By John Scalzi; Narrated by Wil Wheaton
Publisher: Brilliance Audio
[UNABRIDGED] – 10 hours
Themes: / virus / near future / body swapping /
A blazingly inventive near-future thriller from the bestselling, 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.
Lock In is a solid book that has some good action, a bit of mystery, and a solid dose of politics thrown in. The story moves at a rapid pace and Scalzi clearly put some thought into the implications of the world he created. Some of the technology and mysteries that come as revelations are a bit obvious but the story is still a lot of fun. Scalzi also includes a short story (which was also released for free online) that explores the back story leading up to this book. I read that story before this one but I don’t think it would make a big difference reading it before or after since Scalzi explains what’s going on really well. I hope he writes more stories in this world.
The general premise is that a disease/virus spreads wildly and leaves a decent portion of the population “locked in”. Those that are “locked in” are completely aware of everything but can’t move, not even to blink their eyes. People affected by this condition are commonly referred to as “Haydens”. Technology has come up with a solution to this problem by implanting neural networks in the minds of Haydens that allow them to live a virtual life or live through a Threep, a robot they control (yes that name comes from C-3P0 of Star Wars). Everything was built up with the help of government funding but those funds are being cut now and haydens aren’t happy. We start the story following Chris, a rather famous hayden, on his/her first day working for the FBI.
With the change in government funding, there are lots of politics at work in the story. People want to cure the disease to free the people trapped in their bodies but some haydens insist they don’t need a cure. Non-haydens think they’re at a disadvantage to people who can do the same work without physically doing it themselves. Haydens are mad about cuts to public funding that will make it hard for them to get by. Companies are working all different angles to turn a profit. A lot of it is interested, some of it is a little too close to current political events and agendas that it might bother people who read to get away from stuff like that.
The story is structured almost like a mystery in that bad things are happening and they don’t totally make sense. The main character is investigating what’s going on as more and more details are revealed along the way. I thought a number of those revelations were obvious from the beginning and making them revelations instead of common knowledge in that world is a bit contrived, but that might just be because I’m a software engineer. In any case, just think of it like watching a Die Hard movie – go along for the ride, suspend belief a bit, and enjoy yourself.
As for the audio side of things, Wil Wheaton did a great job as usual. I haven’t encountered a book read by him that I didn’t like and hearing he narrated something automatically makes me more interested in giving something a try. The gender of the main character is never actually revealed so there are two audiobook versions featuring a male or female reader. That makes no difference in the story whatsoever so just pick a reader you like and go with it. If you didn’t hear that the gender wasn’t mentioned, you’d just as soon assume Chris to be the gender of the narrator.
Posted by Tom Schreck
Filed under: New Releases, Podcasts, Recent Arrivals
Talked about on today’s show:
Reading goals and the Reading Envy podcast, spy novels, The IPCRESS File by Len Deighton is a more serious version of James Bond, film version stars Michael Caine, The Bourne Identity by Robert Ludlum, Rogue Male by Geoffrey Household, SFFaudio Podcast #95 features a discussion with Eric Rabkin about SS-GB by Len Deighton, a Britain-centered, less crazy version of Man in the High Castle by Philip K. Dick, Scott on rereading Hyperion (but hasn’t read Fall of Hyperion), the Hyperion audiobook is highly recommended, Wool by Hugh Howey now a graphic novel, Jesse doesn’t like open questions that require him to read more, Kindle Worlds, Mobile Library by David Whitehouse, Bookworm villain from Batman, The Magician’s Lie by Greer Macallister reminiscent of The Prestige, A Pleasure and a Calling by Phil Hogan, some synopses are better-written than others, Patricia Highsmith, The Brenda and Effie Mysteries: The Woman in a Black Beehive by Paul Magris especially for audio, The Last Passenger by Manel Loureiro, Aurora CV-01 by Ryk Brown looks to be the perfect Scott book, this podcast features a real phaser, Hellhole by Gina Damico (not to be confused with the Kevin J. Anderson book of the