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Summary

"As much as Scalzi has the scientific creativity of a Michael Crichton, he also has the procedural chops of a Stephen J. Canell to craft a whodunit with buddy-cop charm and suspects aplenty - most of them in someone else's body." (USA Today)

John Scalzi returns with Head On, the stand-alone follow-up to the New York Times best-selling and critically acclaimed Lock In. Chilling near-future SF with the thrills of a gritty cop procedural, Head On brings Scalzi's trademark snappy dialogue and technological speculation to the future world of sports.

Hilketa is a frenetic and violent pastime where players attack each other with swords and hammers. The main goal of the game: obtain your opponent's head and carry it through the goalposts. With flesh and bone bodies, a sport like this would be impossible. But all the players are "threeps", robot-like bodies controlled by people with Haden's Syndrome, so anything goes. No one gets hurt, but the brutality is real, and the crowds love it.

Until a star athlete drops dead on the playing field.

Is it an accident or murder? FBI agents and Haden-related crime investigators Chris Shane and Leslie Vann are called in to uncover the truth - and in doing so travel to the darker side of the fast-growing sport of Hilketa, where fortunes are made or lost and where players and owners do whatever it takes to win, on and off the field.

©2018 John Scalzi (P)2018 Audible, Inc.

What members say

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  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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    1 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars

A good story marred by a terrible actor

I listened to the first book of the series narrated by Wil Wheaton and was disappointed by the performance, so for this second installment I decided to go with the alternative. Amber Benson tries hard to make distinct voices for each character, but not only are they jarring, the accents she choose are often wildly confusing. I was particularly confused by the manufacturer of sex bots, whose voice most of all reminded me of a sweet elderly lady. Of course that might have been her intention, but I didn't think it really fit the script. The intonation of characters are often off, and what I would have read as assertive or playful was read as whiny.

Throughout the book I regretted I hadn't chosen the Wil Wheaton narration for this as well, but really I wished they would have gotten someone else entirely to narrate it.

The story is pretty good though, I recommend reading it.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

Great time with the characters..

I enjoyed spending more time with the characters from Locked In. Like Locked In, the mystery a the heart of the story is very simple, which is a bit of a let down.


Once again, I enjoyed Amber's narration of the book and will stick with her for any subsequent books.

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  • DL
  • 12-05-18

Not a great sequel

I enjoyed the first book in the series but the plot of this one was decidedly average and not helped by very poor narration with voices that frequently felt like nails on a blackboard.

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  • James
  • East Sussex, UK
  • 30-04-18

great story, poor choice of narrator

the narrator tries to 'do' mens voices by making her voice really deep and it sounds awful. she can't make get voice differentiate enough between the low voiced female characters and any of the male characters.

this left me feeling confused about who was talking and their gender a lot of the time.

the story is excellent though, but it's book 2 so make sure you listen to 'locked in' first.

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    4 out of 5 stars

Chris and Leslie investigate , enjoyable

I liked the characters of Chris , Leslie and Tommy and investigation more of the world of Hayden’s and the interaction between them and other humans. The conversation is snarky and the story is well paced.It is very efficiently written, which has the side effect of making the main villain fairly obvious. This is more like a procedural than a mystery.


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  • Craig
  • 20-04-18

Great Sequel

This is both a great sequel to Lock In and also a good standalone novel. However, first time readers may be confused as much of the information about the origin of Haden syndrome is not mentioned. This is definitely an exciting and enjoyable read.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 03-05-18

Book is good. Narration is ok.

Darn! I didn't realize that Wheaton narrated this book also! I had listened to the one narrated by Amber Benson. When I listened to Lock In, I had Wheaton as the narrator. So having Benson as the narrator for this one, which she made the main character sound feminine, was throwing me off because I had always thought of Chris (the main character) as a man. It actually didn't occur to me that he wasn't. So having a feminine voice for Chris was actually starting to get on my nerves.

I thought the book was pretty good. I really like the characters and the world. The mysteries for this series are entertaining. However this one did get a little boring for a short amount of time. But over all it was pretty good. I'm curious as to what my rating would be if I would have listened to the Wheaton narration.

4 of 5 people found this review helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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  • LooptyLoop
  • 13-06-18

A fantastic book hampered by a mediocre reader.

I'm a huge fan of Lock In and Head On, but I don't think Amber Benson's narration matches up well with Will Wheaton's. Her lack of range for different character's voices is what really holds her back.

3 of 4 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Mark Hancock
  • 20-04-18

Excellent book and narration

Loved it. Read in a day. Love the characters, the tech & world building, and narration. Someday would like to hear the series in the other narrator’s delivery, too, (but may wait for a sale).

Another grand Scalzi book!

3 of 4 people found this review helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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  • Scott Odle
  • 19-04-18

great story, meh narration

The story is just as good as the first, Lock In. The characters and setting are the same, and there are some callbacks to the original, but there is enough context given for this novel to stand alone.

