2 editions. 2 narrators. 1 thrilling story. You can enjoy Wil Wheaton's narration here.
"I love working with Audible, in no small part because they're committed to doing what's right, both for my books, and the people who listen to those books. There's a really excellent reason for Lock In to have two entirely different versions, so when it came time to make the audiobook, Audible did an ingenious thing: they asked both Wil Wheaton and Amber Benson to record entire versions of the book. As the author, I'm impressed with Audible's commitment to my narrative - and I'm geeking out that both Wil and Amber are reading my book. This is fantastic." (John Scalzi)
A blazingly inventive near-future thriller from the best-selling, Hugo Award-winning John Scalzi.
Not too long from today, a new, highly contagious virus makes its way across the globe. Most who get sick experience nothing worse than flu, fever, and headaches. But for the unlucky one percent - and nearly five million souls in the United States alone - the disease causes "Lock In": Victims fully awake and aware, but unable to move or respond to stimulus. The disease affects young, old, rich, poor, people of every color and creed. The world changes to meet the challenge.
A quarter of a century later, in a world shaped by what's now known as "Haden's syndrome", rookie FBI agent Chris Shane is paired with veteran agent Leslie Vann. The two of them are assigned what appears to be a Haden-related murder at the Watergate Hotel, with a suspect who is an "integrator" - someone who can let the locked in borrow their bodies for a time. If the Integrator was carrying a Haden client, then naming the suspect for the murder becomes that much more complicated.
But "complicated" doesn't begin to describe it. As Shane and Vann began to unravel the threads of the murder, it becomes clear that the real mystery - and the real crime - is bigger than anyone could have imagined.
BONUS AUDIO: Audible's audio edition of Lock In contains the bonus novella, Unlocked: An Oral History of Haden's Syndrome, written by John Scalzi and narrated by a full cast.
©2014 John Scalzi (P)2014 Audible Inc.
"Hugo-winner Scalzi successfully shifts away from space opera with this smart, thoughtful near-future thriller resonant with the themes of freedom, ethics, and corporate greed....This powerful novel will intrigue and entertain both fans and newcomers." (Publishers Weekly)
"The novel--which contains plenty of action, great character development, vivid and believable worldbuilding and a thought-provoking examination of disability culture and politics--is definitely worth the ride." (Kirkus)
"Another brilliant novel from a writer who has quickly become one of the genre's most successful and intriguing practitioners." (Booklist)
This is my favourite of the Scalzi stories I've listed to. Mostly due to the awesome reading by Amber Benson.
Amber Benson manages to create a dramatic story where you can almost forget the descriptive prose.
Lock - In - Threepio FBI
Scalzi appears to have a verbal tick, which is noticeable when read, of using "said" a lot. When reading a book you can skim this but when it's read it jumps out (at least to me).
The appended full cast novella "Unlocked" was awesome!
"Love Amber's Narration"
I'm only a third of the way through this book but I felt obliged to say that Amber Benson's narration is fantastic.
If you want a narrator who does character voices and dramatizes a novel, choose Amber Benson's version.
If you want a narrator who has a great speaking voice but has a drier, quicker delivery without any character voices, choose Wil Wheaton.
"Scalzi Locks In Another Winner"
John Scalzi always seems to come up with new ideas or new twists on old ideas (is there really anything new under the sun?). The premise is one of the most terrifying things that could happen to a person. It’s worse than life imprisonment in solitary confinement. In solitary you can stand, sit, move around (not much, but you can move), smell (but you might not want too), talk, feel, and see. Now imagine a virus that causes millions round the world to die, worse than the Spanish Flu of 1918-1920. Of those that recover 99%, go on with their lives. For other 1% (4 million in the US alone), it causes a person to be locked into their body, awake and aware of the world around them, yet incapable of seeing, moving, or communicating, unable (luckily?) to even taste the gruel that is piped into their body. Hundreds of millions in the US a around the world have been ravished by this disease, and it continues to strike down more victims every year.
