Lock in, by John Scalzi

Lock in Book Cover Lock in
John Scalzi
Science fiction
August 28th 2014

I think you should take the time to read the novella Unlocked: An oral history of Haden's syndrome before you get started - you can read it for free!  It's attached at the end of the audio version, which probably also works, but I appreciated having read it before reading the novel.  Also, regarding the audio; Considering trying a Scalzi novel without Wil Wheaton's narration? Go for it, Amber Benson does a great job.

In the near future, a highly contagious new virus with a long incubation time comes down on people all over the globe, sudden and shocking.  Most who get ill get away with a bad case of the flu, some unfortunate ones develop meningitis.  They get better. The tragedy is the percentage of patients who do not - the ones who are fully aware and conscious, but unable to move their body or have their body respond to physical stimulus.  They're locked in. (And there's a good chance you've seen at least one worst case-episode of some medical drama on TV dealing with this trapped-in-body thing. It's a common nightmare, for obvious reasons.)

Terrible virus. I'm sold! I would have been excited to read this even if I didn't have a bunch of Scalzi reading behind me already. I'm happy to say I like this novel a lot better than I liked Hugo-winning Redshirts.  The pace is good; there wasn't a wasted paragraph in there.   In this near-future scenario, the president's wife suffers lock in, and thus provides a name for the illness: Haden's syndrome.   The president responds to the sudden health crisis by funding extensive research, resulting in... a working treatment?  No - but a very interesting work-around.  New technology - new society?

This is the setting for the thriller storyline - which unfolds with humour and camaraderie, as with most Scalzi stories.  (I like the utter absence of romance between a male and female FBI agent, despite them being partners and all. It gets old so fast, even when it's Mulder and Scully.)

I'm not sure how "hard" the science is in this particular work of science fiction, but that's irrelevant - the point is how humans utilize and cope with new abilities, possibilities, technologies.  If we can do this thing, do we do it? If you could hack a thing, how long before you'd do it?  If someone else is able to abuse this thing, what do we have to invent or legislate to protect ourselves from it?

Solid entertainment read, would recommend as attention-gripper for long train rides or just any other time you're looking for something good that doesn't make your brain do a lot of heavy lifting.

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