same name), never underestimate evil on a sugar high, Proxima by Stephen Baxter, on how discoveries in astronomy affect science fiction, Kate Wilhelm in Orbit by Kate Wilhelm is a collection of her short stories from ca. 1966-1980 in Orbit anthologies, Scott didn’t “get” Wilhelm’s short story The Planners, SuperEgo by Frank J. Fleming, I Am Not a Serial Killer by Dan Wells, Dexter in spaaaaaaace!, A Murder of Clones by Kristine Kathryn Rusch is part of the Retrieval Artists universe, first audiobook in the series produced by Scott, the series would make a good TV show, The Android’s Dream by John Scalzi narrated by Will Wheaton, Future Crime by Ben Bova, a collection of short stories, file sharing used to happen by mail, we demand the return of cassettes (not!), #GetOffMyLawn, Pacific Edge by Kim Stanley Robinson is part of a triptych, an actual utopia, Orange County of the future, Jesse and Scott met Kim Stanley Robinson at WorldCon, no kaiju, Mort(e) by Robert Repine, Southern Reach trilogy by Jeff VanderMeer now available in one package via Audible, “there must be something wrong with it, it’s too popular!”, Make Room! Make Room! by Harry Harrison a.k.a. the book that inspired Soylent Green, Jenny lives on lentils and soybeans, The Deep by Nick Cutter, The Abyss meets The Shining, discussion of The Abyss which is recommended sans the last five minutes, Freedom Club by Saul Garnell, Trigger Warning short story collection by Neil Gaiman, on authors doing test runs or tryout stories to develop an idea, the difference between plotters and pantsers, The Globe: The Science of Discworld II by Terry Pratchett, Ian Stewart, and Jack Cohen is actually a novel, Jenny debunks the theory that all stories come from an origin, Endsinger by Jay Kristoff, Marked by Sarah Fine, Piers Anthony’s Apprentice Adept series, these books may or may not be kinky–weird kinky, Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson, David Hasselhoff does the musical, Markheim, a short story by Stevenson.
Posted by Jesse Willis
Filed under: New Releases, Podcasts, Recent Arrivals
Talked about on today’s show:
Lowball : A Wild Cards Novel edited by George R. R. Martin and Melinda Snodgrass, The New Annotated H. P. Lovecraft edited by Leslie S. Klinger, a reference book readalong?, Marked: Servants Of Fate, Book 1 by Sarah Fine, conflict of interest, Until The End Of The World by Sarah Lyons Fleming, Until The End Of The World (movie), The Dark Thorn by Shawn Speakman, the Seattle underground, Entangled: The Eater of Souls by Graham Hancock, lots of research, Half-Off Ragnarok (InCrytpID Book #3) by Seanan McGuire, V Wars: Blood and Fire: New Stories of the Vampire Wars edited by Jonathan Maberry, a dime a dozen, Wildalone by Krassi Zourkova, At the Mountains of Madness by H.P. Lovecraft, didn’t Southpark adapt this?, annotations, pdf of original story with illustrations hosted by Sffaudio, Kaiju Rising: Age of Monsters (editor?), not inspired by Pacific Edge by Kim Stanley Robinson, similar short story overdose, The Playground and Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury, Richard Matheson, killer baby, Tam remembers the Good Story Episode (#21) on Something Wicked, Ray Bradbury storytelling festival, Something Wicked vs The Night Circus, or maybe Good Omens (which is a BBC radio audiodrama now), “@DirkMaggs:
#GoodOmens we are thrilled that the series has been so enjoyed. The CD/Download version released in January runs nearly 50mins longer in all” (RT’d by @SDDanielson), British tests, Hypnobobs podcast on Christmas Annuals, The Strange Library by Haruki Murakami, The Maker Of Moons by Robert W. Chambers, The True Detective tv series, The Last American Vampire by Seth Grahame-Smith, the picture of the navy guy kissing the woman, ATLAS by Peter Berkrot, Mech Warrior game, The Three-Body Problem by Cixin Liu and translated by Ken Liu, the three-body problem explained, (Ken Liu is a lawyer and programmer, Jenny), David Brin gave it 5 stars on Goodreads, The Jesus Incident by Frank Herbert and Bill Ransom, Carbide Tipped Pens: Seventeen Tales Of Hard Science Fiction edited by Ben Bova and Eric Choi, that’s hard!, The Year’s Top Ten Tales Of Science Fiction 6 edited by Allan Kaster, The Cosmic Puppets by Philip K. Dick, Lock In by John Scalzi, why two audio versions??, The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury, |Listen to our readalong|, Proxima by Stephen Baxter, but Jenny wants to know the plot, Fahrenheit 451 (narrated by Tim Robbins), Plague Year by Jeff Carlson, The Long Dark game, two more quickly, WHITE PLAGUE: A Joe Rush Novel by James Abel, and Near Enemy: A Spademan Novel by Adam Sternbergh
Posted by Tamahome
The SFFaudio Podcast #251 – Jesse, Scott, and Tamahome discuss Up Against It by M.J. Locke.
