Lock In: A Novel of the Near Future

Lock In: A Novel of the Near Future

by John Scalzi

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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. The world of the locked in is changing, and with the change comes opportunities that the ambitious will seize at any cost. The investigation that began as a murder case takes Shane and Vann from the halls of corporate power to the virtual spaces of the locked in, and to the very heart of an emerging, surprising new human culture. It's nothing you could have expected.

Old Man's War Series
#1 Old Man’s War
#2 The Ghost Brigades
#3 The Last Colony
#4 Zoe’s Tale
#5 The Human Division
#6 The End of All Things
Short fiction: “After the Coup”

Other Tor Books
The Android’s Dream
Agent to the Stars
Your Hate Mail Will Be Graded
Fuzzy Nation
Lock In
The Collapsing Empire (forthcoming)

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780765381323
Publisher: Tom Doherty Associates
Publication date: 08/04/2015
Series: Lock In , #1
Pages: 336
Sales rank: 120,941
Product dimensions: 4.10(w) x 6.70(h) x 1.10(d)

About the Author

JOHN SCALZI is one of the most popular and acclaimed SF authors to emerge in the last decade. His massively successful debut Old Man's War won him science fiction's John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer. His New York Times bestsellers include The Last Colony, Fuzzy Nation, and Redshirts; which won 2013's Hugo Award for Best Novel. Material from his widely read blog The Whatever has also earned him two other Hugo Awards. He lives in Ohio with his wife and daughter.

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

MY FIRST DAY on the job coincided with the first day of the Haden Walkout, and I’m not going to lie, that was some awkward timing. A feed of me walking into the FBI building got a fair amount of play on the Haden news sites and forums. This was not a thing I needed on my first day.

Two things kept all of the Agora from falling down on my head in outrage. The first was that not every Haden was down with the walkout to begin with. The first day participation was spotty at best. The Agora was split into two very noisy warring camps between the walkout supporters and the Hadens who thought it was a pointless maneuver given that Abrams-Kettering had already been signed into law.

The second was that technically speaking the FBI is law enforcement, which qualified it as an essential service. So the number of Hadens calling me a scab was probably lower than it could have been.

Aside from the Agora outrage, my first day was a lot of time in HR, filling out paperwork, getting my benefits and retirement plan explained to me in mind-numbing detail. Then I was assigned my weapon, software upgrades, and badge. Then I went home early because my new partner had to testify in a court case and wasn’t going to be around for the rest of the day, and they didn’t have anything else for me to do. I went home and didn’t go into the Agora. I watched movies instead. Call me a coward if you like.

My second day on the job started with more blood than I would have expected.

I spotted my new partner as I walked up to the Watergate Hotel. She was standing a bit away from the lobby entrance, sucking on an electronic cigarette. As I got closer the chip in her badge started spilling her details into my field of vision. It was the Bureau’s way of letting its agents know who was who on the scene. My partner didn’t have her glasses on so she wouldn’t have had the same waterfall of detail on me scroll past her as I walked up. But then again, it was a pretty good chance she didn’t need it. She spotted me just fine in any event.

“Agent Shane,” said my new partner, to me. She held out her hand.

“Agent Vann,” I said, taking the hand.

And then I waited to see what the next thing out of her mouth would be. It’s always an interesting test to see what people do when they meet me, both because of who I am and because I’m Haden. One or the other usually gets commented on.

Vann didn’t say anything else. She withdrew her hand and continued sucking on her stick of nicotine.

Well, all right then. It was up to me to get the conversation started.

So I glanced over to the car that we were standing next to. Its roof had been crushed by a love seat.

“This ours?” I asked, nodding to the car, and the love seat.

“Tangentially,” she said. “You recording?”

“I can if you want me to,” I said. “Some people prefer me not to.”

“I want you to,” Vann said. “You’re on the job. You should be recording.”

“You got it,” I said, and started recording. I started walking around the car, getting the thing from every angle. The safety glass in the car windows had shattered and a few nuggets had crumbled off. The car had diplomatic plates. I glanced over and about ten yards away a man was on his phone, yelling at someone in what appeared to be Armenian. I was tempted to translate the yelling.

