PrintE-mail Written by Andrew Marshall

After a devastating pandemic sweeps the globe, millions of people worldwide are afflicted with lock in, a condition that leaves the mind completely aware within a paralysed body. Locked in people are able to interact with the everyday world by their consciousness being remotely connected to specialised androids, which have a common nickname of ‘threep’ in reference to exactly what you think it is. Integrators, meanwhile, are people whose brains are wired to receive another person’s consciousness and allow them control, essentially renting out their body (no, not like that) so locked in people can temporarily re-experience what it feels like to be human.

All of these significant details are introduced in the first few chapters, gradually dropped in at regular intervals without resorting to any kind of plot dump, letting us know about how Lock In’s  world works at a measured and natural pace. They are also not mere background details; nearly every aspect of the presented scenario at some point has relevance to the plot, meaning early concentration soon pays off as we are swept into the ever-expanding mystery understanding no more or less than the characters.

Chris Shane, a rookie FBI agent and the locked in son of a celebrity business magnate, tells the story while also figuring out exactly what the hell he’s doing as he is embroiled in a huge case on his second day, while his experienced partner Vann is a cynical former Integrator, drinking, smoking and screwing whenever she gets the chance amidst dispensing glowering wisdom. Together they investigate a series of deaths involving the technology used to assist locked in people, and despite the plot’s reliance on its high concept ideas, it never once falters in its plausibility, requiring neither technobabble nor some mechanical deus ex machina to make everything fit together in the required way.

A host of distinctive supporting characters, from smarmy lawyers and corporate bigshots to officious law enforcement of varying degrees of competence and locked in people from all walks of life populate the richly realised world, a future we certainly hope never comes to pass but nevertheless one we can easily imagine playing out in much the same way if it ever did.

Engagingly merging sci-fi with police procedural is a neat idea with nigh on limitless potential (let us have a moment of silence for the prematurely-cancelled Almost Human), and while Lock In never veers towards outright comedy, Scalzi’s talent for balancing tone prevents the story from ever becoming too serious, and thus consistently remains an absorbing read.



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