Finished Reading: Head On
Lock In #2
by John Scalzi
My rating: 4 / 5
Genre: Sci-Fi mystery
Spoiler notice: The following review may contain some spoilers for the first book in the trilogy, Lock In.
In the near-future world set up by Lock In, some of Earth’s population are paralyzed and are only able to interact with the world through robot bodies or by stepping inside another human known as an “Integrator.” In this world, a sport known as Hilketa becomes popular, which features these paralyzed people (known as Hadens) on the field in their robots (“threeps”) basically using weapons to beat each other up and score points by removing each others’ heads and running it through goal posts. When one of the players dies during the game, the FBI is brought in, which gives us a chance to see Haden FBI Agent Chris Shane in action again.
This book had a lot of what made Lock In so amazing, with the same easy-to-read and smoothly flowing writing and dialog, the same intriguing world where the prejudice toward Hadens emulates both racial prejudices and bias against disabled people, and the same complex conspiracies behind the initial death. I didn’t like it quite as much as I did the first book, but only subtracted half a star for this sequel.
In the first book, there was a major legislation on the horizon that would seriously financially hinder most Hadens, basically cutting off most government funding for them. The looming question of whether or not it will pass plays a role in the book. This book, set about a year later, shows some of the downfall after it did pass, and many Hadens–and by extension many companies that were involved with Hadens in some way–are worried about their financial future. It was interesting to see how the dust had started to settle after that decision.
We saw a lot more of the housemates that Chris first met in Lock In, and I really liked the way they added to the story. There were some fun scenes and conversations involving a cat that brought smiles to my face. And speaking of smiles, while I was reading this book, my husband made multiple “apply directly to the forehead” references, which made it all the more noticeable (and amusing) to me when I caught a reference in the book (I won’t presume to say for sure that it was intentional by Scalzi…but the way it was worded does not seem like it could be coincidence).
The mystery as a whole, and some of the rabbit trails the agents followed to solve it, wasn’t as enthralling to me as in the first book, which is the main reason for my slightly lower rating. However, overall, it was still a lot of fun to read. I would be quite happy if Scalzi decided to write a third book in this world. I would recommend this book for fans of near-future sci-fi and for mystery lovers, and while I will say that it’s probably very possible to read this book without having yet read the previous book, Lock In was really good and explained the whole Haden syndrome more anyway, so I’d still suggest starting there.
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If you’ve read this book, or read it in the future, feel free to let me know what you think!