Fifteen years from now, a new virus sweeps the globe. 95% of those afflicted experience nothing worse than fever and headaches. 4% suffer acute meningitis, creating the largest medical crisis in history. And 1% find themselves 'locked in' - fully awake and aware, but unable to move or respond to stimulus.
Reviewed on 16th November 2014
John Scalzi is rapidly becoming one of my favourite science fiction authors. In this new novel he depicts a world after a massive flu epidemic, which leaves thousands of people with a type of locked-in syndrome. Industry quickly catches up, with mind-controlled robots becoming available for the locked-in to use to interact with the world. This is the story of a locked in FBI officer in his first week on the job.
The science fiction elements of the story are fascinating. It's a really clever idea to think about users of remote controlled avatars ad how their world would work, for example being able to rent a new body in a different place and jump straight there. There are aspects that really stand out, including the slang that's developed around the new situations. Scalzi also uses these elements of world building to feed the plot, rather than just to create somewhere for it to happen, and I really liked the complete integration of the whole story.
The characters are really interesting, although I didn't feel we explored them in as much depth as we could have. There area a good range of characters all of whom fit into the world that Scalzi has constructed and help to make the whole novel feel a single work of art. The story keeps you guessing, and fits the mould of a crime novel without compromise - making it one of the best pieces of cross-genre fiction I've read for some time.
An excellent novel that explores potentially real issues while remaining thoroughly entertaining. I'm really loving getting into John Scalzi's novels and will definitely be looking to fill out my collection of his back catalogue as I wait for the next one.