Book notes: Head On by John Scalzi

Head On by John Scalzi book summary review and key ideas.

Get the audiobook on Audible 👇 (affiliate link)

Head On: A Novel of the Near Future by John Scalzi


“John Scalzi returns with Head On, the stand-alone follow-up to the New York Times best-selling and critically acclaimed Lock In. Chilling near-future SF with the thrills of a gritty cop procedural, Head On brings Scalzi’s trademark snappy dialogue and technological speculation to the future world of sports.

Hilketa is a frenetic and violent pastime where players attack each other with swords and hammers. The main goal of the game: obtain your opponent’s head and carry it through the goalposts. With flesh and bone bodies, a sport like this would be impossible. But all the players are “threeps”, robot-like bodies controlled by people with Haden’s Syndrome, so anything goes. No one gets hurt, but the brutality is real, and the crowds love it.

Until a star athlete drops dead on the playing field.

Is it an accident or murder? FBI agents and Haden-related crime investigators Chris Shane and Leslie Vann are called in to uncover the truth – and in doing so travel to the darker side of the fast-growing sport of Hilketa, where fortunes are made or lost and where players and owners do whatever it takes to win, on and off the field.” -Audible

~If you enjoy my summary, please consider buying me a coffee via my Ko-Fi link (click the button below) or support this blog in one of several ways! 📖 🎓

I appreciate every donation as it goes directly to the maintenance costs of my blog and creation of new content. 😊

Buy Me a Coffee at

Opening thoughts:

I really enjoyed this author’s other book Lock In before this one, so I was excited to continue the series. I have high hopes but I doubt I’ll be disappointed. Lock In was such a unique and fun book! I could totally see these be turned into a movie or two.

Key notes:

The Death of Duane Chapman

  • By the end of this exhibition game, Chapman had died after being beheaded for the 3rd time
  • Nobody knew how that happened, and there would be an investigation

Chapter 1

  • Chris went to the game and met up with his mom who was watching the match
    • She didn’t like the sport very much and neither did he. They actually saw the moment Duane Chapman died via decapitation
  • Hilketa is a sport played by people operating Threeps
  • 95% of the sports spectators are non-Hayden’s and have made the players megastars and celebrities outside of the Hayden circle
  • Hilketa is simultaneously representation and alienation for Haydens

Chapter 2

  • Chris and Leslie wanted to get all of Chapman’s player data for their investigation

Chapter 3

  • They found the commissioner’s body in his room

Chapter 4

  • He talked with Chapman’s wife and found out he was generally straight-edge when it came to his performance and not using any enhancements
  • However, she told Chris that Duane was cheating on her before he died

Chapter 5

  • Duane’s secret apartment where he had his affairs was on fire and Chris had to save a woman and also a cat before his Threep ran out of battery

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

  • There was a startup founder who was pitching the idea of having a Threep rental subscription business for Hayden’s because the costs to own one have gone up since the passing of AK, the bill that reduced government support to Hayden’s

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

  • Chris and Van visited the factory that build the sex-oriented Threeps

Chapter 10

  • Chris brought the cat back to his flat to give Tony the data vault to hack
    • The twins took the cat in their possession

Chapter 11

  • Parker gave Chris the proposition to become a shareholder in the company by being involved in helping them take the market for the rental Threeps industry
    • His reputation and image would be good for them and could make him a billionaire when they go public

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

  • He discussed the business proposition he was offered with his parents

Chapter 14

  • Kim Sylva had a mock battle against Shane in a scout and tank Threep
    • These were used for practice matches as a fun way to kill time before their formal interview, and it also give him a unique experience

Chapter 15

  • The team manager and league council met with Shane and Kim
  • The counsel also said he wouldn’t let Shane meet with Ortiz yet, the other player who suffered a similar seizure during a match a while back

Chapter 16

  • He met and interviewed Salsito, who told Chris that he suspects his supplements were drugged for whatever reason because he never had seizures before or after that incident

Chapter 17

  • Tony discovered that the cat was the encryption key and the tank Threep came to kill it to prevent them from accessing the data vault
  • Marla Chapman tried to kill Kim Sylva
    • She failed but Kim is in the ICU and wants to talk to only Chris 

Chapter 18

Chapter 19

  • They confronted another FBI agent named Ramsey who admitted to being bribed to help cover up the supplement evidence

Chapter 20

  • Chris and Van set up a sting to track the handoff of Ramsey’s package to the drop-off point
    • Then a Threep shot her and shut down
    • Chris went after the man who took the package
  • They exposed the league lawyer for setting up Ortiz to take the fall for Chapman’s death
    • Ortiz admitted he was sleeping with Marla, Duane Chapman’s wife, and knew about Chapman and Sylva’s affair
    • Chris told Ortiz that even though they got away, they saved some of the supplements for testing

Chapter 21

  • The junior counsel (Sandburg) admitted to leaking information that led to Ramsey’s death

Chapter 22

  • Amalie was on the run after they discovered the house full of the dead operatives

Chapter 23

  • Chris confronted Amalie and told her everything they had on her and how she’ll be arrested shortly once the plane lands

Closing thoughts:

I really enjoyed this book and it met my expectations for being a great sequel to Lock In. It was very entertaining from start to finish, and does a great job recapping the previous book and context so that a new reader can pick this book up independently without having to read the previous book.

In the sci-fi genre, this is a solid book. It has an interesting premise, great character development, and unique storytelling with solid plot twists and reveals. As I’ve mentioned, I bet it would be a very good movie if they decided to adapt it for the big screen.

Overall, would recommend this book to anyone who either loved the prequel or is simply a fan of sci-fi or murder mystery type books.


The exciting sequel to Lock In, Head On follows FBI agents Chris Shane and Leslie Vann unraveling a string of mysterious Hayden-related deaths around Hilketa athletes, a sport that exclusively uses robotic Threeps.

Similar books:


Rating: 3.5 out of 5.


Subscribe for More Summaries👇

Success! You're on the list.

Try Audible for audiobooks 📚🎧

Personal recommendation: For the last 8 years, I’ve used Audible to listen to all of my favorite books. It’s easy to use, cost-effective, and they have the best library of audiobooks.

If you use my affiliate links below, not only will you get a special offer, but it’ll help support the costs to maintain this blog! 😊👇

Try Audible and Get Two Free Audiobooks

Audible Gift Memberships 

Please donate! 🙂

Please consider a small donation to help support my blog ^_^ I love providing free book notes and other content. Any donations help me maintain my website and create content consistently. Thanks everyone for the continued support!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: