Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Lock In

The past week has been crazy busy for me -- and the next week(s) looks to be no different. I won't bore you with the details (or relive them myself). Instead, I'll share a little about the terrific novel with which I've unwound the past few evenings.

You'll get sucked in
John Scalzi's latest novel, Lock In, is a little bit of many things. But before the characterization, the set-up. In the near future a plague strikes, but rather than another zombie apocalypse, in a minority of cases -- still numbered in the millions -- the patients become entirely paralyzed. Not only can't they move, they can't speak. These victims are, in the vernacular, "locked in." Through technology -- surgically implanted, neural-net, brain/computer interfaces (here's my take on neural implants, from a few weeks ago) -- the locked-in connect with both virtual worlds and remotely operated humanoid robots.

And from that premise? A few thoughts, sans spoilers ...

Stop! You're kiln me
Lock In is about transhumanism. And it's a murder mystery. A conspiracy novel. A police procedural. Hard SF, to be sure. And cyber-punk. It contains more than a dash of David Brin's Kiln People (another fine, highly original, SF novel). As in anything Scalzi writes, the text just flows.

And at a philosophical level? Lock In takes a look at the meaning of ability and disability, and (paralleling the ongoing debate about Deaf culture and cochlear implants) whether a group whose abilities differ from the more common can be a vibrant community that enriches the overall civilization rather than victims to be cured.

I expect Lock In to feature prominently in the award nominations for 2014.

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