Book notes: Lock In by John Scalzi

Lock In by John Scalzi book summary review and key ideas.

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Lock In by John Scalzi


“A blazingly inventive near-future thriller from the best-selling, 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.” – Audible

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Opening thoughts:

I found this book on Audible under recommended sci-fi read because it had a lot of good reviews. I’ve been meaning to get into more of this genre because so far they’ve been very enjoyable and much easier to read than self-improvement books.

Key notes:

  • Haden’s syndrome is the name given to symptoms of the great influenza that started to affect the world
    • This is the 3rd phase of the disease that causes Lock In and is named after the first lady of the United States who was the most visible victim of this
  • It has a long incubation period which allows for a greater spread

Chapter 1 

  • He and Vann, his new partner, got on the same page about how much they knew about each other and how they were gonna work together

Chapter 2

  • They questioned the guy who was found at the crime scene who had blood all over him
    • However, he wasn’t forthcoming with any information or whether or not he was or is an integrator, someone who can host someone else in their body

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

  • He and Vann discovered that the victim might have killed himself and that Bell didn’t recall the events that happened
    • They had to figure out who the dead guy was

Chapter 5

  • Chris met with the real estate agent Miss Robinson and ultimately settled on this community apartment
    • There were five other people in the housing and they all look after each other and share responsibilities

Chapter 6

  • When he got home, he discovered that his dad turned the celebration dinner into a fundraiser for important guests
    • His mom worried about him moving out and he assured her that he would have a spare unit so he can visit often
  • His dad’s trophy room showed all of his accomplishments, from his professional basketball career to his successful real estate empire, to his philanthropy with Haden’s syndrome patients
  • He was one of the literal poster children for people with Haden’s syndrome and the effort to integrate them into society with his android
  • His picture as a child interacting with the pope was arguably one of the biggest influencing moments that helped the rest of the population see these afflicted as people

Chapter 7

  • The dinner party topics ranged from Haden to politics to hearing people using the technology for non-Hadens

Chapter 8

  • Chris and Vann were called to investigate the lab explosion and then found another murder
  • The terrace attack set back the research for curing Haden’s syndrome multiple years

Chapter 9

  • They found out that the murder victim was a Navajo resident so Shane rented or borrowed a threep from the Arizona office to continue the investigation

Chapter 10

  • Chris talked to the family of the man named Johnny, the integrator who killed himself
    • She found out that he was simple and eager to get a job but was probably being taken advantage of by rich people

Chapter 11

  • The Haden that he saves on the way home happened to be his new doctor housemate
    • Also, the police investigator Trinh warned Chris about his partner and how she might potentially fall apart soon

Chapter 12

  • Cassandra Bell was seen as a leader of the separatist group of Hadens
    • She had been compared to social activists like Gandhi for her supporters, but as a terrorist for detractors
    • The current political climate has garnered her more support and she instigated the Haden walkouts nationwide
  • Hadens who spent more time in the virtual world tended to side more with her than ones who spent more time in the physical

Reader’s note: This book and the concepts remind me of a mix of Sword Art Online, Ready Player One, and Ghost in the Shell

Chapter 13

  • He chatted with his roommate Tony about the possibility of hacking into someone’s neural network and placing suicidal thoughts or depression within someone which could potentially make them act on it

Chapter 14

  • Chris had a candid discussion with his partner about what detective Trinh said about her and her problems
    • He said the only thing that worried him was that she could potentially fall apart on him
    • She said after this march, she promises to sit down with him and tell him everything, and she promised that she won’t fall apart on him

Chapter 15

  • While looking into Oliver Green (Johnny)’s apartment, he got into a fight with another threep and managed to subdue it

Chapter 16

  • Tony gave the report that this project and neural hardware would’ve taken a lot of money so the culprit had to have had a lot of it 

Chapter 17

  • They watched the video that Johnny recorded for his sister and grandma
    • It was his testimonial about how his secret employer put the neural hardware in his brain and started to take advantage of him to make him do bad things while he blacked out

