August 26, 2014
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A novel of our near future, from one of the most popular authors in modern SF
Fifteen years from now, a new virus sweeps the globe. 95% of those afflicted experience nothing worse than fever and headaches. Four percent suffer acute meningitis, creating the largest medical crisis in history. And one percent find themselves “locked in”—fully awake and aware, but unable to move or respond to stimulus.
One per cent doesn't seem like a lot. But in the United States, that's 1.7 million people “locked in”...including the President's wife and daughter.
Spurred by grief and the sheer magnitude of the suffering, America undertakes a massive scientific initiative. Nothing can restore the ability to control their own bodies to the locked in. But then two new technologies emerge. One is a virtual-reality environment, “The Agora,” in which the locked-in can interact with other humans, both locked-in and not. The other is the discovery that a few rare individuals have brains that are receptive to being controlled by others, meaning that from time to time, those who are locked in can “ride” these people and use their bodies as if they were their own.
This skill is quickly regulated, licensed, bonded, and controlled. Nothing can go wrong. Certainly nobody would be tempted to misuse it, for murder, for political power, or worse....
After reading an excerpt of Lock In in the Buzz Books 2014 sampler earlier this summer, I knew it was a novel I wanted to read in its entirety.
The 'Lock In' experienced by some in Lock In is similar to the actual Locked-In Syndrome, but the fictional version is happening to people in the future with new technology. Besides having their own virtual reality space, The Agora, where they can interact, where they're not 'locked in,' there are possibilities for living a 'normal' life in the physical world.
There are 'threeps' which are robot like androids those experiencing lock in can control to interact with others. There is also the possibility of (temporarily) using another's body. A few have the abilities to let others (with lock in) to use their bodies for a time.
While the idea of someone's consciousness either in another's body or in an android is not new, the Haden's Syndrome foundation is.
The world that has developed around Haden's and due to those with 'lock in' is well imagined. Things from law enforcement to living situations and legislation have all changed. Each of the characters is, in their own way, very much a part of this affected world. Through Chris, the main character and Chris's new job as an FBI agent as well as the familial interactions, readers learn about Haden's, about how it affected the world and how technology and more changed because of it.
The workings around the FBI, the police, the politics and all of that new technology were all very well done. It was easy to imagine this new world, despite how different it is from our own.
There were some things with the characters, especially explanations promised but never given, that seemed to just be forgotten. If Lock In is, in fact, a standalone book, I am sorry not to have seen those things, and the great characters in the book, explored more. (If there's any sort of sequel, I hope things are resolved there.)
Despite those missing pieces, I did quite like the characters. They were interesting, the way their past and/or their present played into the affected world was creative and enjoyable to read about. The mystery of Lock In also worked well, combining a more traditional police procedural and the sci-fi aspects very well.
After reading Parasite, The Martian and now Lock In, I am loving these science fact, near future type of science fiction books and will be on the look out for more to read soon.
If you're interested in reading something about the main character that may be slightly spoilery if you haven't read Lock In but is definitely interesting if you have: click here.
Other Books You Might Also Enjoy: Parasite by Mira Grant and The Martian by Andy Weir