Vann watched me as I did it, still not saying anything.

When I was done I looked up and saw a hole in the side of the hotel, seven floors up. “That where the love seat came from?” I asked.

“That’s probably a good guess,” Vann said. She took the cigarette out of her mouth and slid it into her suit jacket.

“We going up there?”

“I was waiting on you,” Vann said.

“Sorry,” I said, and looked up again. “Metro police there already?”

Vann nodded. “Picked up the call from their network. Their alleged perp is an Integrator, which puts it into our territory.”

“Have you told that to the police yet?” I asked.

“I was waiting on you,” Vann repeated.

“Sorry,” I said again. Vann motioned with her head, toward the lobby.

We went inside and took the elevator to the seventh floor, from which the love seat had been flung. Vann pinned her FBI badge to her lapel. I slotted mine into my chest display.

The elevator doors opened up and a uniformed cop was there. She held up her hand to stop us from getting off. We both pointed to our badges. She grimaced and let us pass, whispering into her handset as she did so. We aimed for the room that had cops all around the door.

We got about halfway to it when a woman poked her head out of the room, looked around, spied us, and stomped over. I glanced at Vann, who had a smirk on her face.

“Detective Trinh,” Vann said, as the woman came up.

“No,” Trinh said. “No way. This has nothing to do with you, Les.”

“It’s nice to see you, too,” Vann said. “And wrong. Your perp is an Integrator. You know what that means.”

“‘All suspected crimes involving Personal Transports or Integrators are assumed to have an interstate component,’” I said, quoting the Bureau handbook.

Trinh looked over at me, sourly, then made a show of ignoring me to speak to Vann. I tucked away that bit of personal interaction for later. “I don’t know my perp’s an Integrator,” she said, to Vann.

“I do,” Vann said. “When your officer on scene called it in, he ID’d the perp. It’s Nicholas Bell. Bell’s an Integrator. He’s in our database. He pinged the moment your guy ran him.” I turned my head to look at Vann at the mention of the name, but she kept looking at Trinh.

“Just because he’s got the same name doesn’t make him an Integrator,” Trinh said.

“Come on, Trinh,” Vann said. “Are we really going to do this in front of the children?” It took me a second to realize Vann was talking about me and the uniformed cops. “You know it’s a pissing match you’re going to lose. Let us in, let us do our job. If it turns out everyone involved was in D.C. at the time, we’ll turn over everything we have and be out of your hair. Let’s play nice and do this all friendly. Or I could not be friendly. You remember how that goes.”

Trinh turned and stomped back to the hotel room without another word.

“I’m missing some context,” I said.

“You got about all you need,” Vann said. She headed to the room, number 714. I followed.

There was a dead body in the room, on the floor, facedown in the carpet, throat cut. The carpet was soaked in blood. There were sprays of blood on the walls, on the bed, and on the remaining seat in the room. A breeze turned in the room, provided by the gaping hole in the wall-length window that the love seat had gone through.

Vann looked at the dead body. “Do we know who he is?”

“No ID,” Trinh said. “We’re working on it.”

Vann looked around, trying to find something. “Where’s Nicholas Bell?” she asked Trinh.

Trinh smiled thinly. “At the precinct,” she said. “The first officer on the scene subdued him and we sent him off before you got here.”

“Who was the officer?” Vann asked.

“Timmons,” Trinh said. “He’s not here.”

“I need his arrest feed,” Vann said.

“I don’t—”

Now, Trinh,” Vann said. “You know my public address. Give it to Timmons.” Trinh turned away, annoyed, but pulled out her phone and spoke into it.

Vann pointed to the uniformed officer in the room. “Anything moved or touched?”

“Not by us,” he said.

Vann nodded. “Shane.”

“Yeah,” I said.

“Make a map,” Vann said. “Make it detailed. Mind the glass.”

