Review: Lock In by John Scalzi

lock-in-audioLock In
by John Scalzi
Narrated by Wil Wheaton
Series: Lock In #1
Genre: Science Fiction/Mystery
Setting: Washington, DC, 15 years in the future
Published by Tor Books, 2014 (Audible Studios, 2014)
Audiobook, purchased
337 pages
7 hours, 40 minutes
Grade: A
Narrator grade: A
Synopsis: 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….

“Making people change because you can’t deal with who they are isn’t how it’s supposed to be done. What needs to be done is for people to pull their heads out of their asses. You say ‘cure.’ I hear ‘you’re not human enough.”


Rich people show their appreciation through favors. When everyone you know has more money than they know what to do with, money stops being a useful transactional tool. So instead you offer favors. Deals. Quid pro quos. Things that involve personal involvement rather than money. Because when you’re that rich, your personal time is your limiting factor.


  • One of the reasons I like this book–it’s a combination of science fiction and mystery. Two of my favorite genres.
  • Wil Wheaton does an excellent job narrating this book.
  • This book offers so much for the reader to think about and yet it’s so entertaining, too. One of favorite things about Scalzi’s books is that they are so entertaining.
  • The way the people with Haden’s Syndrome are able to overcome the fact they can’t speak or move is really interesting–and amazing.
  • Chris Shane is an interesting character. His father is a senator and was a famous basketball player. The family is rich and Chris has Haden’s Syndrome. However, he decides to become an FBI agent. His first day on the job is action packed and continues that way the entire book.
  • The book (and the novella) describe Haden’s Syndrome really well plus the society which has grown up around the disease.
  • The book has action, politics, mystery.
  • The politics of Haden’s Syndrome is front and center in the book since the people with Haden’s rely on the care they receive plus having an artificial body so they can live as independent a life as possible. However, now funding for the massive amount of care is going to be privatized in the U.S. That has lots of ramifications for people with Haden’s.
  • There are people who resent the Haden’s victims. And there’s discrimination and hatred for those who are different.
  • After I finished the book I realized we don’t really know a lot about Chris–whether he’s male or female (the audiobook is available narrated by either a male or female. Since I got the male version I had an image of a male looking like Wil Wheaton! His race is also not mentioned. I find this very refreshing. If I had read the book rather than listened to it I might have a different mental image of the characters. It’s interesting the assumptions we make as we read.


  •  None

And a few thoughts . . .

  • The Audible edition also has a bonus novella by John Scalzi–Unlocked: An Oral History of Haden’s Syndrome. This novella (144 pages/about 2.5 hours) was narrated by a group of people and gave excellent background to Haden’s Syndrome.
  • I’m really looking forward to the next book in the series.
  • I’ve liked every book I’ve read by Scalzi.


  • John W. Campbell Memorial Award Nominee for Best Novel (2015)
  • ALA Alex Award (2015)
  • Locus SF Award Nominee for Best Novel (2015)

Have you read this book? How did you like it?

Author info

  • (from Wikipedia): John Michael Scalzi II (born May 10, 1969) is an American science fiction author, online writer, and former president of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America. He is best known for his Old Man’s War series, three novels of which have been nominated for the Hugo Award, and for his blog Whatever, at which he has written frequently on a number of topics since 1998. He won the Hugo Award for Best Fan Writer in 2008 based predominantly on that blog, which he has also used for several prominent charity drives. His novel Redshirts won the 2013 Hugo Award for Best Novel. He has written non-fiction books and columns on diverse topics such as finance, video games, films, astronomy, and writing, and served as a creative consultant for the TV series Stargate Universe.

Reading Challenges

  • 2015 Goodreads Challenge
  • Audiobook Challenge–hosted by Hot Listens and The Book Nympho blogs
  • Cloak & Dagger Mystery Challenge–hosted by Amy @ A Bookish Girl
  • TBR Pile Challenge–hosted by the Bookish blog
  • Ultimate Reading Challenge–hosted by the Popsugar blog (a book set in the future)