I have to admit that I didn’t have high expectations for liking this book. It did not sound like something I would be into, but it was cheap so I gave it shot and I’m glad I did. In the not too far future a disease, called Haden’s, spreads across the globe that either kills, immobilizes, or changes the brain structure of those infected. Those who are immobilized lose complete control of their bodies, but they remain conscious resulting in “lock in.” Most people who are locked in can still move about the real world using “threeps” which are robots they can control with their minds. Those who survive the disease and are lucky enough not to be locked in can serve as consciousness hosts so that those immobilized can experience the world through a human body. This very strange, but very realistic world presents many problems for our Haden’s specialized FBI agent main characters. Think futuristic Sci-Fi Law and Order: Special Victims Unit.
If you’re a little confused by the synopsis I wrote, don’t worry. It is hard to explain everything in a small space and it takes some time to get used to the world and its vocabulary. Luckily Scalzi is pretty good about explaining things without it feeling too much like an info dump. There are some places in which the characters are putting together the pieces of crimes that feel a little information heavy, but it did not distract me too much. All in all, the world feels real. It’s essentially a possible future of America complete with political and social unrest surrounding the issues of Haden’s rights and government funding for their care. Maybe that sounds dull, but I found the book to be surprisingly interesting as a whole. One complaint I have is that the ending was a little quick and conveniently wrapped up. The characters have some personality, but anyone beyond the main two characters is mostly forgettable. The most interesting part of the novel by far is the world Scalzi has built.
Readers who are already into science fiction probably won’t find too much surprising or original about this novel, but since I have just begun to dip my feet into the genre I found it to be very unique. The story is fast paced (except for the aforementioned piecing together of evidence scenes). Sometimes the names of people and the technical mumbo-jumbo confused me. And maybe the political corruption and computer science parts of the novel are unrealistic, but I’m no expert in those areas so I couldn’t say. Either way, I found this to be a page turner and a much needed breath of fresh air in my reading.