“On it,” I said. My recording mode was already on. I overlaid a three-dimensional grid on top of it, marking off everything I could see and making it easier to identify where I needed to look behind and under things. I walked the room, carefully, filling in the nooks and crannies. I knelt down when I got to the bed, turning on my headlights to make sure I got all the details. And there were in fact details to note under the bed.

“There’s a glass under here,” I said to Vann. “It’s broken and covered in blood.” I stood up and pointed over to the room’s desk, which featured a set of glasses and a couple of bottles of water. “There are also glass shards on the floor by the desk. Guessing that’s our murder weapon.”

“You done with your map?” Vann said.

“Almost,” I said. I took a few more passes around the room to pick up the spots I’d missed.

“I assume you also made your own map,” Vann said, to Trinh.

“We got the tech on the way,” Trinh said. “And we’ve got the feeds from the officers on the scene.”

“I want all of them,” Vann said. “I’ll send you Shane’s map, too.”

“Fine,” Trinh said, annoyed. “Anything else?”

“That’s it for now,” Vann said.

“Then if you don’t mind stepping away from my crime scene. I have work to do,” Trinh said.

Vann smiled at Trinh and left the room. I followed. “Metro police always like that?” I asked, as we stepped into the elevator.

“No one likes the feds stepping into their turf,” Vann said. “They’re never happy to see us. Most of them are more polite. Trinh has some issues.”

“Issues with us, or issues with you?” I asked.

Vann smiled again. The elevator opened to the lobby.

*   *   *

“Do you mind if I smoke?” Vann asked. She was driving manually toward the precinct house and fumbling for a package of cigarettes—real ones this time. It was her car. There was no law against it there.

“I’m immune to secondhand smoke, if that’s what you’re asking,” I said.

“Cute.” She fished out a cigarette and punched in the car lighter to warm it up. I dialed down my sense of smell as she did so. “Access my box on the FBI server and tell me if the arrest feed is there yet,” she said.

“How am I going to do that?” I asked.

“I gave you access yesterday,” Vann said.

“You did?”

“You’re my partner now.”

“I appreciate that,” I said. “But what would you have done if you met me and decided I was an untrustworthy asshole?”

Vann shrugged. “My last partner was an untrustworthy asshole. I shared my box with her.”

“What happened to her?” I asked.

“She got shot,” Vann said.

“Line of duty?” I asked.

“Not really,” Vann said. “She was at the firing range and shot herself in the gut. There’s some debate about whether it was accidental or not. Took disability and retired. I didn’t mind.”

“Well,” I said. “I promise not to shoot myself in the gut.”

“Two body jokes in under a minute,” Vann said. “It’s almost like you’re trying to make a point or something.”

“Just making sure you’re comfortable with me,” I said. “Not everyone knows what to do with a Haden when they meet one.”

“You’re not my first,” she said. The lighter had popped and she fished it out of its socket, lighting her cigarette. “That should be obvious, considering our beat. Have you accessed the arrest feed yet?”

“Hold on.” I popped into the Bureau’s evidence server and pulled up Vann’s box. The file was there, freshly arrived. “It’s here,” I said.

“Run it,” Vann said.

“You want me to port it to the dash?”

“I’m driving.”

“Autodrive is a thing that happens.”

Vann shook her head. “This is a Bureau car,” she said. “Lowest-bidder autodrive is not something you want to trust.”

“Fair point,” I said. I fired up the arrest feed. It was janky and low-res. The Metro police, like the Bureau, probably contracted their tech to the lowest bidder. The view was fps stereo mode, which probably meant the camera was attached to protective eyewear.

The recording started as the cop—Timmons—got off the elevator on the seventh floor, stun gun drawn. At the door of room 714 there was a Watergate security officer, resplendent in a bad-fit mustard yellow uniform. As the feed got closer the security officer’s taser came into view. The security officer looked like he was going to crap himself.

Timmons navigated around the security officer and the image of a man sitting on the bed, hands up, floated into view. His face and shirt were streaked with blood. The image jerked and Timmons took a long look at the dead man on the blood-soaked carpet. The view jerked back up to the man on the bed, hands still up.

“Is he dead?” asked a voice, which I assumed was Timmons’s.

