I think the most clever thing about John Scalzi’s novel Lock In is that it doesn’t push the “mystery” past the point where it’s believable that our protagonists haven’t figured it out. The characters don’t continually chase down false leads or refuse to see what’s right in front of their faces; if anything, these people are extremely competent at what they do. I particularly liked that Tony, in his role as “the tech guy” never insists that various new twists are “impossible,” as way too many “science guys” in fiction tend to do. In fact, he’s always careful to state that nothing is impossible, it just hasn’t been done yet. It’s that kind of open mindedness, which Agents Shane and Vann share, that helps them solve the case. I find that kind of refreshing, given how most mystery novels of this ilk would’ve gone down.
But let’s be real here: the characters and the plot are great, but they are secondary to the world-building Scalzi manages here. He’s clearly thought through all the details of how a disease like Haden’s would change society, from new industries to bigotry and beyond. A touch I particularly enjoyed is how few places were prepared to deal with Agent Shane — so many subpar threeps, so much dust collecting on them — because let me tell you from first-hand experience, even when your disability isn’t a big deal to you, other people sure do act like it is.
I wish we’d gotten to spend more time on the rivalry between Agent Vann and Detective Trinh. Trinh’s ominous hints and poor opinion of Vann are used to foreshadow the reveal of Vann’s past, but when it comes out, it turns out to be a pretty understandable and sad story that I highly suspect would inspire empathy in a vast majority of people. Ultimately the only things Trinh seems to dislike Vann for are the fact that she drinks and has a lot of sex. I fail to see how that’s any of Trinh’s business to begin with, not to mention there’s the question of how Trinh would even know that anyway, given that it’s Vann’s personal life and not something she does while at work. It just confuses me because the sum of their rivalry seems to be Trinh hating Vann for very little reason and Vann thinking of her like you’d think of an annoying fly: something to swat at when it gets in your face, but you hardly spend time trying to aggravate it in return.
It’s a small concern, however, and ultimately I loved the book and would love to see more in the future set in this post-Haden’s world.
Join us on December the 15th when Aliya will be discussing In Glorious Technicolor: A Century Of Film And How It Has Shaped Us by Francine Stock. Until then, hit up the comments and let me know what you thought of Lock In.
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