But into this chamber of horror comes a ray of light, an open door leading back to the world - in the form an external body that sort of looks like the Droid CP3O. At least that is the style for the First Lady, an early victim of the virus, “Haden’s syndrome”. Named for its most public and well know victim - herself, the President’s wife. The First Lady has been given the first external body – our hero - Chris Shane, a child at the time, was granted the second, a child size version and becomes Haden’s syndromes second most famous victim. Yet through the adversity Chris becomes a beacon of hope for those suffering from this modern black plague. More than twenty years have gone by since the first outbreak; Chris is now a fledgling FBI agent and is trying to step out of the spotlight, into making a real life.
The second day on the job, the rookie Chris and new partner Agent Vann meet in front of the Watergate Hotel. The meeting spot is next to car that is sporting a love seat – embedded in the roof after being thrown through a seventh floor window. From this point on you are trapped in a twisted and totally enjoyable world pulled from the mind of John Scalzi.
A truly wondrous place to be.
On the narrators:
One of the more interesting curves is that Scalzi never hints at Chris Shane’s sex. So having Amber Benson and Wil Wheaton narrate individual versions is now more reasonable to me. I picked Amber’s version and wish that I had also picked up Wil’s so I could have compared them in their entirety. I have been a fan of both actors since the days of Star Trek, the Next Generation and Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I decided on Amber’s version because I had the pleasure of catching Wil on several other books and I wished to hear Amber tackle this project.
Amber Benson, held her own as a late comer to Buffy. Even surrounded by a powerful cast of actors, she stood out early enough to really earn the prized role of Willow’s (Alyson Hannigan) better half, through 47 episodes. Narrating, “Locked In” Amber seems to start off slow – but then you realize that she is reading a report from a government agency, so it’s going to be a bit flat. The characterization starts building from Chapter 2 and, for the most part, is strong and clear. Very captivating, it allows you to lean back and take pleasure in the theater of the mind that John and Amber weave for you.
One note on Wil’s reading – I have only heard the five minute sample of his interpretation of the text, and it’s typical Wheaton. Crisp, clear and full of impact, and swift - it seems powerful and should also be a good experience.
"Intriguing premise wasted on average cop story"
As with past works by Mr Scalzi, Lock In is a light and entertaining story that doesn't quite do justice to its compelling underpinnings. In this case, Mr Scalzi has fashioned a world in which 1% of the population are physically paralyzed and escape their bodies by directing their awareness and cognitive function into alternate frameworks. Some choose a non-spatial internet; some choose synthetic android bodies; a few choose bodies of "Integrators"—healthy humans who lease-out their bodies on an hourly basis. Unfortunately Mr Scalzi treats the first category merely as a MacGuffin and thereby severely limits the novel's potential as a work of true speculative fiction. Instead the reader is treated to a standard-issue cop story with a pleasant veneer. Lock In is told competently but without the liveliness that elevated some of his past novels. Mr Scalzi proved to be deft at writing dialogue for lawyers in Fuzzy Nation and fast-talking agents in Agent to the Stars, but his ear for dialogue has failed him here: the cop-talk is stale and predictable. A more adventurous book could have survived such weaknesses, but Lock In is timid in its scope and never quite recovers from its failings.
The narrator's sex is never known, so the option of listening to a male or female performer makes some sense. I alternated between Ms Benson's and Mr Wheaton's performances, and for whatever reason, the narrator became female in my mind, so perhaps Ms Benson's voice was the more significant for me. Mr Wheaton, on the other hand, is the brisker of the two and thereby imparts some extra energy into the story. All things being equal, I would recommend his performance.
"Great job on the setting"
I am a big fan of John Scalzi. And Lock In lived up to the very high level of promotion that Audible gave it. Audible made the unusual choice of producing two different editions of the book. One narrated by Wil Wheaton and one narrated by Amber Benson. If you pre-ordered one of the editions, you would get the other for free.
