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August 30, 2014

Spoiler thread for Lock In by John Scalzi
Posted by Teresa at 11:25 AM * 96 comments

Lila’s requested a thread so she can talk about Lock In without spoiling it. Good idea. Contents enclosed.

Comments on Spoiler thread for Lock In by John Scalzi:
#1 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: August 30, 2014, 12:53 PM:


The narrator.

The bit with the wheelchair.

The disability vs. culture question (if you're interested in this issue, the literature from/about the Deaf community is a good place to start: Oliver Sacks' Seeing Voices, Harlan Lane's When the Mind Hears, Bernard Bragg's Lessons in Laughter.....).

The gender presentation question hovering in the background.

The "is it better to fit someone else's view of how you should be, or to make choices based on how you want to live" question of whether virtual presence/threeps make sense for elderly or disabled non-Haydens. Or for anyone, really. Would I choose my current body, appearance and gender presentation to use at all times and places if I had any other choice?

Cassandra Bell.

The fact that the villains are also Haydens.

Navajo sovereignty.

I have only heard one of the audio versions; planning to fire up the other one next week and see how much difference it makes.

The only negative thing I have to say at this point is that it made me despair of ever getting published. But then I remember that some published work is dreck, so I don't necessarily have to compete with Scalzi's latest.

#2 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: August 30, 2014, 12:54 PM:

Also the thing about Shane's dad's race and its effect on the incident with the shotgun. I would say "prescient", but not really; this crap's been going on for a long time before the Ferguson hit the news.

#3 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: August 30, 2014, 01:36 PM:

Grr. Strike through "Hayden" and replace with "Haden" in post #1. I plead audiobook, though now I also remember Scalzi saying somewhere that Haden =/= Hayden as in PNH/TNH.

#4 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: August 30, 2014, 02:11 PM:

John insists that the name of US President Benjamin Haden, and by extension Haden's Syndrome, was taken from one of his favorite musicians, Petra Haden.

While I grant that I already knew of John's admiration for Petra Haden, I do have to observe that I have precisely two siblings, both younger brothers: Benjamin Hayden and Peter Hayden.

This kind of coincidence is how scholars centuries in the future are going to get really confused.

#5 ::: Zora ::: (view all by) ::: August 30, 2014, 08:28 PM:

It is useful for writers to keep a truly dire book on hand, so that you can say to yourself "THAT was published and I can write better than that."

#6 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: August 30, 2014, 09:50 PM:

And according to the author himself today at the Decatur Book Festival, I am not delusional in seeing a link with Deaf culture.

So, back to the book: The Twins. Hook for a sequel, or bait for the fanfic writers? Hmmm....Yuletide...

#7 ::: James Palmer ::: (view all by) ::: August 31, 2014, 09:06 AM:

I thought it worked much better as a setting than as a novel. Scalzi's plots are normally strong, but here the narrative felt tacked-on to the world-building. I liked the setting, some of the character-building, and the tackling of disability issues, a lot, but as a story - especially as a mystery - it was thin.

#8 ::: Cat ::: (view all by) ::: August 31, 2014, 09:03 PM:

I *loved* the scene with the wheelchair. And I thought the generally dilapidated nature of the loaner threeps was, probably deliberately, kind of a reflection of the way that wheelchair accommodations, especially in places that don't get as much wheelchair traffic, are often (I hear) pretty shoddy and unpleasant.

And I have to admit my first thought on hearing the argument over a "cure" for Hadens was why not let them have the option? There are people who are thirty years old and were just Locked In last week (since we're told the disease is still endemic and apparently can even strike the same person more than once.) I bet they'd *love* a cure. Obviously you wouldn't want to force it on someone who doesn't want it, but that's not a given just because you have it.

And it also occurs to me that the Hadens are in a really serious situation. Care for a paralyzed patient is *expensive* and if the government isn't going to cover it, they have to. They aren't all going to be independently wealthy or have good paying jobs. What is an impoverished Haden going to do? I'm surprised they're not desperate enough to be burning buildings down yet.

And then there's the whole intersection of race and being a Haden.

The book was fun and a page-turner and all, but it gave me a lot to think about afterwards also.

#9 ::: Laura ::: (view all by) ::: August 31, 2014, 09:56 PM:

I hope there will eventually be another book in the world created in/for Lock In and the prequel novella. There certainly seems to be enough unresolved "background" plot stuff, like the fate of the Hadens in the aftermath of the law that takes effect just after the events of this novel and other smaller items such as the toss-away comment that Chris's roommate will explain "later" about the twins. (My guess is that they were born as conjoined twins and chose to somehow share a threep.) While I wouldn't want the character to be traumatized, I thought it would be interesting if Vann ended up needing to use her Integrator skill set. I would rather it be because she has healed from the trauma and was facing it in a healthy way. I even thought she might be an Integrator for Chris -- someone she trusts, to the extent that she trusts anyone.

#10 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: September 01, 2014, 07:48 AM:

I'm curious: I've read a couple of reviews that avoided assigning a gender to Chris Shane, and several that assumed Chris was male. Has anyone seen one that assumed Chris was female?

#11 ::: Dave ::: (view all by) ::: September 01, 2014, 10:00 AM:

I only saw one review that referred to Chris Shane as male and I was confused. So far I have only listened to the Amber Benson read audio book and I wonder if that somehow influenced my impression that Chris Shane was female.

I'll have to listen to Wil Wheaton and see if that makes a difference, and I'll probably read the paper book as well because even though I already have two copies of the audio book, I want to go to a reading by Scalzi at a local bookstore,

#12 ::: Lisa Hertel ::: (view all by) ::: September 01, 2014, 10:06 AM:

I put it on the NESFA Hugo Recommended List.