Talked about on today’s show:
Hardcover, paperback, audiobook, who to blame?, it’s Jo Walton’s doing we chose this book (at the bottom), still a lot of juice in the genre, the ultimate cause, drawing in vs. pushing in, Corner Gas, a new wine bracket, the Radium Age of Science Fiction, Scott’s Goodreads review, Tam’s Goodreads review, 24, the characters, less torture, its more fun if you count the tropes, every trope is in there, including immortality, mimetic fiction (literary realism), Henry James, mimetic fiction in a science fiction universe, tiny infodumps, not one brand new idea, waveface virtual reality, Tonal_Z AI language (Chris Crawford’s Solvesol-interface concept?), in dialogue, Cory Doctorow (Whuffies), Bruce Sterling, Chris Crawford, Bruce Sterling’s Veridians (wow, it’s a whole big thing, design philosophy? manifesto), asteroid miner stories, Heinlein and later, The Island Worlds by John Maddox Roberts and Eric Kotani, The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress, there’s no newcomer, a generally agreed upon direction our future will be, John Scalzi’s brainpal, more than one kind of SF, rocket ships, the Charles Stross direction, Iain M. Banks, Souvenir by Philip K. Dick, Amish tech, their tech is subservient to their culture, it seems inevitable in our world, the received future, Earth in Up Against It in bad shape, Vancouver shantytowns, Edmonton, this isn’t a utopian book, dystopia, dystopic Earth, why are they in the Asteroid Belt, good world-building, good but not new, nothing new but the idea, incredibly self-aware people is weird (and cool), gene tampering, Oblivion is a good introduction to SF tropes (for people born in the year 2000), the level of SF tropes in movies is very low compared to those in SF books, Darwin Elevator, bad physics vs. excellent physics, sugar rocks, there’s no intro character (other than the A.I. pov), Little Brother by Cory Doctorow, collaborative teens, a visual adaptation, Ender’s Game, Planetes, Gravity, Babylon 5 had nothing new, I don’t go to TV SF for new ideas, books are where great ideas, what great ideas haven’t been explored, the news coming out of Eve Online, Steen Hansen, political machinations, gold farming, a simulated universe, a libertarian alliance was trojaned or something, happening to real people, World Of Warcraft, our real future is in leisure, Tam liked it more, nose-piercings, tattooing, the gender neutral pronouns, why would you want a purple nose?, Jesse doesn’t understand trans-humanism, normal readalongs, why didn’t I like this more, Tam liked it fine, hands for feet, chromes and mutes, Falling Free by Lois McMaster Bujold, not too bright in the brain area, The Integral Trees by Larry Niven, a planetless solar system, a mashup of Doctorow and Heinlein, smile -> erection, Chekhov’s Gun, Heinleinian sex vs. Doctorowian sex, there’s too much going on, an immature writer, Elmore Leonard, “she pillowed her cheek”, nobody pillows their cheeks in Jack London stories, Jane as an older Ripley, an artificial spiritual awakening, too many compromises too much bullshit, an authentically political book according to Staffer’s Book Review, double dealings, the thriller plot, exploring space, what does Scott prefer?, does Scott have a right to review Up Against It?, is it maturity?, 2312, Tobias Buckell’s blog essay about mature reviewers, caveats, “and get off my lawn”, idea fiction, competent but unstimulating, why is The Lord Of The Rings more interesting than Up Against It?, the themes, the next episode of A Good Story Is Hard To Find, Luke Burrage re-reviews A Canticle For Liebowitz, what we do when we do READALONGS (we unpack books), The Odyssey, Community, currently airing TV series have podcasts?, books with allegories, Scott wants it to mean something to him, The Zimmerman Telegram by Barbara Tuchman, WWI, the German ambassador in Mexico, Woodrow Wilson, Tom