Thursday, December 4, 2014

A hybrid novel of sci-fi and mystery

Lock In

By John Scalzi

Publisher: Tor Books 

Pub. Date: August 26, 2014

Rating: 3 & 1/2 out of 4 stars

Lock In is an intelligent combination of science fiction and mystery. I hesitate to call it a thriller mainly because John Scalzi's heart seem to be primarily into the repercussions of his creative idea and only secondarily into the goal of suspense and keeping us on the edge of our seat. That isn't to say it is not exciting. The author knows how to spin a good yarn. It's just that it works mainly as a fast moving tale of future technology and an analogy about the way technology in the midst of disasters and social upheaval may change our perspective on reality.

An epidemic of an influenza-like pandemic has resulted in millions being afflicted with Haden's Syndrome, "a condition that results in the complete paralysis of the voluntarily nervous system", usually referred to as "Lock In". However the afflicted person's minds are alert and fully functional. This leads to a series of technological and neurological break-throughs that enable the victims to interact through virtual technology and also through a form of mind transfer to people call Integrators. While this is liberating for the afflicted, it also causes a shift and division within Society. Into this scenario steps Chris Shane A "Haden" in his first day as an FBI agent. When someone is killed, the only eye witness who also happens to be an integrator who is suspiciously muted regarding his involvement in the incident. From this point on, Chris and his partner Vann become meshed in a plot involving powerful entities and hidden conspiracies.

Lock In seems part William Gibson, part Phillip K. Dick but still all Scalzi. He is an excellent storyteller capable of combining intrigue and action with a technical plot. He can also make a virtual existence come alive on paper. I would say he does this better and more realistically than Gibson. But as good as it is, it never makes the leap to mesmerizing. Many of the themes do feel a bit rehashed which slows down the intensity of the plot for me. Having said that, I did think it was well thought out and merged mystery and sci-fi quite well. I think this would be an enjoyable read for either the science fiction reader or the mystery aficionado. If it didn't wipe me out, I still really enjoyed reading it.

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