#13 ::: Julia ::: (view all by) ::: September 01, 2014, 10:39 AM:

I wish Scalzi's characters didn't all sound like Scalzi himself, but I really enjoyed the world building in this book.

(I assumed Chris was male, possibly because Scalzi's voice was so strong)

#14 ::: Louise ::: (view all by) ::: September 01, 2014, 10:58 AM:

I was wondering what the people who had not read the prequel, Unlocked, ( felt about whether Chris Shane was male or female. As I looked back on the prequel, it seems that Scalzi was very careful not to say he or she in relation to Chris. Very clever. Also, I think the prequel really adds to the story and I would encourage everyone to read it before reading the novel.

#15 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: September 01, 2014, 12:23 PM:

I work with, recording audiobooks for blind, dyslexic and print-handicapped students, so I am keenly aware that there's a convention that an audiobook reader should be the same gender as the protagonist/narrator. Therefore as soon as I heard about the 2 audiobook versions, I was primed to expect that Chris's gender might be fluid or ambiguous or simply unstated.

Scalzi caught me dead to rights assuming Chris was white, though.

#16 ::: -dsr- ::: (view all by) ::: September 01, 2014, 12:49 PM:

I also assumed, with lack of evidence, that Chris was male. Mea culpa.

On the other hand, I assumed that Chris's father was black well before it was revealed. But I also assumed that "celebrated athlete-businessman defends home, kills intruder" would be a major positive for a political race in Virginia.

I think I need to go back and reread Brin's Kil'n People for contrast.

#17 ::: Jody Cahn ::: (view all by) ::: September 01, 2014, 12:55 PM:

Chris's mother is white and the father black ... I was pretty clear on that. Otoh, I certainly assumed Chris was a guy ... now I guess i need to go back and check if it was me.

#18 ::: Jody Cahn ::: (view all by) ::: September 01, 2014, 01:19 PM:

But I think that some of the various characters making snide comments about Chris at various times would have included cracks about women if Chris were female.

#19 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: September 01, 2014, 01:36 PM:

Jody Cahn @18:
But I think that some of the various characters making snide comments about Chris at various times would have included cracks about women if Chris were female.


Also, I think the scene where Chris rescues Tayla would have gone very differently for a female-voiced character than for a male-voiced one. I think the degree to which they believed the bluff reads as male-voice.

#20 ::: Terry Weyna ::: (view all by) ::: September 01, 2014, 02:11 PM:

Until reading this thread, it never even occurred to me that Chris could be female. Wow! And I never thought for a second that his father was black until Scalzi actually revealed that. He's playing a deep game here, I think.

#7, James, while YMMV (and obviously does), I thought the mystery was very well plotted and written. I didn't figure it out until it was explained. Some of that is due to the fact that I read this at white hot speed, needing to know what happens next -- which I also think is a sign of a good plot -- but also I think Scalzi kept it fair but difficult to figure out.

I also thought that Scalzi toned down the Scalzi-ness of his voice for this book. It was much less snarky than Redshirts, at least until the last 40 pages or so. I liked that. I also like that Scalzi writes with such transparent prose. I loved stylists very much, but I also love the feeling that a book is being beamed straight into my brain that this sort of transparency gives me.

I just finished the book last night, and I'm highly tempted to begin rereading today, just to see how he did it, if I can.

#21 ::: Susan ::: (view all by) ::: September 01, 2014, 04:22 PM:

While I very much enjoyed 'Lock In', in two ways at least I preferred the novella 'Unlocked'.

First, I found the narrative style of Unlocked to be very pacy and engaging.

And second, I liked the more international awareness in it, which to me was pretty much missing from the novel.

Having said that, I did find Lock In to be gripping - I read it in one go - and liked the build up and the ending. I hadn't spotted Chris Shane's non-specified gender, but it didn't matter to me either way. I did pick up on the similarity of issues with Deaf culture, being deaf myself but not part of that world. Interestingly handled :).

#22 ::: Dan Audy ::: (view all by) ::: September 01, 2014, 04:33 PM:

I enjoyed the book immensely and felt that it was, for my tastes, the best Scalzi book I've read. In many ways it felt like a more classic sci-fi novel that posits a change in the world and explores the impacts than his normal brand of adventure - in a lot of ways I found it reminiscent of a Robert J. Sawyer novel (high praise from me).

I noticed (and appreciated the effort) of the lack of gendered pronouns or direct references to gender for Chris quite early but despite that I felt that the characters 'voice' was distinctly male, which may just be some author bleeding over or that, in general, I find Scalzi doesn't write compelling female characters and Chris managed to be quite compelling. I absolutely loved the way that the real world issues around accomodation and disability culture were integrated without coming down on either side or being a polemic.

Really my biggest complaint was that the 'bad guys' felt cartoonish. Their motivation of wanting to lock-in the future market for non-Hayden neural nets seemed to not really require the actions that they took and I think it would have played better if the focus had been more on the fears of cultural genocide by the laws and potential cure than on 'I WANTS ALL THE MONEYS' that it seemed to.

#23 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: September 01, 2014, 04:50 PM:

abi: would you necessarily be able to tell what gender a person was by their threep? Presumably the voice can sound any way you want it to; maybe there's an ambiguous option, or maybe an FBI agent trying to get people to stand down would break out the baritone.

(I have the voice I was issued at birth, and am unambiguously female to look at, but I'm often mistaken for a male on the phone.)

