by John Scalzi
My rating: ★★☆☆☆
Read From: 20 February 2015 - 23 February 2015
Warning: This review contains spoilers. If you don't want to be spoiled, don't read it.
Haden's Syndrome is a flu-like virus with a nasty side effect: one percent of its victims experience "lock in". They're fully awake and aware but they're completely cut off from control of their own bodies. They can no longer speak or move. It is, essentially, a conscious coma.
A whole panoply of technologies were created in reaction to the disease. The locked in are able to interact with the physical world through the use of cybernetic bodies called "threeps". (In homage to C-3PO.) They're also able to control the bodies of volunteer Integrators, through neural links.
Lock In is the story of FBI agent Chris Shane's first week on the job. It's a nasty first week, as his first case involves the murders of multiple "Hadens" and the suicides of multiple Integrators. As he investigates, he begins to see a common thread weaving everything together.
That grand tapestry is what ruined the book for me. (This is where I spoil the mystery.) The criminal mastermind is that most likely, most stereotypical, of suspects: the corporate billionaire. One man, seeing harsh times ahead as his government subsidies come to an end, decides to keep the profits flowing by any means necessary.
The billionaire's plan involves committing multiple murders, blowing up a competitor's research facility, manipulating stock prices to crash multiple competitors, and then buying everyone up to create a near-monopoly. Because, greed. Everyone knows the rich are greedy and will doing anything to keep the wealth coming. Murder and stock market manipulation are common tools of the wealthy elite. One frequently sees it in the news headlines.
I like the set up Scalzi created for this novel. I though Haden's Syndrome was creative and the various tech created to help the Hadens offered a lot of storytelling potential. But Scalzi decided to waste all of that on a murder mystery with an unintelligent plot.
This is a plot that I expect from the worst of the mass-market action thrillers. This story is science fiction only in that the hero has a robo-body and the villain controls people through neural links rather than blackmail. Without those elements, it's just another by the numbers murder thriller. Boring.