Monday, October 26, 2015

Book Review: Lock In by John Scalzi

I read this one because it was recommended to be the closest thing to Crichton. It's not Crichton -- in many ways it's better.

The premise is what technothrillers rise and fall on, and this premise is a good one, pretty complicated to explain but it becomes clear soon enough. I wish other novelists would learn from Scalzi that you should just jump into your world and set the stage as quickly as you can rather than withholding information to build the suspense. Scalzi has surprises in store, but they are good surprises that come after his world is fully realized, and they take you to places you didn't think of that, after the surprise wears off, are logical enough that you kick yourself a bit for not thinking of it. In other words, good surprises.

The plot's not quite as well-paced as Crichton, because the urgency seems slow to unfold and a lot of action seems to happen all at once. Also, the scope feels smaller and isn't as audacious as Crichton, but the social and political implications are better thought out than anything Crichton's worlds ever concoct. It's deeper sci-fi (although I do doubt that some of the technology is actually possible), and if anything the book's too short. I feel like Scalzi can set another few stories in this world and still be far from plumbing its depths.

This book also isn't as funny or as touching as Scalzi's Redshirts, and it has a sort of oral history appended to the end, which I'm wondering if it would have been better up front or in chunks spread throughout (which is what I think Crichton would have done). But it's as snappy and solid as they come, and it does what it should, which is plenty.

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