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Editorial Reviews

Editors Select, August 2014 - I'm a huge sci-fi listener, and when I heard that John Scalzi was coming out with a new novel in August, there was no question that it was going to be my pick for the month. The premise: In the near-future, a mass contagion called Haden's Syndrome sweeps the world. 99% of those affected experience normal flu-like symptoms, but 1% of the world is left "locked in" – trapped with a fully functional mind inside a non-functioning body. Technological advancements have made it possible for these people to move through the world using artificial android-like bodies but often at the sacrifice of being viewed as less than human. Lock In takes place about twenty years after the outbreak, and focuses on Chris Shane's first day on the job as an FBI agent (Chris is one of the world's most famous victims of the disease). I've always admired Scalzi for is his ability to write compelling, multi-dimensional characters of all genders, and in this book, he does something truly novel: he never specifies a gender for Chris. As a result, we're rewarded with two great versions of this audiobook - one narrated by Wil Wheaton, and one by Amber Benson ( Buffy the Vampire Slayer). This is a thrilling, highly original, genre-bending story that will appeal to mystery & thriller and sci-fi fans alike. —Sam, Audible Editor

Publisher's Summary

2 editions. 2 narrators. 1 thrilling story. You can enjoy Wil Wheaton's narration here.

"I love working with Audible, in no small part because they’re committed to doing what’s right, both for my books, and the people who listen to those books. There's a really excellent reason for Lock In to have two entirely different versions, so when it came time to make the audiobook, Audible did an ingenious thing: they asked both Wil Wheaton and Amber Benson to record entire versions of the book. As the author, I’m impressed with Audible’s commitment to my narrative - and I’m geeking out that both Wil and Amber are reading my book. This is fantastic." (John Scalzi)

A blazingly inventive near-future thriller from the best-selling, Hugo Award-winning John Scalzi.

Not too long from today, a new, highly contagious virus makes its way across the globe. Most who get sick experience nothing worse than flu, fever, and headaches. But for the unlucky one percent - and nearly five million souls in the United States alone - the disease causes "Lock In": Victims fully awake and aware, but unable to move or respond to stimulus. The disease affects young, old, rich, poor, people of every color and creed. The world changes to meet the challenge.

A quarter of a century later, in a world shaped by what's now known as "Haden's syndrome", rookie FBI agent Chris Shane is paired with veteran agent Leslie Vann. The two of them are assigned what appears to be a Haden-related murder at the Watergate Hotel, with a suspect who is an "integrator" - someone who can let the locked in borrow their bodies for a time. If the Integrator was carrying a Haden client, then naming the suspect for the murder becomes that much more complicated.

But "complicated" doesn't begin to describe it. As Shane and Vann began to unravel the threads of the murder, it becomes clear that the real mystery - and the real crime - is bigger than anyone could have imagined.

BONUS AUDIO: Audible's audio edition of Lock In contains the bonus novella, Unlocked: An Oral History of Haden's Syndrome, written by John Scalzi and narrated by a full cast.

©2014 John Scalzi (P)2014 Audible Inc.

Critic Reviews

"Hugo-winner Scalzi successfully shifts away from space opera with this smart, thoughtful near-future thriller resonant with the themes of freedom, ethics, and corporate greed….This powerful novel will intrigue and entertain both fans and newcomers." ( Publishers Weekly)
"The novel--which contains plenty of action, great character development, vivid and believable worldbuilding and a thought-provoking examination of disability culture and politics--is definitely worth the ride." ( Kirkus)
"Another brilliant novel from a writer who has quickly become one of the genre’s most successful and intriguing practitioners." ( Booklist)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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    5 out of 5 stars
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Scalzi Locks In Another Winner

John Scalzi always seems to come up with new ideas or new twists on old ideas (is there really anything new under the sun?). The premise is one of the most terrifying things that could happen to a person. It’s worse than life imprisonment in solitary confinement. In solitary you can stand, sit, move around (not much, but you can move), smell (but you might not want too), talk, feel, and see. Now imagine a virus that causes millions round the world to die, worse than the Spanish Flu of 1918-1920. Of those that recover 99%, go on with their lives. For other 1% (4 million in the US alone), it causes a person to be locked into their body, awake and aware of the world around them, yet incapable of seeing, moving, or communicating, unable (luckily?) to even taste the gruel that is piped into their body. Hundreds of millions in the US a around the world have been ravished by this disease, and it continues to strike down more victims every year.