#24 ::: Stevie ::: (view all by) ::: September 01, 2014, 05:53 PM:

Call me cynical but I have absolutely no doubt that wanting all the money is an exceedingly powerful driver; I think Scalzi got that one right. Admittedly I've lived in the City of London itself for over 30 years and I have therefore met a lot of people for whom money is the most powerful driver; it will, after all, buy all the power they want.
The concept of cultural genocide is intriguing but there is no easy read across; being deaf doesn't kill people whereas total paralysis does. Scalzi flagged that rather neatly in an understated way with Chris's bedsores; notwithstanding the amazing technology at their disposal they cannot prevent them. What Chris doesn't explicitly say is that all they can hope to do is to manage them, and thus prevent sepsis which does kill.
The villains are, of course, villains but they too know that their life expectancy is pretty cruddy; there may well be people who delude themselves into believing that remaining totally paralysed is going to work out just fine in the long term but it is a delusion.
I'm very much hoping for more books set in Haden's world because it will be fascinating to see where the world goes...

#25 ::: Nick ::: (view all by) ::: September 01, 2014, 10:00 PM:

I agree with Julia about the dialogue. All of Scalzi's books that I've read feature numerous group conversation scenes and they all start to sound the same after a while.

Having said that, I very much liked the book. I read "Unlocked" beforehand and it was interesting to see a lot of the world-building done there play out on a more personal scale in "Lock In".

#26 ::: Anastasia ::: (view all by) ::: September 01, 2014, 10:52 PM:

So glad there's a discussion of the novel already going here!

My personal favorite part was the bit with the five threeps dressed as the Founding Fathers, going on about gun rights - absolutely hilarious, but I also think it leads in to a larger question: of Hadens being people. From what I could tell in the novel, it seemed like the legal infrastructure for treating Hadens as human beings was very well in place - for example, hitting a threep with a person in it is considered the same as hitting a human body,, etc - and I was frankly surprised at this. As somebody mentioned earlier, it's still a society where a black person with a shotgun isn't looked upon too well - so what I found a little strange about this world was how accepted threeps and Hadens seemed to be. Sure, there were occasional slurs and prejudice, but for the most part, these people seemed to be really well integrated into society. Am I the only one who found that a little eye-brow raising?

#27 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: September 02, 2014, 02:11 AM:

Lila @23:

I hadn't explicitly thought about gendered voices in threeps until earlier on in that very scene, when Chris first notices that it's a woman being hassled, then discovers that it's a female Haden. Thinking onward from that, I assumed that voices would be perceptibly gendered, partly because of the lack of other cues on Hadens plus an assumption of the continued existence of the gender binary (absent explanation of its absence in the world building).

This is just my reaction, of course.

#28 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: September 02, 2014, 03:31 AM:

Lila @ 23... it's been the other way around for me.

#29 ::: Sean S. ::: (view all by) ::: September 02, 2014, 10:18 AM:

Anastasia @26: I think it was, in part, the ability of Haden's disease to affect anyone. It's easy (or at least possible) to think of different races, orientations, etc. as "other" and thereby not find it necessary to consider their needs, but when this disease is (or is capable of) striking your friends and family, you'll be a lot more interested in protecting and helping them.

Did anyone ever catch why Vann's last partner shot herself? I realized after I finished that I never saw that explanation, and I'm wondering if it wasn't given, or if I just missed it.

#30 ::: Bj ::: (view all by) ::: September 02, 2014, 11:36 AM:

The first time I read through Ancillary Justice and Lock In, I thought Ancillary Justice was the tighter plotted book. I think because of the world building was so foreign. But the more I reread Lock In, the less many scenes seem arbitrary.

Ancillary Justice also seems similar to Lock In as a reading experience. Both titles have several distinct meanings throughout the books. Ancillary Justice is also is confusing because the main language assigns a female pronoun to unknown males. The first time reading Ancillary Justice I confused many of the biological genders. But reading Lock In as a female protagonist set up interesting situations like Officer Trinh implying Leslie Vann trying to sleep with a female Chris. Leslie Vann is referred to by female pronouns, but seems to behave in a more masculine manner.

With Integrators available, you have the very real possibility of trying out the world, and the world’s reaction, to you as the opposite gender, different race, different heights, and different body modifications (tattoos, piercings, etc). In Ready Player One, a female black character creates a white male avatar for business interactions after difficulties with prejudice. Rental Threeps would probably be default gender neutral, and a specific default height, due to the vagrancies of the rental market. Changing the apparent gender of a Threeps voice and its current height could make someone feel more allied with you, or differ more to your judgement. Supposedly, most CEOs of large companies are significantly taller than average. Also creating a too human Threep, and failing, would have “Uncanny Valley” problems increasing the interest in Integrators who are actual humans. Interestingly the Threeps have an ability to broadcast their ID, but Integrators do not appear to use the same technology, even though it would be simple for a client to broadcast.

I never really understood the villain, L. Hubbard until the third reread. Jim Buchold is emotionally destroyed by the bombing at this company, its effects on his living and dead workers, and its effect on the world. L. Hubbard started out fixing hardware for Haden’s abandoned by large corporations, his charity work consists of giving away low cost Threep designs for poorer countries, his end game is to enrich the lives of million with limited mobility and interaction with the world since neuronets are limited to Hadens. L. Hubbard can argue passionately for Haden’s culture, or not. L. Hubbard does not see himself as the villain, and maybe even as the savior to millions of people. L. Hubbard does not “crack” in interrogation when they threaten his personal freedom, but when they threaten to destroy his company and his legacy. L. Hubbard thinks he is the smarted guy in the room, and knows what is best for everyone else.

Current favorite game is finding out how many ways I can compare Chris, and the Threeps, to Batman and his utility belt.

#31 ::: Bj ::: (view all by) ::: September 02, 2014, 11:58 AM:

#8, Cat quote, And it also occurs to me that the Hadens are in a really serious situation. Care for a paralyzed patient is *expensive* and if the government isn't going to cover it, they have to. They aren't all going to be independently wealthy or have good paying jobs. What is an impoverished Haden going to do? I'm surprised they're not desperate enough to be burning buildings down yet. end quote.