Scalzi is a talented writer. He has moved around in various subsets of the sci-fi genre, from Military Science Fiction to near term Alien encounters, to rewrites of classic sci-fi. Lock In is more of a police procedural (or FBI to be more accurate) that happens to have a near term sci-fi setting.
The Hadden’s syndrome has forced the FBI set up a department to deal with crimes that might involve the Hadden’s sufferer using the body of either their robot or a human integrators. Chris Shane (a Hadden’s syndrome sufferer) is a new member of this FBI department.
Shane happens to be the poster boy for Hadden’s, literally. Shane’s father is sort of a cross between Michael Jordan and Donald Trump. A former basketball star, turned billionaire real estate mogel, he was an early proponent of government intervention in Hadden’s and trotted out Chris (in his robot body) throughout his childhood.
As an adult, Chris is trying to find his own way in the world.
While this is primarily a mystery/thriller, Scalzi uses the book to bring up a number of issues around medical ethics, medical testing, the role of government and business corruption. None of those issues are really settled, but I think the raising of the issues is done well and in context of the story and not as propaganda.
What I thought was an interesting, but a very subtle move, was that the main character was black, his FBI partner was a lesbian (or maybe bisexual, it wasn’t completely clear) and there were several other gay couples in the book. This was a book that seemed to want to make a statement about breaking down walls of discrimination (against Haden’s sufferers as well as LBGT community and more traditional racial discrimition).
The way that Scalzi chose to do that was to not make a big deal about it. Chris Shane was black, his Dad was a big time basketball player, but also a very, very good businessman. And other than one incident where race really mattered, the fact he was black, while not minimized or swept away, was just part of the story. Similarly with the variety of LBGT issues and characters. I don’t want to make too much about that, because the book is just good writing.
I doubt it will become a series because it wrapped up without a lot of loose ends. But if it does become a series, I am definately pre-ordering the next book.
At the end of the audiobook was an ‘oral history’ about the outbreak of the Haden’s virus. It was released as a separate kindle book earlier, but I didn’t know about it until I started Lock In. It probably would have been better to have a better understanding of the disease prior to reading the book, but reading it after was fine as well.
I do wish there was a way to easily sync between the two audio editions. Wheaton must be a faster reader than Amber Benson because her version is almost an hour longer than his version. It does make me want to read the last couple of Scalzi’s books that I have not previously read.
(I didn't realize this until I read an article about it later, but there are no gender words about the main character. As a guy, I understood Chris as a guy. But Scalzi intentionally did not put any gender info on Chris. So some will see Chris as male, and some as female.)
"Fun, light read with good narration!"
This was an easy read (listen), a fun story with an imaginative universe, without being too technical like some sci-fi can get. Also, as much a mystery as sci-fi, and I enjoy both.
I wasn't sure which narrator to get, so listened to samples of both and decided on Amber Benson. She did a great job, and made it easy to distinguish dialog from narration. She has a soothing voice, and no grating or irritating qualities; something which is surprisingly rare in audiobooks. I will look for more narration from her in future.
Hard to listen to when every other sentence includes "(character) said". This book is probably good if you read it, since you can mentally skip all the "(character) said" parts.
"I want my Threep!"
As a chronic pain sufferer, I have often felt locked in to my own body and desired nothing more than to have a robocop body to carry my mind around and let me fight corporate crimes against humanity, while simultaneously letting me live on the Internet, so this book was pretty much an instant winner for me.
"Scalzi being Scalzi"
I'm a reluctant fan of John Scalzi. I think he has some of the greatest plots in the genre. Unfortunately his writing talent falls far behind his imagination. I keep hoping with every book that he will develop his skills a bit more, but in the end, he remains the same old Scalzi:
Every plot point is explained and re-explained. Scalzi doesn't trust his readers to understand subtleties, so there are none. Ever.
