it comes so highly recommended. I went back and forth between reading and the WilW one this first time through.

Even just reading that bit with Cassandra was very intense and visceral. I got the impression that she is very practiced and intentional about the impact she can have on those who choose to accept an invitation into her personal space. She kind of reminds me of Jack the Bodiless in Julian May’s work, as a very intelligent and charismatic pioneer mapping out new paths of human existence. It’s part of the reason I really hope Scalzi has more to write in that world.

Now that you mention it, that is surprising that they didn’t broach non-anthropoid avatars… perhaps even microscopic medical ones, or bush-bots with nano-scale manipulators. Just more undiscovered territory for Scalzi to explore in the sequels, I hope.

Check this out for an exciting and immersive VR experience:

The audiobook version of this is brilliantly done with different actors for all the parts so it sounds identical to what a piece like this would sound.

YESSS! I want to try that one! :smiley:

Add a blow sensor that triggers a source of heat in the airflow (most likely a power-limited propane torch as electric heaters have too long startup for sane power ratings) for the feel, and a proper fire rendering on the VR side (both the visuals and the effects on ground structures), and you get a dragon sim! (Simulating radiated heat from the ground blazes would be somewhat difficult though, even if the resolution required is pretty low. Maybe small resistive heating pads?)

In the future the USA is the whole Earth (at least in US SF). To be fair, this sort of provincialism is pretty common in BBC series too – why is nearly every human in Dr. Who, Blakes 7, etc British?

and it just got picked up for a pilot by Legendary televison.

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