The book gave me the impression that government subsidies for the Agora, Integrators, and Threeps, were being substantially cut, if not eliminated. But government subsidies for the initial treatment of Haden patients, neuro nets, connection to the normal Internet, and research were continuing. Claims the US Government funding of wheel chairs, and electric scooters, is wasteful and mismanaged pop up on internet searches.

#32 ::: Daughter Number Three ::: (view all by) ::: September 02, 2014, 12:01 PM:

Great conversation, everybody! So far you've addressed most of the notes I made and was longing to discuss with someone. Ashamed to admit it never occurred to me to think of Chris as female.

I had two thoughts that no one has mentioned so far.

First, I loved Chris's use of rental/borrowed threeps in Arizona and California to basically dispense with the problem of travel and time loss in the narrative, which kept it all that much tighter. Bravo, Scalzi, on that one!

Second, I think we can be pretty sure there will be more books about Chris because Scalzi has basically created a new superhero. The ability to space shift, come back despite killing force, turn down pain and other senses that would incapacitate a physically typical person are all elements of a superhero.

And what writer doesn't want to try out their new superhero character in a range of scenarios?

#33 ::: Jennifer ::: (view all by) ::: September 02, 2014, 12:32 PM:

Yay, a spoiler thread!

So far I've seen most reviews of the book calling Chris a "he." The few reviews I've seen that kept it ambiguous/discussed this behind spoiler space were all done by women, so hmmm on that. I liked the video review on Chez Apocalypse in particular on the subject: The gender discussion starts around the 11 minute mark. Lindsay and Nella specifically discuss that "the thing about being a woman is that people like to remind you about it, a lot." And when Chris isn't being reminded of that fact left and right, yeah, it's probably super easy to assume Chris is a guy. Also, how would bigots react that they can't gender or racially peg someone?

Though something that occurred to me later was: how many girls do you know who do BMX biking? That is....probably the strongest gender indication in here. This is not to say that women never do it, but I had to go googling to see if any do it at all, and that's pretty sad. (Okay, so I'm a nerd and not up on that athletic stuff.)

It took me about 3/4 of the book to have it occur to me that Chris could go either way, and that point for me was having it pointed out specifically that Chris's dad was black (and then I started to think about it....). Because "six foot eight" and "basketball superstar" didn't necessarily flag to me as only being a black man, especially in Virginia where his wife's family came from Confederate gunrunners. And even worse, I could have sworn I'd seen the word "son" mentioned in Unlocked and in the scene where Chris's dad is moping post-shooting, and I had to go back and check to see that hadn't happened.

I'm not great at picturing characters in the first place, which is probably why I didn't really even think about what anyone might be beyond Trinh until Chris's dad was pointed out. And if you read the book, Chris doesn't really describe people physically much--I have no idea what Leslie looks like, do you? What Chris notices is how expensive your threep is!

Something that occurred to me: why have child-sized threeps? Why not just have a kid run a default body? Or is that just for photo opportunities, or to indicate to strangers that this kid is a kid? Do they change the size of the threep every couple of years for kids?

I'm assuming the twins share a threep for money reasons or something. No, Vann's partner was never explained (grr).

Chris is totally a superhero who just destroys bodies instead of cars :) I'm glad Chris is rich--Bruce Wayne Batcave money comes in handy.

Claiming that Hadens aren't disabled is a spectacularly horrible idea. Even if they have independent movement, the bodies piloting the threeps need constant care. Hoo boy, that will sink that society.

I'd be curious to hear about Haden dating. I'm assuming that non-Hadens and Hadens just straight up don't date?

#34 ::: Nickp ::: (view all by) ::: September 02, 2014, 12:54 PM:

This isn't the first time that Scalzi has deliberately made the sex of a character ambiguous. There is a character in The God Engines who might be male or female. Given that character's profession, some readers may have strong, visceral reactions depending on how they interpret the character, and I'm pretty sure Scalzi wants the reader to think about his/her reaction.

#35 ::: Scott ::: (view all by) ::: September 02, 2014, 02:22 PM:

One thing puzzled me after reading the book (and I'm using the masculine pronouns for convenience): when Chris is reassuring his mother that he doesn't plan to move his body from their home, he mentions he didn't notice any lag during his day in DC, and as long as he doesn't there's no reason to move.

This implies that lag is an issue for Hadens driving threeps, which makes sense. Yet Chris drives various threeps in Arizona and California with no concern for lag. Scalzi doesn't discuss the networking technology that allows a Haden to drive a threep, but it seems like it ought to be a concern. (What if you needed LTE speeds but had only 2G signal, for example).

This could have been a significant issue in some of the scenes in the book. Imagine Chris fighting the "ninja" threep in Sani's apartment while experiencing significant lag (like gaming online).

Otherwise, it seems like a throwaway fact to reassure Chris's mother. If that's the case, he could have dismissed her concern in other ways, such as pointing out his body had good care in their home already, and not having to provide for physical care gives him more flexibility finding living space for his primary threep. I can understand the author not wanting to get bogged down in technical details (which I applaud), but if the detail wasn't pertinent then why include it?

"Remove everything that has no relevance to the story. If you say in the first chapter that there is a rifle hanging on the wall, in the second or third chapter it absolutely must go off. If it's not going to be fired, it shouldn't be hanging there."
-- Anton Chekhov

#36 ::: Don ::: (view all by) ::: September 02, 2014, 04:22 PM:

Like Jennifer, I was sure I'd seen Chris' father assign him a gender in the post-shooting moping - I thought he said someone was trying to kill his son. Nope, he says child. I think I was lumping it with his repeatedly using the male pronoun, talking about the shooter.

But I presumed male based on much much easier in the book, when Chris is relating his one and only integrator experience and the urinary issues. "Pissed myself" is a much more male choice of words and "like you guys do" pretty well locked me in (hah) to a male perception of Chris.