Clancy, mimetic fiction from the future, a history from the future, history, in some ways Eve Online is much more real than any fiction book, Scott finds value in general fiction, Mario Puzo, Tom Wolfe, Ernest Hemingway, John Steinbeck, meaning vs. ideas, horror, Snowblind by Christopher Golden for some alternative horror, The House Of The Seven Gables by Nathaniel Hawthorne, The Turn Of The Screw by Henry James, gothic fiction, witchcraft, Supernatural Horror In Literature by H.P. Lovecraft, there’s still potential for Science Fiction, a sequel?, an unneeded sequel, every subsequent milk of a book undercuts it, Dune has been worsened by every Dune that’s come since, Dune Messiah (Scott liked it), the fall of a charismatic leader, a backward casting shadow, Brian Herbert has done what his father wanted by ruining Dune?, why was Up Against It so long?, YA/adult book, George R.R. Martin doesn’t think Scott’s a fan of Hard SF, The Martian by Andy Weir, Phoecea, why are they mining?, there’s no economic reason to do so, was there an economic reason to go to the moon, we need to build a space fleet, no martian resources are unavailable on Earth, the Moon has Helium-3, Tam read Frank Schatzing’s Limit and his eyes are tired, what the frack, (was it ‘Simon pure science fiction like A Darkling Sea‘? we didn’t talk about it but I thought I’d note it)
Posted by Jesse Willis
Themes: / Star Trek / humor / space /
Ensign Andrew Dahl has just been assigned to the Universal Union Capital Ship Intrepid, flagship of the Universal Union since the year 2456. It’s a prestige posting, and Andrew is even more thrilled to be assigned to the ship’s xenobiology laboratory, with the chance to serve on “Away Missions” alongside the starship’s famous senior officers. Life couldn’t be better . . . until Andrew begins to realize that (1) every Away Mission involves some kind of lethal confrontation with alien forces, (2) the ship’s captain, its chief science officer, and the handsome Lieutenant Kerensky always survive these confrontations, and (3) sadly, at least one low-ranked crew member is invariably killed. Unsurprisingly, the savvier members belowdecks avoid Away Missions at all costs. Then Andrew stumbles on information that completely transforms his and his colleagues’ understanding of what the starship Intrepid really is . . . and offers them a crazy, high-risk chance to save their own lives.
I’ve been kind of on a Scalzi kick lately. I guess I’ve needed some light sci-fi without too much brain interaction. And I don’t say that as a bad thing. I know so many times “light” and “fun” come off in the pejorative, but I rarely mean it that way. Honestly, I think that’s the high watermark of fiction. I’m not trying to learn anything, although I always do. I’m not trying to to do anything but enjoy my free time.
I value other aspects of a novel plenty. I love a complex plot, great characters, beautiful prose. But the most important thing to me is fun. Entertainment. How wrapped up I am in a book is the most important aspect. Obviously many things contribute to that including plot, characters, prose, etc. However, a lack of any of these is also possible.
Redshirts is just that. It’s fun. It’s a story that keeps you turning pages, or in the case of this audiobook, that keeps you in your car longer than necessary. It’s far from perfect, in fact I had plenty of problems with the narrative and they mainly fall in the codas, but I’ll get to it.
The way Redshirts is laid out, it is a main story followed by three codas at the end called First Person, Second Person, and Third Person. The main story is an exciting mystery where the characters realize someone dies off each time there’s a mission. It’s funny at times, a bit overdone at other times**, but mostly a fun ride with an intriguing mystery I wanted to see solved. It had me until the end when I just couldn’t suspend disbelief anymore.
