Reading Level: Adult
Genre: Science Fiction
Length: 336 pages
Publisher: Tor Books
Release Date: August 26, 2014
Stand Alone or Series: Stand Alone
Source: Goodreads First Reads
Rating: 3/5 stars
I got a copy of this book to review through Goodreads First Reads. Previously I had read Scalzi’s books Fuzzy Nation, Agent to the Stars, and Redshirts and really enjoyed those books. I was eager to see what Scalzi came up with next. This was an interesting premise but probably my least favorite Scalzi book to date. I usually enjoy the irony and humor in Scalzi’s works and there isn’t a lot of that here.
Haden’s Syndrome is a flu-like virus that killed a lot of people and caused some of them to Lock-In. Those who Lock-In can see and hear but can not interact or move with people in any way. Society has adjusted to this by creating threeps (androids) that locked in people can control through a neural network (brain computer) of sorts. There are also people who had Haden’s but did not Lock In, however they did get some brain damage that allows them to operate as Integrators. Integrators can allow Locked In people to ride along in their bodies and experience life as a human outside of a threep. There is also a virtual space called the Agora that normal humans and Locked In humans can interact in.
Okay, so the above gives some background but that really isn’t what the book is about. The book is actually about a Locked In guy who uses a threep and is starting a job as an FBI agent. His partner is a long time agent and former Integrator. On his first day on the case they stumble into a murder mystery involving Integrators and Locked In people.
The first part of this book is a huge info dump. Even with that things are not all that well explained. It took me a bit to figure out what a threep was and to figure out what Agora was. Then I had to figure out when we were in virtual space and real space. Once I figured that out I had to go back and reread the parts I thought were happening in virtual space since they were in real space….blah. I would definitely recommend giving the story and info at the below link a read before reading this book. I really think this would have been a much better book if this story had been included in the beginning. http://www.tor.com/stories/2014/05/unlocked-an-oral-history-of-hadens-syndrome-john-scalzi
The above story gives much better background and you won’t be so darn confused for the first part of the book.
This book is more of a murder mystery/conspiracy type of novel. There are a number of sci-fi elements in the story (incurable disease, neural networks and virtual living spaces) but mostly the book is investigative in nature. There are also a lot of social implications addressed since you basically have two classes of citizens now (those who are locked in and those who aren’t).
I was a little irked that the huge revelation in this book is basically that computers can be hacked. I mean really? You put a computer in someone’s brain and you are all like “Oh, that will be completely safe, we have a ton of safeguards in place.” I think it was incredibly ignorant (and anti-climatic) to think that no one would realize a brain computer can be hacked just like any other type of computer. If you have software it can be hacked.
I honestly would have enjoyed reading more about the onset of Haden’s Syndrome. I think that would have been a lot more engaging and exciting to read about. This story was basically a story of political intrigue and the investigation of a murder tied into that intrigue. There were a number of times where I had a lot of trouble engaging with the story and parts were just plain boring.
Overall I thought this was okay but did have some trouble staying engaged in the story. Like many sci-fi books it takes a bit to figure out the slang and what it what. I guess I would tentatively recommend to those who enjoy sci-fi reads about how humans interact with computers that are chock full of political intrigue and conspiracy.
This book goes towards the following reading challenges:
– You Read How Many Books? Reading Challenge