#37 ::: Ell ::: (view all by) ::: September 02, 2014, 05:27 PM:

I think the "twins" are one Haden who sometimes plays male and sometimes female. Will be interesting to see...

#38 ::: Stevie ::: (view all by) ::: September 02, 2014, 07:13 PM:


I suspect that 'shitted myself' would also be seen as a much more male choice of words, but it's Vann who uses them; we are reasonably sure that she is female.

On the other hand, I am aware that quite a lot of people, whose only knowledge of me is via what I have written, think that I'm a man; on one memorable occasion I was told that it was downright misleading for me to use my own name on my posts because it smacked of entrapment.

So, I'm not hugely surprised that many people assumed that Chris is male and white; again, that's an aspect of our own society whereby the protagonist of the drama is assumed to be a straight white male, because if they are not then, horror of horrors, people will start wearing purple brocade dinner jackets and generally contributing to the downfall of civilisation as we know it.

At times like this I find Delaney very comforting; his essay at:

changed my life for the better...

#39 ::: Dave ::: (view all by) ::: September 02, 2014, 09:46 PM:

I wonder, did anyone who listened to the audiobook narrated by Amber Benson think Chris was male. Very interesting choice to have it narrated by two different voices. I got both, so I'll definitely have to go back.

I wonder if I read the book now, what my brain will do!

#40 ::: janetl ::: (view all by) ::: September 02, 2014, 11:30 PM:

I gobbled it down -- a very effective thriller. I liked the world-building, too. Much as I like the snappy dialog, I did feel that everyone spoke a lot the same.

#41 ::: Ingvar M ::: (view all by) ::: September 03, 2014, 06:29 AM:

Excellent read, although I would say that the security mechanism for Chomsky software (as presented) is implausible. What they (the hashes) seem to be in the book, based on the description is simply a password. Normally, the hash is a number computed based on the whole program/install-ball/whatever, then encrypted with a secret key, that has a well-known public key, to form a digital signature.

However, that is mere nitpicking (even if it jolted me out of my suspension of disbelief for a few moments, until I went "who gives a damn?" and continued reading).

I don't know what gender I read Chris Shane as. But as I believe both Officer Trihn and Agent Vann was referred to as female and there was a suspicion that Vann and Trihn might have been lovers, I'd say that Trihn suspecting Shane and Vann of being involved is a signal towards "female" (and/or a signal towards Vann being bi; I cannot speak to likelihoods there).

Would Chris' gender change my perception of the book? Maybe. It would be a smidgen more awesome if she was; but still awesome if he isn't.

#42 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: September 03, 2014, 08:07 AM:

I listened to Benson first and am now listening to Wheaton; Chris seems much maler, and interestingly, many of the other characters seem older (e.g Tony). Also Wheaton reads faster (his version is about an hour shorter).

Could Chris be intersex? It would explain why neither parent ever says either "son" or "daughter". (And of course, the larger question: under what circumstances does it matter what gender someone is? As Stevie brings up, here online people can interact with you extensively without knowing or, in some cases, caring.)

I'm also wondering about Chris's casual comment that "I just ulcerate easily. It's a condition. Entirely unrelated to the Haden's." Hmm.

#43 ::: cookingwithsolvents ::: (view all by) ::: September 03, 2014, 09:42 AM:

Mr. Scalzi does it again. Superb thriller, though I wish he'd let things stew a little longer before the race to the finish. Mostly that's because I wish the book was longer!

Congrats on the success and keep on creating/exploring these worlds. It's a lot of fun to go with you.

#44 ::: Cally Soukup ::: (view all by) ::: September 03, 2014, 10:05 AM:

I've been wondering about proprioception and height, myself. Either all (adult) threeps are the same size, or there's going to be an adjustment period where you bump into things and your hands aren't quite where you thought they were. Kind of like when I'm driving a different car from my usual one; in my own car I know exactly where the corners are. When I needed a rental after a minor fender-bender recently (totally not my fault so his insurance paid for everything YAY!) I found myself being very tentative in parking lots. I didn't know where my corners were.

Which made me wonder about child-sized threeps. Sure, they signal "child" to grownups, which is useful social signaling. But then you have that whole not-gradually-growing thing, bringing back periodic proprioception threep-driving issues. And how many sizes of child are there? Toddler, three-feet-tall, four-feet-tall, grownup?

I was thinking about this because Chris's first threep was toddler sized, but Chris's adult body is almost certainly taller than average. Nothing is ever said about threep height, though, so I'm guessing all Chris's threeps have been a single standard height.

#45 ::: Cally Soukup ::: (view all by) ::: September 03, 2014, 10:09 AM:

There's also the point that all threeps have been shown as humaniform. I see no reason that a threep couldn't be shaped any number of different ways. Given brain architecture, you probably shouldn't go too far away from four limbs, two eyes, and two ears, but other than that....

#46 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: September 03, 2014, 11:06 AM:

Cally @ #45, it sure didn't take me long to get to "what about piloting a sensory-equipped drone?" And the aspect of having threeps designed to be able to do martial arts is kind of implied in the book.

#47 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: September 03, 2014, 11:09 AM:

BTW, true fact: children actually grow up to half an inch overnight when they're in a growth spurt; this probably has something to do with that awkward, lanky, bumping-into-things stage.

#48 ::: Nathan Skiba ::: (view all by) ::: September 03, 2014, 04:33 PM:

I just finished listening to the Amber Benson version of the audiobook. I haven't heard Wil Wheaton's version yet. Knowing about the two versions tipped me off that Chris might be ambiguous from the start, that said it felt perfectly natural to think of them as a woman all through the story with Benson's narration. My guess is that if someone didn't know about the multiple audiobook versions and just picked up Benson's, they would think of Chris as a woman.