**I think reading the jokes that were overdone may have been funnier. Sometimes a joke that is funny on paper just isn’t quite so funny spoken aloud. Tis a fact of life I continually relearn. :)
Then come the codas. First Person was okay. It was an odd continuation of the story that kind of makes sense. Second Person is just an annoying way to read anything. Please no one write second person ever again. Ever. Who is “you” when it’s both the narrative and the protagonist using it? Third Person was also unnecessary. I couldn’t shake the feeling that Scalzi got to the end of the main story, realized it was the dreaded novella length (unsellable) instead of a full novel and started to explore some side issues and threw them onto the end.
I’m not making any friends with this, but I had a hard time with Wheaton’s narrating in this one. He’s obviously perfect for the job, he’s a Star Trek star and his personality on The Big Bang Theory, Twitter, you name it, is as snarky as it gets. Perfect for a book about the redshirts that die off every episode. The only problem is he doesn’t really do voices. He changes his voice when people are slurring words or yelling, but not by character. I’ve grown a bit spoiled by this probably, but I really need that now to tell characters apart. I rely on it and when it’s not there, it’s tough.
Luckily, here there are not too many characters, but I continued to confuse people throughout the entire book and that doesn’t happen normally. Otherwise, sans dialogue, Wheaton’s incredible.
The Hugo Award
To be honest, I was pretty disappointed with the choice of Redshirts for the Hugo Award this year even before I’d read it. Halfway through reading this, my mind hadn’t changed. After reading the codas nothing’s changing. However, the thing I’m actually quite happy about with Redshirts winning a Hugo is for the same idea I started this review explaining.
I’m glad Redshirts won because I think entertainment is a great reason to win an award. I know the voting process for the Hugos has its own problems and it comes down much of the time to the author having a loyal following, but I’m still glad a book like this can win an award at all. I hope more do.
3 out of 5 Stars (recommended with reservation)
Posted by Bryce L.
Talked about on today’s show:
Simon Vance, Blackstone Audio, The Prestige (2006), explicit, cursing vs. casting spells, I’m going to trick you, a nice complement to the book, Jonathan Nolan and Christopher Nolan, Momento, The Princess Bride, epistolary, Dracula, Pike’s Peak, Colorado Springs, under the influence of the man on top of the mountain, David Bowie, Nikola Tesla, Any sufficiently advanced technology…, what is the genre?, Gothic fiction, old fashioned horror, Science Fiction, Scott’s review, Fantasy, a nice twist of Lovecraft, the deaths, “the other detective” (Jenny’s Freudian slip), a mystery, Sherlock Holmes, the prestige materials, Borden vs. Angier, Penn & Teller, seance (fake) vs. prestidigitation (the pact), the pledge -> the turn -> the prestige, you ruined our act, “when Simon Vance says…”, “some days you love me, some days you don’t”, did she know?, the honest liar, Christian Bale, does it matter who sired a child matter if you’re identical twin may have inseminated your wife?, which twin is it (the father or the uncle), Fallon, doubling, everything is doubled, a double agent, Olivia or Julia?, Andrew Wesley Borden -> Nicolas Julius Borden, Lord Caldlow, a book with two authors, revenge via tribute, A,B,C,D,E,F, what happened when the great-grandson of Borden was three years old?, a repeated pattern, a red herring, invited to Dracula’s castle, Franklin was imprisoned in California but his cult has a duplicator in the basement in England, another Angier wraith or the same one?, why Lovecraftian?, wiggling bodies, The Outsider by H.P. Lovecraft, a return to a Gothic home, an explanation for the premise of The Outsider, did the wraith of Angier fail?, 100 times, noir, can the Tesla machine duplicate the soul?, AMAZING!, a side trip, Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace, wraiths, “waiting to wake up”, telepathy, addicted to transportation, pain and depression, is it a teleportation machine? a photocopier?, Star Trek‘s transporter, Think Like A Dinosaur by James Patrick Kelly, the metal rod, “that’s the thing about science”, “more like a real