The man on the bed looked down at the man on the carpet. “Yeah, I think he is,” he said.

“Why the fuck did you kill him?” Timmons asked.

The man on the bed turned back to Timmons. “I don’t think I did,” he said. “Look—”

Then Timmons zapped the man. He jerked and twisted and fell off the bed, collapsing into the carpet, mirroring the dead man.

“Interesting,” I said.

“What?” Vann asked.

“Timmons was barely in the room before he zapped our perp.”

“Bell,” Vann said.

“Yeah,” I said. “Speaking of which, does that name sound familiar to you?”

“Did Bell say anything before he got zapped?” Vann asked, ignoring my question.

“Timmons asked him why he killed that guy,” I said. “Bell said he didn’t think he did.”

Vann frowned at that.

“What?” I asked.

Vann glanced over to me again, and had a look that told me she wasn’t looking at me, but at my PT. “That’s a new model,” she said.

“Yeah,” I said. “Sebring-Warner 660XS.”

“Sebring-Warner 600 line isn’t cheap,” Vann said.

“No,” I admitted.

“Lease payments are a little steep on a rookie FBI salary.”

“Is this how we’re going to do this?” I asked.

“I’m just making an observation,” Vann said.

“Fine,” I said. “I assume they told you something about me when they assigned me to you as a partner.”

“They did.”

“And I assume you know about the Haden community because it’s your beat.”


“Then let’s skip the part where you pretend not to know who I am and who my family is and how I can afford a Sebring-Warner 660,” I said.

Vann smiled and stubbed out her cigarette on the side window and lowered the window to chuck out the butt. “I saw you got grief on the Agora for showing up to work yesterday,” she said.

“Nothing I haven’t gotten before, for other things,” I said. “Nothing I can’t handle. Is this going to be a problem?”

“You being you?”

“Yeah,” I said.

“Why would it be a problem?” Vann asked.

“When I went to the Academy I knew people there thought I was there as an affectation,” I said. “That I was just farting around until my trust fund vested or something.”

“Has it?” Vann asked. “Your trust fund, I mean. Vested.”

“Before I even went to the Academy,” I said.

Vann snickered at this. “No problems,” she said.

“You sure.”

“Yes. And anyway, it’s good that you have a high-end threep,” she said, using the slang term for a Personal Transport. “It means that map of yours is actually going to have a useful resolution. Which works because I don’t trust Trinh to send me anything helpful. The arrest feed was messy and fuzzy, right?”

“Yeah,” I said.

“It’s bullshit,” Vann said. “Metro eyewear feeds autostabilize and record at 4k resolution. Trinh probably told Timmons to shitty it up before sending it. Because she’s an asshole like that.”

“So you’re using me for my superior tech abilities,” I said.

“Yes, I am,” Vann said. “Is that going to be a problem?”

“No,” I said. “It’s nice to be appreciated for what I can do.”

“Good,” Vann said, turning into the precinct house parking lot. “Because I’m going to be asking you to do a lot.”