I thought the hints about homophobia being over (at least on the surface) were interesting, especially with the fact that racism is obviously still a thing. I actually think that might be kind of accurate, for the same reason that Hadens had so much money thrown at their situation. Anyone can have family that are queer, but many white people are insulated from being forced to interact with people from other races.

Cally @ 45, I feel like it's strongly implied that the reason threeps are humanoid, and the reason that there are child threeps, is to humanize Hadens in society. It would be interesting to explore whether people have hacked together protocols to inhabit other objects, but I suspect nobody doing that ever received any of the lucrative government funding.

I have to say, I loved the book and the setting, and I felt a bit disappointed to get to the end, just because there wasn't more. I'm looking forward to listening to the Wheaton version of the book, though.

#49 ::: Chuk ::: (view all by) ::: September 03, 2014, 04:43 PM:

It never even occurred to me that Chris was other than male -- might be just that the author and I both are, so it was a default assumption. I also assumed the dad was white, though, and that's just dumb/prejudice when he's a huge NBA star. (If there was a direct reference in the book to him being black, I missed it.)

Scott @35, I thought of that lag issue, too. Really seems like an error or conscious ignorance by the author.

#50 ::: Andre ::: (view all by) ::: September 03, 2014, 11:45 PM:

Chuk @49 I believe it was mentioned that he was black after shooting the intruder.

#51 ::: Ingvar M ::: (view all by) ::: September 04, 2014, 03:54 AM:

Andre @ #50:

Yes, it was, I can't recall the exact phrase but it was something like "Large, black man killing someone with a shotgun? Not going to go well in the polls."

Heck, I guess I could see if I can actually find the exact phrase.

"A man defending his home doesn't play so poorly in most parts of Virginia," Vann said.
"No, but it's balanced out by the image of a really big angry black man with a shotgun,"

Sometimes, the searchability of ebooks is a boon (that's as far as I can tell the only place where the words "black man" appear in that order in the book).

#52 ::: Daughter Number Three ::: (view all by) ::: September 04, 2014, 11:21 AM:

The first mention of Chris's dad being black is on page 247 of the printed copy. I had been wondering, in the back of my mind, whether Chris was biracial or not up until that point.

#53 ::: Jeff ::: (view all by) ::: September 04, 2014, 04:50 PM:

I'm a terrible person..

I never for a second thought Chris could be a female. Maybe it's because I listened to the Wheaton narration, but I doubt it. Maybe it's because I don't associate the name "Chris" with females. Furthermore, I assumed he was white right up until we found out his dad was one of the greatest basketball players ever... after which I assumed he was black.

#54 ::: Josh Berkus ::: (view all by) ::: September 04, 2014, 05:53 PM:

So, just for keeping points: I assumed Chris was male until reading this thread, partly because of Scalzi's voice, but mostly because of standard American male prejudice; assumed to be a man until told otherwise. This clever bit makes me even more impressed by the book.

One thing which was left out entirely from the book was how Hadens were handled in other countries. I don't consider this a flaw (the book was kind of politics-packed as it was), but it does make me really curious. For example, how were Hadens handled in countries which already had state-sponsored medical coverage? Would moving to Canada/New Zealand/etc. be an option after Abrams-Kettering? How would Haden emigration even *work*?

#55 ::: Bj ::: (view all by) ::: September 04, 2014, 07:23 PM:

#33, Jennifer quote, Something that occurred to me: why have child-sized threeps? Why not just have a kid run a default body? Or is that just for photo opportunities, or to indicate to strangers that this kid is a kid? Do they change the size of the threep every couple of years for kids? End quote

Child sized Threeps would allow better socialization. You don’t want to be the 5 foot kid in first grade.

For children that need a knee replacement, the metal joint increases in length if you torque the knee the correct way. Allowing them to keep up with growth in the other limb. No reason Threeps cannot have a range of limb lengthens. Aesthetics would prevent “One Size Fits All”, or you would have a child sized torso with a basketball player’s limbs, but adjustable limbs would reduce the number needed for Rentals.

#56 ::: Bj ::: (view all by) ::: September 04, 2014, 07:28 PM:

#35, Scott quote This could have been a significant issue in some of the scenes in the book. Imagine Chris fighting the "ninja" threep in Sani's apartment while experiencing significant lag (like gaming online). End quote

Several scenes with Integrators say if the signal is not strong enough, the Integrator has to help. Plus one of the thugs says “He lost the connection” when L. Hubbard loses control of Johnny Sani for a few minutes.

Even with Threeps, some sort of basic navigational function could keep you from face planting if you lose connection while running. Microsoft’s DeLorean might also work.

DeLorean's "speculative execution system," as Microsoft calls it, is able to mask up to 250ms of network latency by rendering frames of future possible outcomes and sending them ahead of time. Essentially, based on your historical tendencies and recent behavior, DeLorean tries to predict your actions, render them, and send them to your device in advance to improve your perception that the game is more responsive. For actions that are harder to predict, DeLorean queues up multiple possible outcomes and displays only the correct one.
End quote

P.S. Ebooks let you search the novel for key words, but only if you can *remember* which one :-)

#57 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: September 05, 2014, 11:32 AM:

Lila #6: You were at the Scalzi talk at the Decatur Book Festival? Damn. I wish I'd known. I was the person who asked about Uncle John's Bathroom Reader.

#58 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: September 05, 2014, 11:34 AM:

I just assumed that a character whose first name was Marcus and who had a career as a basketball player in DC was obviously black. But that's just me.

#59 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: September 05, 2014, 05:01 PM:

Fragano: ACK! I was the one who asked (apparently inaudibly) about whether the twins were a hook for a sequel or a gift to fanfic writers.

That'll teach me to ignore Gathering of Light opportunities!

