Publication year: 2014
Format: Audio
Running time: 10 hours (includes the novella Unlocked: An Oral History of Haden’s Syndrome)
Publisher: Audible
Narrator: Wil Wheaton and a group of narrators for the novella

The SF premise for the book is a disease, a strain of bird flu, which has wiped out a lot of humanity. But about one percent of the afflicted suffer from “lock in”: they’re fully conscious but can’t move or respond to any stimulus. It’s called Haden’s syndrome. This is millions of people and because the wife of the president of USA was one of the first victims, USA spent a whole lot of money and time to find a cure. They didn’t find it but they did manage to find a way for the lock in people to interact with the world. They have neural implants which allow them to take over a robot body or interact with each other in a virtual world. The story starts 25 years later, when Hadens (as they are called) are part of the US society.

The book is actually a police procedural. The main character is Chris Shane who has just started working in the FBI. She or he (the gender is actually never revealed) is suffering from lock in and works with a robot body. His/her partner is Leslie Vann who has her own issues and an interesting past. They are given a tough case which at first looks like it could be murder but might be suicide.

This is exactly the kind of SF I enjoy and I really liked Lock in. Scalzi takes a premise and then extrapolates how it would change a world much like ours. There are people who hate Hadens and legislation is done concerning the robot bodies (threeps). But some Hadens are media darlings.

The novella is available for free here: http://www.tor.com/2014/05/13/unlocked-an-oral-history-of-hadens-syndrome-john-scalzi/ It’s quite different in style from the book and it showcases the world very well. It’s done in a TV documentary style with statements from people who were near the center of things when the disease first started. Each person has just a paragraph or two but most of them have personalities which show through. The novella shows how people and the government reacted to the outbreak of the disease and then how people’s opinions about the Hadens and the robot bodies grow and change.

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