Lock In by John Scalzi

Turn on the news and more often than not there will be a story about some new “super-bug” that has sprung up somewhere in the world. So it is with no surprise when one day in the near future another one of these bugs shows up.

Being highly contagious, it spreads quickly and soon makes its way across the globe. For most who catch this virus, the illness mimics nothing more serious than the common cold and recovery is quick. However for roughly 1% of those who contract this bug, the disease has a rather more nasty outcome. The virus causes a type of ‘lock in’, where the victim remains awake and aware but are unable to move. No matter the stimulus the person cannot respond. As the virus affects people from every walk of life, the world changes and meets the challenge presented.

Roughly twenty-five years have passed and the disease now has a name – ‘Haden’s syndrome’. There are now millions of individuals who have become ‘lock ins’. In that time technology has made leaps and bounds allowing those who are locked away in their own bodies to live a better life. Neural networks allow them to interact with the outside world through personal transport robots and Integrators – persons who contracted Haden’s but did not become a lock in but still had their brain altered. It is in this world where FBI agent Chris Shane lives and our story takes place.

In Lock In, Chris Shane is a rookie FBI agent and it’s his first day on the job. Partnered with Agent Leslie Vann their first assignment together is a Haden related murder and the prime suspect is an Integrator. If the Integrator had a Haden client controlling their moves, then naming the suspect for the murder suddenly becomes that much more difficult.

As Shane and Vann dig deeper in an effort to unravel the story behind the murder, it quickly becomes clear that it’s only a small part of a bigger story. The world is constantly changing and there are those who would manipulate it for their own gains. The two agents are in a race against time to find the true murderer before a new law comes in to effect and changes everything.

The main characters of Lock In, Agents Shane and Vann, are like two sides of the same coin. Both of them developed Haden’s Syndrome in life but their outcomes were different – Shane became a lock in while Vann became an Integrator before becoming an FBI agent. Vann doesn’t hold Shane’s hand or treat him as an invalid as they work together. She asks for his thoughts and input as the case goes on. To Vann, Shane is her partner and she treats him as such.

Lock In was one of those books I picked up at the library because it sounded interesting. I tend to do this quite often when looking for books to read and while I have been disappointed on occasion, on other occasions I have found a most excellent and entertaining story. This book definitely falls in to the latter category for me. While I did find the sheer amount of techno-babble at times a bit daunting, the well paced story and likable characters balanced it out.

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