I do not think that there can ever be enough books about anything and I say that knowing that some of them are going to be about Pilates.The more knowledge the better seems like a solid rule of thumb, even though I have watched enough science fiction films to accept that humanity’s unchecked pursuit of learning will end with robots taking over the world.-Sarah Vowell

Friday, May 20, 2016

Lock In by John Scalzi

A Great Flu pandemic sweeps the globe killing more than 400 million people, and named Haydens after the first lady who had the disease.  The symptoms, which were slow to show up, caused people who had it to spread it without even knowing they had it.  The first stage of the flu, causing up to 75 percent of the deaths, was followed by a viral meningitis.  Those who survived the second stage suffered no long-term problems, but at least 1percent suffered from "lock in" where they were aware of their surroundings, but could not communicate or move.  An even smaller number, 100,000 had their brains rewired and were able to become integrators, or those who could hold the consciousness of a Hayden sufferer and allow them a body to walk in.  Those suffering from lock in could use robots to get around in and were called "threeps" after C3PO.  A virtual world called Agora, was created for those with this disease so that they could communicate with others.  Trillions were initially spent on finding a cure and the treatment of those suffering from it.  Then after decades of this, the Abrams-Kettering Bill was passed, cutting funding for those suffering from this disease, despite the fact that on average 30,000 people would suffer from lock in annually in the US alone. 

Agent Shane, the poster child for Haydens when she was a girl growing up, has left the limelight and joined the FBI and is paired with an integrator, Agent Vann, as part of a new task force.  They arrive on the scene of a murder where an integrator, Nicholas Bell, the brother of the famous Cassandra Bell, who is stirring trouble in the Hayden community, is standing over a dead body, with blood all over himself.  Unable to charge him with anything, they are forced to let him go. 

At a business dinner at her father's home, Shane, meets Bell again, only with a CEO of a computer company occupying his body this time, and his lawyer, occupying a different body because the body he usually uses is driving a bomb, while under the influence of a Hayden scientist, into the Pharma Lab, the major company researching Haydens and the one closest to a cure. 

Now its seems that someone is taking over integrators against their will and leaving them "locked in" their own bodies while someone is at the wheel.  Something that is impossible to do.  Every integrator remains conscious during these sessions and has the ability to step in at any time, to help with a misstep, or to keep the Hayden from doing something wrong.  But someone has found a way around this.

Shane moves her threep into a type of Hayden commune in a walk-up; her actual body is at her parent's house being watched after by nurses.  One of her new roommates, is a computer programmer, who works on making patches for the different threeps to update them.  He finds out that the dead man, a Native American, who was intellectually challenged, but also an integrator, contained a new machine in his head that he has never seen before.  They also discover that the man committed suicide, while being taken over by someone.  Other integrators are at risk, and another one dies, but not before regaining consciousness and providing Shane with a clue as to who was inside her. 

Cassandra is planning a large protest rally, where many Haydens will be in attendance, and Shane and Vann believe her life is in danger.  The problem is, no one has ever seen Cassandra.  She only exists on Agora.  As Shane digs into they mystery, she ends up fighting off the enemy and damaging four suits in one day.  Luckily she's rich and is able to buy a new suit, until her good one is fixed.   Its a race against time to find out who would want to destroy the Lab and who is buying up all the threep companies that are going out of business, due to the fact that there is a smaller market with fewer people needing them and the new bill going through, making it so that poor Americans can not afford a threep. 

This book just flew through my hands as I read it.  It was so realistic, in that our worst nightmare and possibility, is just such a pandemic.  There are also the secrets being kept by Vann about her years working as a integrator, which she quit to join the FBI.  The techno-speak is easy to follow if you pay attention and the author does a good job of explaining things to you.  I hope he writes a sequel to this amazing work of science fiction and soon.

Link to Amazon:  http://www.amazon.com/Lock-Novel-Future-John-Scalzi/dp/076538132X/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1463751589&sr=1-1&keywords=lock+in+john+scalzi

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