Following are two reviews of science fiction narratives by John Scalzi. These books are near-inseperable for me in terms of quality, themes and expression. Since they are by the same author I decided to review them together here on my website.
Lock In Review
Lock In was a refreshing science fiction read. For the most part, this was due to the blunt writing style adopted in the novel. It was particularly fascinating to gain insight through the unique point-of-view of the novel’s main character.
Chris Shane is the son of a well-off family, who has chosen to work with the FBI. He also happens to have “Haden’s syndrome”. “Hadens” is a fictional disease which causes the majority of sufferers to develop an altered brain structure to the point where they experience “lock in.”
The World of Lock In
This “lock in” means that they are confined to their bodies and must experience the world with the aid of “Threeps” or “Integrators.” Threeps are robotic machines which “Hadens” can link their consciousness to in order to explore the wider world with the aid of cybernetic implants or neural nets. “Integrators” are victims of the “Haden’s syndrome” who recover completely, but have the ability to lend their bodies to locked-in victims. In the world of Lock In this happens through the same “Threep” technology.
John Scalzi has a fascinating way of using point-of-view in a matter-of-fact way in his novels. Here he uses it to describe how Chris Shane views the world normally through his “Threep” despite his real body being elsewhere. This was at first disorienting for me, as I was struggling for fifty pages to orient myself with the concept of what a “Threep” was. Once I grasped this I understood precisely this new type of world Scalzi was envisioning. A future in which a debilitating disease has created a new ‘class’ of humanity. And this was a powerful vision.
The Premise of Lock In
The entire premise of Lock In is that Chris Shane is a rookie at the FBI. And while this required a little suspension of disbelief, the honest way the plot was delivered was excellent. As a rookie, Shane has to uncover a unique Haden-related crime. A crime which explores the themes of inequality, corruption and capitalism in new ways.
On the whole, Lock In is far from the perfect science fiction novel. But it is a science fiction novel with a unique premise and which deals with powerful themes for our future. And that in itself makes it worthwhile entertainment, but even more important art.
Redshirts is a fun novel with some interesting metaphysical implications and thoughts. The idea of the importance of art and creativity is explored in depth throughout the novel itself. However, unfortunately the ending Codas I found did not live up to the other three-quarters of the novel. Yet, because of the overall metaphysical ideas Redshirts is an excellent piece of science fiction literature overall.
Premise of Redshirts
The title of this novel comes from the in-famous Star Trek trope of using red-shirt-wearing characters as cannon fodder. Similarly, the characters in John Scalzi’s novel start to realise that the support personnel who attend the main personnel on board their ship are killed in impossible and unusual ways. The characters start to refer to this tendency as the ‘Narrative’ and discover the odd and unusual nature of how their world works.
Themes of Redshirts
This is a fast-paced and light-hearted space comedy. It plays on the archetypes and tropes commonly used in many space-opera series. Further, it engages the heart of creative writing and the relationship between writers and their creations. The one let-down as mentioned is found in the closing sections of the narrative. While fascinating to hear from some of these other characters in the Codas, this conclusion feels too distinct in tone to bring true closure to the novel. Regardless, Redshirts is an excellent novel to read for the entirety of its package.
Themes and Ideas8.5/10
Unique Plot, Characters or Worlds9.5/10
- Inventive sci-fi worlds
- Excellent themes
- Entertaining, thrilling and a joy to read
- Themes sometimes overshadowed by the entertainment factor of the novels
- Both conclusions were not as strong as the first three quarters of the novel (more so in Redshirts for me)
I am the creator and current writer on jonathanterrington.com. My love of books, films and games led me to create a site where I can express my positive thoughts of anything I have been playing, reading or watching recently. Please subscribe and follow The Write Stuff (and feel free to contact us!).