Every character speaks with the same voice. Not literally-- the narrator does a fine job of differentiating the characters... I mean, the dialog itself. The speaking style of any Scalzi character from any of his books is completely interchangeable with any other. I used to think that this was partly because Wil Wheaton narrated most of his stuff, and Wil doesn't attempted to do character voices often. But even with Benson as the narrator here, all the character seem like carbon copies of one another.
The plot is okay, and maybe in the absence of movies like Avatar and Surrogates, the story would be more interesting. Unfortunately the novelty of people using puppet bodies has been fairly well explored at this point. Lock In covered little new ground.
I've had my Scalzi fix for the year. I'll probably be back in a year or two to be disappointed in the next one.
"Strongest Scalzi in years"
The strongest Scalzi novel in the past few years, Lock In builds a near-future world that the reader can actually imagine coming into being. The action begins about 20 years after a devastating disease has literally decimated the human race. Horrifically, many of those who contract the disease but don’t perish experience “lock in,” meaning they lose all motor control of their bodies while remaining mentally awake and aware. In the decades since the disease first appeared, some solutions have been found that free these individuals from their solitary confinement; one solution allows the locked-in person to remotely operate a robot using only their mind.
The novel’s protagonist, Chris, uses a robot to interact with the world, leading close to a “normal” life. In fact, Chris has just graduated and become an FBI agent. The hook that gets us into the story is a strange crime that Chris must unravel. The twists and turns of the plot feature lots of the Scalzi inventiveness and wit that frequent readers will immediately recognize. Chris is the usual Scalzi protagonist, exhibiting the same dry sense of humor and sharp reasoning ability (much like the main characters in Old Man’s War or Fuzzy Nation).
But I have to give huge kudos to Scalzi for making Chris gender neutral, by which I mean, the reader is never given a hint as to whether Chris is a male or a female. I don’t know if I would have noticed this, except for the fact that the audiobook is available in two versions. One is performed by Wil Wheaton, who has performed nearly all of Scalzi’s other audiobooks. Because I think Wheaton does a great job interpreting Scalzi’s works, I initially listened to his version of the book and assumed Chris was male. But then something happened to the audio file and the Wheaton version wouldn’t work anymore, so I switched over to the other version, read by Amber Benson. And then it hit me: Chris could be female. This duality added greatly to my appreciation of the novel, and made me bump it up to 5 stars.
Lock In is a fully complete novel with no overt cliffhangers, but I must say that I really, really hope Scalzi writes a follow-up. The audio book includes a novella at the end called “Unlocked” which I thought was EVEN BETTER than the novel itself. Make sure you read the novella to get the full impact of the world Scalzi has created. Even better than a sequel would be a television series!!
[I increased the listening speed of the Amber Benson version of the book to 1.25 speed, because her style was just too slow for me. It sounded normal at the higher speed and was much more enjoyable.]
"I love snarkiness in characters"
This was set up in two different editions. The one I listened to was narrated by Amber Benson and I think she did a fabulous job. I actually looked to see if it was only one actor because Amber is so fantastic at voices that I thought another gal may have joined her. Her voice and play on characters is nice because there is not a small amount of characters in this. It would have been very difficult to keep up with everyone had she not done such a superb job with the accents. I actually laughed a few times because the idea of the person matched what her accent was.
As the book introduces the characters I got a sense of real snarkiness form the two lead gals. Both cops, one locked in and one not. I love snarkiness in characters so this really thrilled me. There is some stuff about both gals that Scalzi does go into later on in the plot but not so much that it drags anything down. I really enjoyed hearing about their backgrounds, although, we learn about the main character, Chris Shane, pretty fast.
Then there is the sciencey stuff. I totally loved this part until the explanations start rolling. To be honest maybe some of it went over my head but not so much that I couldn't continue with the story line so I just went with it and tried to keep up. It was fantastically done being that John Scalzi had to explain the entire mystery behind what is driving the plot. This was great too because at about 10% I was asking where the story was going to go and shortly thereafter I got my answer. There IS a mystery behind it all but the Hadens have to be explained before the story can really get in that direction.
Audiobook purchased for review by ABR.
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