Copyright © 2014 by John Scalzi

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Lock In: A Novel of the Near Future 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 39 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Scalzi likes to try his hand at different things and challenge himself to stretch as a writer. He tried rebooting a classic '60s St novel, he tried releasing a serialized ebook novel, he tried a satire of bad Sci-Fi TV, and now he' so trying a near future police procedural thriller. He always succeeds and now he's done it again.
MaggieJones More than 1 year ago
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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Scalzi did an amazing job on this book. The descriptions are vivid (His description of the disease standing out in this category), the characters are developed with significant deatail, and overall the book is amazing. A must read!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I'm not entirely sure what I was expecting, but this wasn't it. However, I still found it to be a compelling read. The sole negative is that the ending felt a bit rushed, keeping me from giving it five stars.
Books4Tomorrow More than 1 year ago
Set in a future in which the result of a terrible disease has called for extremely advanced technology, Lock In is a gripping and suspense-laden novel. Chris Shane's first week as an FBI agent is unusually busy. Several murders, a research facility that is blown up, and a difficult, self-destructive partner are just the start of what he has to deal with. Although this book has a wonderfully twisted and clever plot, the highly imaginative technological world in which it is set, truly elevates it above your average murder mystery. At first the technology seems almost incomprehensibly elaborate. Just a few chapters in, however, the author skillfully explains his world in the actions of the characters and the detail of the murder investigation.  The characters are realistic and fleshed out. Chris Shane, the main character, is your typical good guy. Not only is he determined to be an excellent FBI agent, he also cares about those he is supposed to protect.  Vann, Chris's drinking, smoking, sex-loving partner, has a troubled back story and, thus, a slightly twisted personality. Her strict work ethic combined with Chris's sense of duty, as well as his tolerance of her bad habits, makes for a good partnership. That both of them have a quirky sense of humor helps a great deal.  The bad guys in this equation are those who want to exploit a market that is supposed to help disabled people.  For a book that will appeal to readers of science fiction as well as to those who love a good, unpredictable, and suspense-laden murder mystery, I recommend Lock In as a must read. (Ellen Fritz)
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Entertaining, fast-paced book that *could* be true.
Drewano More than 1 year ago
Well written with some witty banter (which is John Scalzi’s) Lock in provides some great characters, a bit of action and an interesting story which is party sci-fi part thriller.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I would love it if Scalzi would write 20 more books in this world. It's completely fantastic. 
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
$11.99 for 200 pages. I feel kinda ripped off.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I Just Loved most other Scalzi novels, but this is just flat like day old ginger ale. I kept thinking, "ya know, like REALLLY? mile away, dude." Well, duh!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
If you enjoy crime procedurals and you're looking for something with a sci-fi element, this is it! Not only does Lock In have a great commentary on the intersection between politics and disability, it's a fast paced read! The worldbuilding is great, creating a really full and realistic feeling world without a lot of info dumping or overly flowery language. The writing is clear cut, which really works for the story and building that crime procedural vibe. Loved this and can't wait to read more from Scalzi and the world of Lock In.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A light read which keeps pages turning and insight into the human ccondition. thanks
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Nice premise but hero`s are a little too heroic. The older stuff had flawed central characters and more humor.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
EXCELLENT, DId I mention that?
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Funny and interesting read. hope its the first of a series.
SecondRunReviews More than 1 year ago
There’s something I find fascinating about a good crime novel. There’s something equally fascinating about accessible science fiction. Smash those two together and you’ve got Lock In. A captivating science fiction crime novel that takes place in a world much like our own after a devastating meningitis-like virus hits the human population hard. It wasn’t hard to imagine a world like the one Scalzi lays out in Lock In. With the recent rash of E. Coli breakouts, the Ebola epidemic and childhood illness likes mumps and measles making a comeback, the human nature to throw money at our problems, help the poor souls affected and legislate the heck out if was real. At points, I was drawing parallels between the novel and news stories about funding being provided (or not provided) for certain types of medical research. The availability and accessibility of medications and other technology for people with disabilities. And just our general treatment of those who are different from us. This is not a far fetched science fiction world. We are just mere steps away from Haden-world of Lock In. And in some cases, right in the middle of it. The main characters in Lock In are fairly straight forward—the hard-nosed FBI agent and the rookie. How those characters interact is based on their experiences prior to becoming partners and there is not much new. That isn’t to say that I didn’t enjoy Chris Shane and Leslie Vann; there’s just nothing new that I haven’t seen before, relationship-wise, in a decent cop shop or movie. The real depth of the story comes with how everyone exists and interacts in the post-Haden Syndrome world. It adds some twists and turns to the old traditional cop story that caught me a bit off guard. I definitely recommend reading Lock In for those readers who are fans of crime fiction as well as those who like lighter science fiction. The medical details regarding Haden’s is fairly straight forward and explained well right up front. The technology mirrors technology we already have. This novel would be a great way to dip your toes in the science fiction genre if you find it intimidating. And while GoodReads does have Lock in listed as the first in a series. The book does not end in a cliffhanger and stands on its own and is well worth the read.
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