In the very near future, a pandemic sweeps across the globe. Ninety-five percent of those afflicted suffer nothing more than acute headaches and fevers. Another four percent develop acute meningitis, usually resulting in death. The final one percent, including the US President’s wife, find themselves “locked in,” completely paralyzed and yet fully aware. Ultimately, 1.7% of the US population is “locked in.” This spurs a medical Manhattan Project, which develops technologies and tools to allow those locked in to interact with the world. People being people, they find ways to misuse these new technologies is old ways. Thus, we open with locked in Chris Shane’s first day as an FBI agent, sent with his new partner to investigate the apparent killing by someone else locked in.
This is Scalzi at what he does best, develop interesting characters and throw them into novel and interesting situations to see what happens. While the ostensible mystery is not terribly mysterious, following the characters through their experiences is wonderfully entertaining. For the adventurous book group looking for something different, there are a number of subtle bits of world building that make for interesting discussion fodder, in particular- who is Chris Shane, the main character?
One note, the central “novel and interesting situation,” Hayden’s Syndrome, can be a bit daunting to jump right in. Unlocked: An Oral History of Hayden’s Syndrome is a prequel novella/short story giving a fascinating introduction to Lock In. The novella, Unlocked, is freely available to be read online from the publisher’s website.
-Review by David D., Circulation Manager