But into this chamber of horror comes a ray of light, an open door leading back to the world - in the form an external body that sort of looks like the Droid CP3O. At least that is the style for the First Lady, an early victim of the virus, “Haden’s syndrome”. Named for its most public and well know victim - herself, the President’s wife. The First Lady has been given the first external body – our hero - Chris Shane, a child at the time, was granted the second, a child size version and becomes Haden’s syndromes second most famous victim. Yet through the adversity Chris becomes a beacon of hope for those suffering from this modern black plague. More than twenty years have gone by since the first outbreak; Chris is now a fledgling FBI agent and is trying to step out of the spotlight, into making a real life.

The second day on the job, the rookie Chris and new partner Agent Vann meet in front of the Watergate Hotel. The meeting spot is next to car that is sporting a love seat – embedded in the roof after being thrown through a seventh floor window. From this point on you are trapped in a twisted and totally enjoyable world pulled from the mind of John Scalzi.

A truly wondrous place to be.

On the narrators:

One of the more interesting curves is that Scalzi never hints at Chris Shane’s sex. So having Amber Benson and Wil Wheaton narrate individual versions is now more reasonable to me. I picked Amber’s version and wish that I had also picked up Wil’s so I could have compared them in their entirety. I have been a fan of both actors since the days of Star Trek, the Next Generation and Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I decided on Amber’s version because I had the pleasure of catching Wil on several other books and I wished to hear Amber tackle this project.

Amber Benson, held her own as a late comer to Buffy. Even surrounded by a powerful cast of actors, she stood out early enough to really earn the prized role of Willow’s (Alyson Hannigan) better half, through 47 episodes. Narrating, “Locked In” Amber seems to start off slow – but then you realize that she is reading a report from a government agency, so it’s going to be a bit flat. The characterization starts building from Chapter 2 and, for the most part, is strong and clear. Very captivating, it allows you to lean back and take pleasure in the theater of the mind that John and Amber weave for you.

One note on Wil’s reading – I have only heard the five minute sample of his interpretation of the text, and it’s typical Wheaton. Crisp, clear and full of impact, and swift - it seems powerful and should also be a good experience.

39 of 41 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Love Amber's Narration

I'm only a third of the way through this book but I felt obliged to say that Amber Benson's narration is fantastic.
If you want a narrator who does character voices and dramatizes a novel, choose Amber Benson's version.
If you want a narrator who has a great speaking voice but has a drier, quicker delivery without any character voices, choose Wil Wheaton.

95 of 102 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    1 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars
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    1 out of 5 stars

Van said, I said, she said...

What would have made Lock In (Narrated by Amber Benson) better?

Take out the "Van said," "I said," "she said" after every single sentence.

What could John Scalzi have done to make this a more enjoyable book for you?

I really think Locked In is a bad and confusing story.

How could the performance have been better?

No narrator could have made this better.

You didn’t love this book... but did it have any redeeming qualities?

None, that I can think of.

Any additional comments?

In all fairness I am new to audible. I have maybe 15-20 books under my belt. I tried to listen to this book, and I just could not make myself finish it. I found myself taking off my headphones multiple times because it was either getting on my nerves or just boring. The first thing you will notice is "Van said." If you listen to this story, you will know exactly what I am talking about.

10 of 10 people found this review helpful

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    1 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars

Tough listen

Hard to listen to when every other sentence includes "(character) said". This book is probably good if you read it, since you can mentally skip all the "(character) said" parts.

19 of 20 people found this review helpful

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    1 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

interesting story line. Atrocious writing

What could have made this a 4 or 5-star listening experience for you?

If the author didn't write like this..... " "I laughed" Paul said. Oh funny she said. " did you look?" She asked. It was distracting to the point I returned the book.

If you’ve listened to books by John Scalzi before, how does this one compare?

No I haven't.

