Book Review: Lock In
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I was a little underwhelmed with John Scalzi when I picked up Old Man’s War. He had some fun ideas and he explained some theories that could have been overly complex with ease, but I came into it off of the back of some of the best military scifi ever written, with an expectation that I would be reading more of the same. It was a bit unfair to Scalzi, but I had heard so much about him that I was expecting something miraculous. The book was good, and when I have a whole five minutes to myself and the desire for something fun I will likely pick up the sequels, but it wasn’t something so groundbreaking that it ground me to a halt. It was the “good old fashioned scifi” that the Sad Puppies movement claimed to adore, being created by a man that they had marked as one of their most bitter enemies. Life is funny that way.
Since then, some time has passed, I have read a hundred or so different books and I thought it might be about time to give John Scalzi a second spin. I considered his award winning book “Redshirts,” but ultimately, as clever as I find satire and interpretative writing, sometimes I just want to sink my teeth into something original. Which brought me to Lock In.
This book is a near future science fiction story that delves less into spaceships and lasers and more into the “thriller” gestalt-genre, there is an emphasis on the police procedural elements but far less coincidence than you might expect from an author who is newer to crime. The story revolves around the investigation of crime in a semi-cyberpunk world, where people who have fallen victim to a pandemic that has left them completely paralysed and locked inside their own bodies are able to interact with the outside world through computers, the internet and robotics.
There is a lot going on in this book which I don’t want to delve into too deeply because, frankly, you should go and read the damned thing and every element that I spoil is one less for you to enjoy. Thematically I will say that the book addresses the nature of identity quite heavily, particularly within oppressed groups such as the disabled community and ethnic minorities. There is a very light touch on these subjects, as though the author recognises that this story is not the place to delve into them further, but that brief brush over the surface is enough to provoke introspection among readers who have quite possibly never encountered these trains of thought before.
The simple way that Scalzi tells his stories, with clean and concise prose was not particularly relevant in his space operas because everything there was easy to grasp. Within Lock In there are very complex ideas about how society and technology adjust and interact with one another. The actual mechanisms of the crimes being investigated are also complex and in the hands of another author I feel like the conclusion to this book would simply have fallen to pieces, or at least required another chapter’s worth of explanation.
Lock In is a great story told by exactly the right author at exactly the right time in history.
Go pick it up.