#60 ::: Cat ::: (view all by) ::: September 05, 2014, 05:41 PM:

@Bj it wasn't clear to me--still isn't, but I should probably go back and read the book--that the government was handling the cost of care for the Hadens' paralyzed bodies. So I was kind of going on the assumption that the government had been funding that to this point and was going to stop doing so, except for some unspecified but limited period of time right after they became paralyzed. But just maintenance care for a paralyzed body is very expensive, even once the net is implanted.

But suppose care for the paralyzed body isn't an issue and the extra burden Hadens must assume is simply the cost of the agora (a subscription, perhaps?) and the threep. Lock-in affects rich and poor alike, so what is this going to mean for the poorest 20% of the Hadens? Apparently a threep costs about as much as a car (IIRC) and it's not like you can say "well, I don't have a threep; I'll have to catch the bus to work"--if you don't have a threep, you don't have a *body* to go to work in. And once you do have a threep, in most parts of the country you still need a car on top of that. It's like poor people need a car--except for poor Hadens, who must essentially shell out for two, and where is the extra money going to come from?

More generally--Cool point about Chris maybe being female; I didn't even notice that; I feel silly. And it does occur to me that perhaps some jobs would involve running a non-humanoid threep. If you need someone to clean out air ducts, you could have a threep body you hire Hadens to run that is the right size to fit into the air ducts. Or if you need someone to work in a high-radiation or very hot or cold environment or something like that.

#61 ::: David M. Perry (@Lollardfish) ::: (view all by) ::: September 06, 2014, 02:10 PM:

I wrote a review. It had some mistake in it - I called Chris Shane a he, for example - but it's fixed now. It's really about Lock In and contemporary issues in disability and tech.

#62 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: September 08, 2014, 10:23 AM:

I've finished Lock In and really enjoyed it. There isn't anything of Scalzi's that i haven't so far.

One problem I have is that he builds in an assumption about race and politics -- that a black man shooting an intruder will be a powerful negative image decades into the future -- that I am not sure is that warranted. Especially since he doesn't give us any other example of racism directed at black people, and he has several black characters (the intentional community that Chris moves into is either entirely or mostly made up of black Hadens) in the novel who are very well handled.

#63 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: September 08, 2014, 10:24 AM:

Lila #59: Ack!!! In very sooth.

#64 ::: Tom Gellhaus ::: (view all by) ::: September 08, 2014, 10:37 PM:

Just finished the book. I really enjoyed it, and I loved spending time with these characters. I'd love to see one or two more books in this universe, and I'm sure John has a couple of ideas already. There was only one minor nitpick for me - the extremely fortunate coincidence that one of Chris' new housemates just happened to be a top notch programmer of neural networks.

I know it was a necessary plot point in order for the book to get a conclusion, but it struck me that if Chris hadn't met Tony, the FBI might never have figured any of it out. Or spent too long trying to find someone with Tony's skillset.

#65 ::: Jennifer ::: (view all by) ::: September 08, 2014, 11:20 PM:

"I just assumed that a character whose first name was Marcus and who had a career as a basketball player in DC was obviously black. But that's just me."

I probably should have realized as much, except they were in Virginia and he had married into a family that once had Confederate gunrunners. Coulda gone either way on that, I suppose, for me.

"One problem I have is that he builds in an assumption about race and politics -- that a black man shooting an intruder will be a powerful negative image decades into the future -- that I am not sure is that warranted."

Yeah, I wondered about that too. I'm not sure in what time period the book takes place in, but it's sad that that's still a factor at all. Especially when the guy was defending his own kid's life, for fuck's sake. We want the guy to just let his kid be killed instead?! Grrrrrrr.

"Especially since he doesn't give us any other example of racism directed at black people, and he has several black characters (the intentional community that Chris moves into is either entirely or mostly made up of black Hadens) in the novel who are very well handled."'

Erm, do we know that for sure? Hard to tell in this world.

#66 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: September 09, 2014, 09:32 AM:

Jennifer #65: I'm going by the names of the members and the fact that one member is a physician at Howard Medical School with a name that is pretty clearly African American.

#67 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: September 09, 2014, 09:36 AM:

Also, Jennifer #65, interracial marriage is, as they say these days, a thing. One I know some things about.

#68 ::: Cally Soukup ::: (view all by) ::: September 10, 2014, 01:00 AM:

I'm planning on going to the Scalzi reading up in Gurnee, IL on Wednesday night. Anyone else planning on being there? Any questions anybody wants me to ask? I figured I'd ask about non-humaniform threeps.

#69 ::: Cally Soukup ::: (view all by) ::: September 10, 2014, 09:28 AM:

Knocking loose a post from the dreaded ISE.

#70 ::: janetl ::: (view all by) ::: September 10, 2014, 09:36 PM:

Cally Soukup @ 68: I'm curious why there are human cops running around with guns, when a threep can do the same work without risking serious injury.

#71 ::: Cally Soukup ::: (view all by) ::: September 10, 2014, 11:42 PM:

Alas, too late; I just got back from the reading. I do recommend a Scalzi reading if there is one in your area; he could do stand-up if he wanted to.

I fear I wasn't very clear when I asked my question. He did make a good point about not wanting 5'7" toddlers running around, though.

#72 ::: Siobhan M. Murphy ::: (view all by) ::: September 11, 2014, 09:21 PM:

Really, really good book. Love how he presents issues that are integral to the world construction but aren't the issue of the day, so you know there are deeper stories yet to be told. Scalzi needs to take an oath to reduce the number of times he writes: "He said", "She said" and "I said."

My other issue is that there is no reason for most threeps to look like C3PO. My assumption is that people would generally want to look more like people than that.