How could the performance have been better?

I'm not sure besides maybe abridged?

If you could play editor, what scene or scenes would you have cut from Lock In (Narrated by Amber Benson)?

"He said" she did a great job with the voices! There was no reason for the he said crap

Any additional comments?

Don't do it.

7 of 7 people found this review helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

Intriguing premise wasted on average cop story

As with past works by Mr Scalzi, Lock In is a light and entertaining story that doesn't quite do justice to its compelling underpinnings. In this case, Mr Scalzi has fashioned a world in which 1% of the population are physically paralyzed and escape their bodies by directing their awareness and cognitive function into alternate frameworks. Some choose a non-spatial internet; some choose synthetic android bodies; a few choose bodies of "Integrators"—healthy humans who lease-out their bodies on an hourly basis. Unfortunately Mr Scalzi treats the first category merely as a MacGuffin and thereby severely limits the novel's potential as a work of true speculative fiction. Instead the reader is treated to a standard-issue cop story with a pleasant veneer. Lock In is told competently but without the liveliness that elevated some of his past novels. Mr Scalzi proved to be deft at writing dialogue for lawyers in Fuzzy Nation and fast-talking agents in Agent to the Stars, but his ear for dialogue has failed him here: the cop-talk is stale and predictable. A more adventurous book could have survived such weaknesses, but Lock In is timid in its scope and never quite recovers from its failings.

The narrator's sex is never known, so the option of listening to a male or female performer makes some sense. I alternated between Ms Benson's and Mr Wheaton's performances, and for whatever reason, the narrator became female in my mind, so perhaps Ms Benson's voice was the more significant for me. Mr Wheaton, on the other hand, is the brisker of the two and thereby imparts some extra energy into the story. All things being equal, I would recommend his performance.

27 of 30 people found this review helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Great job on the setting

I am a big fan of John Scalzi. And Lock In lived up to the very high level of promotion that Audible gave it. Audible made the unusual choice of producing two different editions of the book. One narrated by Wil Wheaton and one narrated by Amber Benson. If you pre-ordered one of the editions, you would get the other for free.

Scalzi is a talented writer. He has moved around in various subsets of the sci-fi genre, from Military Science Fiction to near term Alien encounters, to rewrites of classic sci-fi. Lock In is more of a police procedural (or FBI to be more accurate) that happens to have a near term sci-fi setting.

The Hadden’s syndrome has forced the FBI set up a department to deal with crimes that might involve the Hadden’s sufferer using the body of either their robot or a human integrators. Chris Shane (a Hadden’s syndrome sufferer) is a new member of this FBI department.

Shane happens to be the poster boy for Hadden’s, literally. Shane’s father is sort of a cross between Michael Jordan and Donald Trump. A former basketball star, turned billionaire real estate mogel, he was an early proponent of government intervention in Hadden’s and trotted out Chris (in his robot body) throughout his childhood.

As an adult, Chris is trying to find his own way in the world.

While this is primarily a mystery/thriller, Scalzi uses the book to bring up a number of issues around medical ethics, medical testing, the role of government and business corruption. None of those issues are really settled, but I think the raising of the issues is done well and in context of the story and not as propaganda.

What I thought was an interesting, but a very subtle move, was that the main character was black, his FBI partner was a lesbian (or maybe bisexual, it wasn’t completely clear) and there were several other gay couples in the book. This was a book that seemed to want to make a statement about breaking down walls of discrimination (against Haden’s sufferers as well as LBGT community and more traditional racial discrimition).

The way that Scalzi chose to do that was to not make a big deal about it. Chris Shane was black, his Dad was a big time basketball player, but also a very, very good businessman. And other than one incident where race really mattered, the fact he was black, while not minimized or swept away, was just part of the story. Similarly with the variety of LBGT issues and characters. I don’t want to make too much about that, because the book is just good writing.

I doubt it will become a series because it wrapped up without a lot of loose ends. But if it does become a series, I am definately pre-ordering the next book.

At the end of the audiobook was an ‘oral history’ about the outbreak of the Haden’s virus. It was released as a separate kindle book earlier, but I didn’t know about it until I started Lock In. It probably would have been better to have a better understanding of the disease prior to reading the book, but reading it after was fine as well.