Chapter 18

  • Tony explained that this program effectively hijacks the integrator and then wiped their memory afterward
  • Chris got home just in time to stop an assassination attempt on his life

Chapter 19

  • Chris invited his partner over to their apartment so that they could talk and so that she would be safe

Chapter 20

  • Vann explains her experience becoming an integrator and how it was such a terrible feeling and traumatic for her first time
  • She told Chris that one of her clients wanted to see what it was like to kill themselves and used her to do it
    • Thankfully someone saved her in the nick of time and they were able to blacklist the client

Chapter 21

  • Tony explained to them that there was a huge bug that someone with a lot of programming ability and resources was able to exploit that allowed the client to take control of an integrator 
  • Tony said that because the programming language they use is very flexible, each programmer’s code is idiosyncratic and develops a unique style that you can tell apart from others
    • Because of this, Tony strongly believes that Lucas Hubbard wrote the code that was responsible for the integrator takeover bug
  • Tony explains to them that it seems like Hubbard wants to dominate the market for Hadens and the technology related like the threeps, the agora, and the market that will come after the crash of Haden-related services and technology

Chapter 22

  • He told his dad everything and eventually asked for his help by doing a business deal that could help stop Hubbard and also help the Navajo
  • He finally met Cassandra Bell and explained to her the whole situation about Hubbard possessing her brother’s body and trying to kill her
    • He proposed that the best way to fully capture him and make him answer to justice was to let him try and use his arrogance as a blind spot 

Chapter 23

  • They met with Schwartz, the lawyer, and told him that they knew everything
    • They gave him two options:
      1. He says nothing but he gets screwed and goes to jail for a long time. Option
      2. He talks and gives them information. But he’s still going to jail just depends on how long and how bad

Chapter 24

  • Christopher Bell attempted to murder Cassandra Bell’s body, but it was a trap
    • Chris chased down Bell and ultimately they apprehended him
  • They explained to Lucas Hubbard that they would flip the script and trap him in Bell’s body while Bell dismantled his entire company and helps fund the nonprofit that Chris Shane’s father started with the Navajo to create a competitor to the agora
  • They got Lucas Hubbard to confess everything and Nicolas now finally came back to his body

Chapter 25

  • Chris told Vann that he preferred the life of an FBI agent doing good instead of a poster child

Closing thoughts:

This was a fantastic book. I thoroughly enjoyed the premise of the book as well as the plot. The story felt like it was straight from a Hollywood blockbuster movie with all of the action, sci-fi, plot twists, characters, and over story development.

One of my favorite parts of this book was the dynamic Chris and Vann had. Both are admirable characters in that they have integrity and extreme competency in what they do. They also are great compliments of each other’s personality and strengths. I always enjoy great partnerships like these, when characters are better together because they work well as a team.

I highly recommend this book if you like the sci-fi genre but would rather stay on land rather than most of the sci-fi which takes place in space more often than not.

One Takeaway / Putting into practice:

Generally, this was just a really good fictional story, so there are not many life lessons as a typical self-improvement book I’d normally read. However, one of my takeaways from this book would be on what I admire most about the two main characters:

  • Sometimes what we think is our greatest weakness can be our greatest strength

What is interesting about Chris and Vann to me is that they can both be seen as “broken” people. Chris has been afflicted with Haden’s almost his entire life and requires the use of a threep to navigate the world. Vann lives with the trauma of having another person almost use her body to simulate killing themselves, so then she relies on self-medicating with alcohol and sex to numb that trauma.

However, Chris is one of the most talented investigators in the FBI and his disability actually comes in handy with his fast access to information, computing, and fighting against perpetrators without risking harm. Vann’s trauma, I believe, makes her an even more compassionate person and drives her to take down criminals who take advantage of others.

Without these “disabilities” I don’t think they would be as deadly a combo as they currently are, which makes their story that much more interesting.


In a futuristic world where “locked in” humans afflicted with Haden’s syndrome can control android “threeps”, FBI agents Chris Shane and Leslie Vann are tasked with solving a murder that proves to unravel a larger mystery going on.

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Rating: 4 out of 5.


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