Tesla”, Tesla spoke English with an accent, Angier is American in the movie, Hugh Jackman, California, Jesus came out of the tomb, the cult denies the appearance of Franklin, a bi-locating religious fanatic, Angier’s first magic practice was at a pub called “The Land And Child”, The Church Of Christ Jesus, the history of the house, during WWII it was RAF Transport Command, Christopher Priest is really really smart, Angier -> Anger?, how the French get Angier and Angier and Angier!, his brother, because that’s what he’s looking for that’s what he sees, The Fly (1986), “explicit material”, The New Transported Man (PUN!) vs. In A Flash, a doubling and a denialing of the doubling, “he’s really stuck on the doubling”, The Lamb is The child, pointless and flat women, The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern, wooden women, Katherine, Borden’s wife’s journals, it’s a guy show really, everybody gets the short shrift except for these two and a half guys, where in literature are women magicians, Now You See Me, stage performance magicians, why doesn’t Luke Burrage go into magic?, Luke is the evil twin, would she wear the tophat?, Zatana (DC Comics), a female magician who acts as the assistant, a missed opportunity, Lady Katherine is very enigmatic and is playing some sort of game, a wink from The Invisible Man (by H.G. Wells), playing cards hidden under pint glasses, the James Patrick Kelly problem, killing yourself is ok if you have a copy?, Identity Theft by Robert J. Sawyer, John Scalzi’s Old Man’s War handwaves the problem away, they don’t rot?, was the soul transported too?, What’s with the echo?, Angier’s cancer goes into remission when the ghostly Angier gets closer, Good Kirk vs. Rapey Kirk, wimpy Kirk need the rapey Kirk, recombination, complete transfers work well for the transported Angiers, Borden’s injury, Angier’s injury, the Borden seaside history is all lies, the Bordens were cartwrights and coopers, IT’S ALL LIES, stop with the woodworking (the JESUS motif again), one of the mes, when did they start living as one man, you’re supposed to apply the lesson of the Chinese magician to the entire story, one of the few things unchanged between the book and the movie, a fake that’s also true (doubling again), the timeline is somewhat mysterious, one of the Borden’s is more of a writer and the other is more of an editor, “I’m staying with my girlfriend”, fantastic narrative, a relatively modern book that will become and remain a classic, it’s porous and open and hard, book vs. movie, Tam fell asleep and became confused, beautiful moments, Tesla is almost like a magician, he is like a wizard, brilliant genius weirdo, the nemesis, Thomas Alva Edison vs. Tesla (doubling), AC vs. DC, Edison’s DC vs. Tesla’s AC, and ultimately a synthesis, electrifying an elephant, “it’s like they were two magicians competing”, Nyarlathotep by H.P. Lovecraft is about a Tesla-like character doing essentially a Tesla-show, possibly an elder god, Dracula Edison Gothic Horror Science Fiction Horror Detective Noir Fantasy, The Inverted World, The Islanders, twins, fraternal twins vs. identical twins, the Christopher Priest Wikipedia entry, denouement, a tie-in edition of the paperbook, the movie’s editing, The Magic by Christopher Priest, David Langford’s review:
“It seems entirely logical that Christopher Priest’s latest novel should centre on stage magic and magicians. The particular brand of misdirection that lies at the heart of theatrical conjuring is also a favourite Priest literary ploy – the art of not so much fooling the audience as encouraging them to fool themselves… The final section is strange indeed, more Gothic than sf in flavour, heavy with metaphorical power. There are revelations, and more is implied about the peculiar nature of the Angier/Tesla effect’s payoff or “prestige” – a term used in this sense by both magicians. The trick is done; before and after, Priest has rolled up both sleeves; his hands are empty and he fixes you with an honest look. And yet … you realise that it is necessary to read The Prestige again. It’s an extraordinary performance, his best book in years, perhaps his best ever. Highly recommended.”
a prestigious career in newspapers, he wants to be a dead body (or many), the great reveal was surprising, Frankenstein, very much in the Gothic tradition.
Posted by Jesse Willis