The gripping mystery, with just the right balance of action and comedy, is here in full force once again. The thought-provoking social commentary returns as well, this time turning its attention to professional sports and the culture surrounding them.

I find Amber Benson's delivery to be dry and hard-boiled, missing many of the story's whimsical notes. I had this criticism with Lock In as well, greatly preferring Wil Wheaton's performance. I look forward to hearing his version of Head On next.

5 of 7 people found this review helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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  • Jaime
  • 23-04-18

Good story, lousy narration

After having listened to this version, I found out that the narrator of the first book, Wil Wheaton, had also narrated another release of the book.

This is not that version. The story is interesting and fast paced and very in keeping with Scalzi’s talent for creating a world and making its nuances alive and relevant and essential. This narrator, Amber Benson, reads it like she has a personal grudge against the characters. Her voice is belligerent when it doesn’t need to be, often nasal, often ending on an incongruous note. It made listening to this book a chore to be got through rather than an immersive romp to be enjoyed. I thoroughly questioned why they had given the narration to a female voice, when the protagonist is male, and the single female main supporting character is performed in such a gruff voice that one wonders if the narrator were trying to imply a gender swap had taken place.


Full disclosure: to my joy, I found the Wil Wheaton version and immediately returned this book so that I could purchase that version instead. Which is what I recommend: buy the book, but with He other narrator. You’ll enjoy it more.

11 of 18 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Hannah Garbacz
  • 16-09-18

Excellent in story and narration

I listened to the Wil Wheaton narration of Lock In. Both narrators are excellent and I can't really decide which one I liked best!

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    4 out of 5 stars
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  • TMeyerhoff
  • 14-09-18

it was a good

it was a lot like the first one, one thing I take off points for, little predictable, maybe a little too much like the 1st one

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  • mlsimmons
  • 05-09-18

Great mix of cop drama and sci-fi.

This is the second book in John Scalzi’s Lock In series. In this futuristic world, many people contracted a plague that left about one percent of the population with Haden’s Syndrome. Anyone who has Haden’s Syndrome, their minds are fully functional, but their bodies are pretty much useless, though they have to be cared for, like fed through a feeding tube and kept clean. In this world, scientist have created a neural net, which is implanted in their brains to allow them to exist outside of their bodies. The Agora is a virtual space where Haden’s sufferers can interact together or have their own personal space. They also have robots, known as threeps, named for C3PO.

Chris Shane, our main character, has had Haden’s Syndrome since they were a child. I use plural pronouns, because we don’t know Chris’s actual sex. The book is written, and narrated by two narrators, so you can choose the sex of Chris (something I didn’t realize when I listened to the first book). Chris is the child of a wealthy former NBA star. Chris is also a former child celebrity, because he had Haden’s so young and had a child size threep. There is even a famous picture of Chris giving a flower to the pope. Now, Chris is an FBI agent who works mostly on Haden’s related cases with his partner, Leslie Vann. Vann is actually a former Integrator. Basically, that means she has the neural net in her brain. She used to allow (for a fee, of course) Haden’s sufferers, to use her body for things they can’t do with threeps or in the Agora.

In Head On, we are introduced to a game that is professionally played by Haden’s sufferers. They have specially designed threeps which they beat the crap out of and try to rip the head off one of the players and get it through the goalposts. That is until someone dies in the middle of a preseason game with a lot of potential investors (including Chris’s wealthy parents). As Chris and Vann investigate, things get even more complicated.

I really enjoyed this combination of cop drama and science fiction. The characters are very well written. I’ve very invested in even the minor secondary characters, like Chris’s flatmates. I think the partnership between Vann and Chris is great. I’m also a big fan of all the sci-fi elements of this story. It really appeals to my geeky side, without being so techy, that I’m lost.

Narration:
The first book in the series, I listened to Wil Wheaton narrate the male version of the book. This time, I tried Amber Benson’s narration for the female POV. It was interesting listening to this with the different narrator. I’ve never listened to Amber Benson before. I think she did a really good job, though I thought Vann’s voice was a little too masculine for me (though, I think she did this on purpose. She is a very masculine woman).

Even though I was listening to Chris as a woman, I still continued to think of Chris more of a man. I think that is because that was the first time I was introduced to them. I still thought Amber Benson did a great job with her narration. I would listen to her in future, but will probably go back to Wil Wheaton for this series, just because Chris seems to want to be a man in my mind.

**I like to thank the publisher for providing me with a copy of this audiobook in exchange for an honest review.

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  • noshcrissinger
  • 28-08-18

A nice added flavor to the original

I really like this author and the details of the setting and background are easy to follow but come on, we need to fork over the dough to get Will Weaton back on the ship. The narration suffers tremendously from the first installment. Weaton would have been a much better choice.