Review: Lock In by John Scalzi

September 7, 2014 4.5 stars, Book Review 18 ★★★★½

Review: Lock In by John ScalziLock In by John Scalzi
Series: Lock In #1
Published by Tor Books on August 26, 2014
Genres: Adult SFF, Dystopian, Science fiction
Pages: 320
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher

*This book was provided by the Publisher for review. No compensation was provided and all opinions are strictly my own.

A novel of our near future, from one of the most popular authors in modern SF

Fifteen years from now, a new virus sweeps the globe. 95% of those afflicted experience nothing worse than fever and headaches. Four percent suffer acute meningitis, creating the largest medical crisis in history. And one percent find themselves “locked in”—fully awake and aware, but unable to move or respond to stimulus.

One per cent doesn't seem like a lot. But in the United States, that's 1.7 million people “locked in”...including the President's wife and daughter.

Spurred by grief and the sheer magnitude of the suffering, America undertakes a massive scientific initiative. Nothing can restore the ability to control their own bodies to the locked in. But then two new technologies emerge. One is a virtual-reality environment, “The Agora,” in which the locked-in can interact with other humans, both locked-in and not. The other is the discovery that a few rare individuals have brains that are receptive to being controlled by others, meaning that from time to time, those who are locked in can “ride” these people and use their bodies as if they were their own.

This skill is quickly regulated, licensed, bonded, and controlled. Nothing can go wrong. Certainly nobody would be tempted to misuse it, for murder, for political power, or worse....


Lock In is a fantastic read! It is well written, easy to understand, believable and above all… INTERESTING! It has been awhile since I have read something that was interesting to me on an intellectual level. There is plenty of pseudo-science, and what-if type writing in this novel, and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

This is the story of the world after the onset of a terrible disease called Haden’s Syndrome. A large percentage of the world contracted this flu-like illness and perished immediately. A percentage of those that survived contracted the second form of the disease, akin to meningitis. Most of the people who survive this faze of the disease experience what they call “Lock In,” which is a complete loss of control of their bodies but still having complete mental faculties.

Technology companies that were in existence at the time had tons of money and resources thrown at them so they could try to make a way for those who were “locked in” to be able to communicate. The solution is elegantly simple: Adding a second, neural processing unit that attaches to the brain directly and allows the use of a robot remotely controlled. These “hadens” were then able to function and communicate in the world with everybody else. Hadens also have access to a virtual world, Agora, where Hadens can socialize amongst themselves. People who contracted the second phase of Haden’s Syndrome but don’t experience “Lock In” are able to have the neural implant and allow possession of their body by a Haden who would like to experience something in an actual body. They are called Integrators, and they are a valuable resource and fairly rare.

In Lock In, there is a wonderful cast of characters. They are interesting and well written. This is one of those novels that feels like a possible future, and I appreciate that! It makes me look at how our society is now, and wonder if we could indeed survive such a devastating outbreak. It brings up questions about profiting from illnesses and if that is a conflict of interest to those who are in the best position to help.

I certainly hope that there will be more novels in this world. It is a complete story in and of itself, though, and could go either way. Read it sooner rather than later! This one definitely has movie potential.


When not taking care of my two children, husband and mini doxy, rushing here and there on the go, I can always be found reading. Fantasy of course being my favorite genre, but not the only I'll read. Oh yes, and I throw bad books.

Latest posts by Maggie (see all)

18 Responses to “Review: Lock In by John Scalzi”

  1. kimberlybuggie

    Great review! I’ve been anxious to read Locked In! I saw it reviewed earlier this year and it sounded sooo good. I just saw it at B&N the other day too and I really wanted to pick it up. Glad you liked it so much. Now I may have to get it for this week’s book buy! 🙂
    kimberlybuggie recently posted…A Happiness Project – SeptemberMy Profile

  2. Mogsy @ BiblioSanctum

    Tabs told me you snagged this one off her pile as soon as you saw it and I probably would have done the same! I love Scalzi, and I enjoyed the hell out of this book (I believe we even gave it the same rating). Glad you liked it, I agree with pretty much everything in your review 🙂
    Mogsy @ BiblioSanctum recently posted…Sunday Musings: Sunshine and SnifflesMy Profile

  3. Danya @ Fine Print

    Pseudo science: the only kind of science I can understand LOL. But actually though, I’ve heard so many great things about Lock In, among them praise for the science behind Haden’s Syndrome. Apparently it also has a police-procedural feel, and I’m all about that (as my unhealthy love of cop show might suggest)!
    Danya @ Fine Print recently posted…Review: The Scroll of Years by Chris WillrichMy Profile

  4. Nikki

    Muuuust get round to reading this one. I generally find Scalzi’s work popcorny fun, and he’s a great guy from all I can tell online, so I’m looking forward to it.
    Nikki recently posted…Review – Black UnicornMy Profile