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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

Average customer ratings

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  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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    1 out of 5 stars
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    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.

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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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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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  • 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.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Mark
  • 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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  • 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 17 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.

4 of 6 people found this review helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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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.

2 of 3 people found this review helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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  • Jeane
  • 07-07-18

Great continuation...

...but the story got a little convoluted I felt. Would love to see continuing stories that put the “threeps” in the background and let the story go as a cop romp.
Wish I had gotten the Wheaton narration. He is a stronger audio actor.

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • ZT Ross
  • 12-06-18

Another good Scalzi book

Amber Benson was a good reader, but I think I would've enjoyed Wil Wheaton more, based on previous books read by him.

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  • Jamie
  • 11-06-18

enjoyable

Great story with further exploration into the world. Narrator was good, I liked the choices in voices that made the characters even more distinct.

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    4 out of 5 stars
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  • Kindle Customer
  • 02-06-18

I love John Scalzi but

the narration of this book was annoying, and occasionally detracted from my enjoyment of the story. The story is very clever and well-thought-out but it would have benefited from multiple narrators.