Lock In
October 20, 2019 10:30 PM - by John Scalzi - Subscribe

Hugo Award-winning John Scalzi novel set in the near future focuses on Haden's Syndrome, a new, highly contagious virus makes its way across the globe. Most who get sick experience nothing worse than flu, fever, and headaches. But for the unlucky one percent - and nearly five million souls in the United States alone - the disease causes "Lock In." Sufferers are conscious but unable to move.

A quarter of a century later, rookie FBI agent Chris Shane is perhaps the most famous sufferer of Haden's. He is paired with veteran agent Leslie Vann. The two of them are assigned what appears to be a Haden-related murder at the Watergate Hotel, with a suspect who is an "integrator" - someone who can let the locked in borrow their bodies for a time. If the Integrator was carrying a Haden client, then naming the suspect for the murder becomes that much more complicated.
posted by miss-lapin (9 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
>Chris Shane is perhaps the most famous sufferer of Haden's. He

posted by tchemgrrl at 5:52 AM on October 21, 2019 [4 favorites]

I haven’t read the book, but Scalzi says this, for what it’s worth:
As the author, I don’t have any particular problem with readers gendering Chris to their own satisfaction, whether male, female, non-binary or none of the above, and I think it’s interesting watching how people choose to answer that question for themselves, and how that influences and changes the experience of reading Lock In and Head On.
posted by jedicus at 9:57 AM on October 21, 2019 [6 favorites]

I enjoyed these books immensely.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 1:16 PM on October 21, 2019

I'm not even American, but every time I picked up Head On, I would think 'apply directly to the forehead'. But anyway, I like most things Scalzi, and these didn't disappoint.
posted by Marticus at 2:15 PM on October 21, 2019 [5 favorites]

Almost feels kind of weird discussing a Scalzi book here, seeing that he is one of us. But for the record, like Marticus, I like most things Scalzi and greatly enjoyed both Lock In and the follow up Head On.
posted by COD at 4:04 PM on October 21, 2019 [3 favorites]

jedicus, thanks—I’d missed his commentary on it. I’d found it an interesting way of dealing with someone at a step of remove from their own embodiment, and it was an element of the book that I particularly enjoyed and the main bit that I remember, so I was surprised at the description.
posted by tchemgrrl at 7:58 PM on October 21, 2019

I enjoyed that given the circumstances of the book and narration, Chris didn't have to be gendered. I actually hate the idea of this series becoming a movie because I reasonably assume they can't/won't do that on film unless they do a "Hardcore Henry" and everything is literally seen from Chris's viewpoint, with a neutral voice. It took a while for me to figure out, though I do kind of assume "male" because of the BMX biking, I suppose.

I found the concept of "lock in" to be horrifying, but the book is so emancipating and cheerful about life and enjoying it as is. I also was amused as hell at Chris's ability to lose/destroy threeps like Stephanie Plum loses/destroys cars. And Leslie's issues are done well. I like how their partnership works.
posted by jenfullmoon at 8:23 PM on October 21, 2019 [3 favorites]

One of the most intriguing things in the book for me was the dinner discussion about whether curing Haden's should be pursued. The person who is against such a cure argues that Haden's isn't something that should be cured, but of course it turns out that belief is rooted in something far more nefarious.

That debate really intrigued me as a disabled person.
posted by miss-lapin at 11:29 PM on October 21, 2019 [1 favorite]

They ended up making two audiobooks out of this book and the sequel: one with a male narrator (Wil Wheaton) and one with a female narrator (Amber Benson). A cool nod to the technical feat of allowing Chris' gender to not be pinned down--I think it takes skill to pull it off without the prose ending up stilted, because so much of our existing writing genders so much.

I imagine a movie could do a lot of things to avoid gendering Chris as well--a limp body swaddled in medical trappings can avoid exposing a lot of markers people interpret as gender, and the vocalization of the different robot bodies could be changed up so no one voice represented the character.
posted by foxfirefey at 5:21 PM on October 23, 2019 [4 favorites]

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