In a not so distant future man has suffered one of it greatest challenges; a flu like disease causing meningitis, death or something refereed to as Lock in. Lock in became a way to describe how the victims would lose the connection between the brain and the rest of the body. The person would remain conscious but unable to communicate or move, trapped in their own body. This came to be known as Haden’s syndrome and several million people around the world suffer from this. Through government funding and hard work the sufferers of Haden’s were able to partake in the world again by way of personal transports; robotic replacements called Threeps, integrators; people with the brain structure to carry Haden sufferers’ consciousness or the Agora; an online space reserved for those Locked in. This has effectively created a new class of citizens and a new industry and consequences for society.
With this world as its backdrop Lock In begins with the passing of the Abrams-Kettering act, removing all government funding for the Haden Community bringing opportunities for the private sector, causing walk outs and protests amongst the Locked in populous. Chris Shane, a famous Haden from early childhood, is set to begin his new job as a federal agent. He is partnered with a female agent named Vann, a self destructive renegade figure who used to be an integrator.
They are called to a hotel where an apparent murder has been committed involving an integrator. There are many things that seem off with the murder and when several other crimes involving integrators occur Shane and Vann realize that it is all a part of a bigger picture.
At its center Lock In is a classic crime fiction, the story in itself isn’t particularly advanced and there are several twists and turns, both political, technological and on the business level. It is a book that has much to say, it is both a comment on our dependence on digital technology and how it is creating a new class of people and what happens when the government no longer takes care of citizens who need it and the private sector instead steps in. The plot in itself might not be groundbreaking, but the setting and back story is very important and warrants a discussion about where we are headed, not only in the states but also Europe as the right wing organizations are marching back into the political sphere.
Scalzi is a very good writer, there are several things in Lock In that he never reveals until later in the book and then it is more of a foot note and it can at times startle the reader that they did not think of it before.
All in all Lock In creates an interesting possible future that really illustrates what might happen when faced with a new virus that we can’t control. It also sets up for more books in the series and a deeper intrigue, as well as more about the world that the Hadens live in.