#73 ::: Cally Soukup ::: (view all by) ::: September 11, 2014, 11:48 PM:

Siobhan M. Murphy: He mentioned that in his reading; he said that the reason that threeps, especially the high-end threeps, usually had immobile faces with just the suggestion of features was to avoid falling into the Uncanny Valley.

#74 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: September 12, 2014, 01:37 AM:

I'm still stuck on the Beany and Cecil ep about the Dreaded Three-Headed Threep. Don't mind me. Can't find a link for it, though....

#75 ::: Josh Berkus ::: (view all by) ::: September 12, 2014, 02:28 AM:

Cally Soukup: please ask about Hadens in other countries. And, y'know, post the answer.

(I'm frustrated that Scalzi was in San Francisco while I was in Portland, and isn't coming to Portland at all.)

#76 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: September 12, 2014, 08:32 AM:

janetl @ #70: I'll take a crack at that.

1. The Haden population is very, very small, and not all of them are intellectually capable of the work.

2. An even smaller subset would WANT to work as police (I don't!); it's not terribly well-paid or prestigious work, even if the element of risk were substantially reduced.

3. Firing currently-serving officers for NOT being Hadens would be unjust, unpopular and illegal.

4. "Robot uprising". There are clearly people who already have trouble relating to Hadens as fully human; if all the police were Hadens driving threeps, it would not encourage trust and relaxation around the police.

#77 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: September 12, 2014, 08:45 AM:

janetl #70: 'Threep' and 'human' are not divergent entities.

#78 ::: Cally Soukup ::: (view all by) ::: September 12, 2014, 09:29 AM:

Josh: I would, but the event is over. With luck, another Fluorospheran will get to a reading and be able to ask your question.

#79 ::: Steve ::: (view all by) ::: September 16, 2014, 09:07 AM:

Am I the only person who heard about a virus that can (rarely) rewire your brain for telepresence and thought "That must have been deliberately designed"?

#80 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: September 16, 2014, 10:09 AM:

No, you're not. In "Unlocked" it's mentioned that a factory in Pakistan was bombed shortly after Haden's appeared, implying that at least one major military power thought the virus was a bioterror agent.

#81 ::: janetl ::: (view all by) ::: September 16, 2014, 12:55 PM:

Scalzi has announced that Lock In has been tapped for a TV series. That is, they're making a pilot. I think this world could be a very tasty TV show!

#82 ::: Pam Adams ::: (view all by) ::: September 16, 2014, 06:59 PM:

I felt that Chris's dad, and therefore Chris, were black or mixed race, from the get-go. I would be more surprised at the gender ambiguity if the trick hadn't already been used in Android's Dream.

#83 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2014, 04:45 AM:

Siobhan M. Murphy @72: I didn't find that entirely convincing either. Notwithstanding the "Uncanny Valley" to be avoided, I would have thought it likely that facial features would develop more.

#84 ::: Ingvar M ::: (view all by) ::: September 24, 2014, 04:31 AM:

And over on Whatever, Scalzi revealed that he can't tell you if Chris Shane is male or female, as he doesn't know. I got the impression that he actively doesn't want to know. Which is kinda cool (I once wrote a book-shaped thing where a secondary character, the partner of one of the POV characters, is of an unspecified gender and I don't want to know either).

#85 ::: mgwa ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2014, 08:35 PM:

My first thought on the question of child-sized threeps was that as a parent, I wouldn't want my toddler or preschooler to be too big and heavy for me to pick up and move when needed - when you're kid's having a meltdown in the store or hitting a sibling or throwing everything all over the place, you just want to grab 'em and relocate!

#86 ::: mgwa ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2014, 08:39 PM:

I'm feeling really sheepish that it never occurred to me that Chris might be female. I did guess there was a good chance that Chris's father was black, given that he was an NBA star and grew up in DC; I consciously tried to avoid assuming that was correct because I didn't want to make a racist assumption.

#87 ::: Bob ::: (view all by) ::: August 30, 2015, 11:42 PM:

Hey guys I just got to page 171 and I can't wait for the ending, can someone explaine what happens in the end to me?

#88 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: August 31, 2015, 01:00 AM:

Bob @87:

Why can't you wait for the ending?

#89 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: August 31, 2015, 01:11 AM:

I think that might be a spam probe; a very intelligent one, mind you!

#90 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: August 31, 2015, 01:25 AM:

Backend markers make me think it's a real person. If it's an honest questioner, I'll have a conversation.

#91 ::: Bob ::: (view all by) ::: August 31, 2015, 09:56 AM:

No I'm real I have a book report

#92 ::: Bob ::: (view all by) ::: August 31, 2015, 09:57 AM:

No I'm real I have a book report

#93 ::: Annie Y ::: (view all by) ::: August 31, 2015, 10:08 AM:

So finish the book - it is not that long :)

#94 ::: eric ::: (view all by) ::: August 31, 2015, 10:53 AM:

As you know Bob, the ending happens at the end.

Its a good ending, most of the loose ends get tied up, and then everyone lives happily ever after till they turn 75 and join the CDF with their new, green, bioengineered bodies.

I just finished it for the first time last night, and I was surprised at how short and tight the book was. I'm used to sff that sort of noodles over the landscape, eventually coming to the conclusion. Not to mention the 4 part trilogy. Or the 3 part 12th volume.

#95 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: August 31, 2015, 11:38 AM:


On the one hand, I think it's awesome that you have a book report on Lock In.

On the other, I really wouldn't trust other peoples' answers about books on the internet. I've seen some pretty terrible ones, even ones designed to show that you didn't do the reading at all.

I really would suggest buckling down and finishing the book.

#96 ::: Cassy B. ::: (view all by) ::: August 31, 2015, 02:12 PM:

Bob, after you read the book, if you wanted to post your book report here, I'm sure we'd all be interested to know what you thought of it....

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