August 26, 2014
When I first heard about Lock In; I was a bit skeptical of the premise. All of these people contract this flu that has three stages and in the third stage they suffer from lock in. Which is essentially being a prisoner in your own body. This would normally, be the entire of plot the book. How does the disease progress? How do we stop it? Our intrepid young hero(scientist usually) tries to discover the answer to all of these questions and the mysterious origins of the disease. Yes, well, John Scalzi decided not to do that, thank god. He wrote a book that was a post-outbreak world. Which is even more interesting. How does the world cope with the victims of the disease? What are the political ramifications of all this? How does it effect economies all over the world? These are some interesting questions that are more or less in the backdrop of Lock in. Instead the story mostly focuses on a series of strange murders being investigated by a new FBI agent Chris Shane and his partner Vann. Chris is a victim of the lock in, in fact, he is one of the most famous people who has. So we see the world from his perspective. While Chris is a pretty good main character there are plenty of things about the book that, from time to time. Made me cringe a little.
John Scalzi is famous or infamous however you want to look at it for his dialogue and lack of description. He rarely describes things, people, or places. He just doesn’t, can tell you why but he doesn’t. Anyway, some of his dialogue hand offs in the final third of the book are just bad. I mean awkward in a way that makes the reader cringe and then try to reread it, thinking they made a mistake. Unfortunately it was John Scalzi who made these mistakes. If your writing style is so committed to dialogue that you make it your central feature. That’s great, you just better do it right, all of the time. Overall, the author does a masterful job with the dialogue and the plot progression. The mystery is a descent one, although it’s not one that you’re probably going to be able to figure out on your own. I’d imagine if I’d read the book in a shorter period of time I probably would have been able to see the end coming more easily.
While Chris and Vann have a nice, but short buddy cop relationship. I often found myself thinking, that it was a little bit too brief. We don’t really care about Vann; mostly because almost until the end we know virtually nothing about her. While Chris seems like a nice enough guy; it’s kind of like caring about a celebrity that decides he wants to start playing baseball or something. It’s interesting but you rarely care if he fails or succeeds. Many of the more supporting characters like Tony for instance, seem a lot more interesting and while they aren’t quite as fleshed out as Chris(we are reading from his POV). I felt like Tony was a lot more relatable guy to most readers. I don’t know why the author decided that the main character should be rich, famous, and an FBI agent. But there was only so far things began to stretch before the reader just had to forget about the whole thing and except it on suspension of disbelief terms if nothing else. I think for a book with so many supporting characters, I would have liked more information about the more central characters rather than more dialogue that was essentially meaningless in the end.
All told, I was happy with Lock In and I would definitely recommend the incredible audio version narrated by Wil Wheaton or Amber Benson depending on which you choose. I found listening to the book even more engaging than reading it. So keep that in mind.