I do wish there was a way to easily sync between the two audio editions. Wheaton must be a faster reader than Amber Benson because her version is almost an hour longer than his version. It does make me want to read the last couple of Scalzi’s books that I have not previously read.

(I didn't realize this until I read an article about it later, but there are no gender words about the main character. As a guy, I understood Chris as a guy. But Scalzi intentionally did not put any gender info on Chris. So some will see Chris as male, and some as female.)

10 of 11 people found this review helpful

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Hard to finish

What would have made Lock In (Narrated by Amber Benson) better?

I'm committed to finish any book I start, because sometimes a book that starts out poorly can end up being great, but this one makes it hard. I just can't seem to care about the characters. I'm not becoming invested. The main character doesn't really have a sense of purpose, she just needed something to do and her risk is minimal. It's hard to invest the reader when the main character doesn't seem invested.

What was most disappointing about John Scalzi’s story?

The concept and story idea is great, but somehow it just doesn't work with the particular character development.

What didn’t you like about Amber Benson’s performance?

I don't know if the story made the performance unsatisfactory or the performance made the story harder to get into. There's a whining tendency that doesn't add to the character development.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    1 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars
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    1 out of 5 stars
  • alsonot
  • Waterdown, Ontario Canada
  • 08-30-15

Bad story

Half baked, poorly edited, and throughly disappointing. At times very slow, full of plot holes, and just sloppy writing.

I would never have suspected this was written by Scalzi. If you enjoyed his other books this isn't for you.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    1 out of 5 stars
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    1 out of 5 stars
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    1 out of 5 stars

Turned off after 10 minutes

Book is poorly written, the performance couldn't save it. was not even worth the discount price of $4.95.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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  • Kindle Customer
  • 09-02-14

A Novel approach

Where does Lock In rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

This is my favourite of the Scalzi stories I've listed to. Mostly due to the awesome reading by Amber Benson.

What does Amber Benson bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you had only read the book?

Amber Benson manages to create a dramatic story where you can almost forget the descriptive prose.

If you made a film of this book, what would be the tag line be?

Lock - In - Threepio FBI

Any additional comments?

Scalzi appears to have a verbal tick, which is noticeable when read, of using "said" a lot. When reading a book you can skim this but when it's read it jumps out (at least to me).

The appended full cast novella "Unlocked" was awesome!

7 of 7 people found this review helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
  • Mr. Damian M. Sears
  • 07-06-18

not fully what i expected but good story read well

I have often considered what it would be like to be truly locked in and sensless. This story deals more with the technology used to overcome the problem but I still enjoyed the story and ideas.
The main characters are female. Not being female I am unsure of how well written they are and felt they could just as easily be male. I am easily put off by a narrator but no issues there at all. The bonus novella was a surprise although it was obviously coming with several chapters remaining at the end of the main story. This was a good addition.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars
  • Stephen H
  • 02-21-17

not very engaging

it had good promise but i found the writing style a little uninspired. in the end i didn't care what happened.

2 of 3 people found this review helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars
  • Amazon Customer
  • 10-03-18

An ok book!

The ending should have been first. The story was good as a whole but the explanation into the virus and the effects it had on the world should have been read at the beginning.

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    3 out of 5 stars
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    1 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
  • janet.lewis1@btinternet.com
  • 09-19-18

Good story but poor narration

The audible book badly let down in parts by poor narration.

Some of the characterisation was mumbled in distinct and very unclear.

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
  • Anonymous User
  • 08-22-18

A unique and creative story

A really unique take on a post-plague world. The use of robots to transport the consciousness of the afflicted patients is interesting. The story was action packed, witty, and realistic. I really had a good time listening this book. The only slightly annoying was the narrator was female and the main character male. Very minor, but I kept thinking of the main character as a women.

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    4 out of 5 stars
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  • Bernd
  • 05-27-18

he said she said

To much "he said" "she said", can be annoying in unabridged audiobooks and a certain style of writing.
The story in general is just fine.

0 of 1 people found this review helpful