Review: Unlocked by John Scalzi

unlocked by John ScalziFormat read: ebook purchased from Amazon
Formats available: ebook, hardcover
Genre: science fiction
Length: 63 pages
Publisher: Tor Books
Date Released: May 7, 2014
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Book Depository

A new near-future science fiction novella by John Scalzi, one of the most popular authors in modern SF. Unlocked traces the medical history behind a virus that will sweep the globe and affect the majority of the world’s population, setting the stage for Lock In, the next major novel by John Scalzi.

My Review:

Even for a novella, the publisher’s blurb for Unlocked is not just short, but also not terribly descriptive. And it doesn’t come close to doing this marvelous introduction to Lock In any kind of justice.

Unlocked carries a more descriptive subtitle: An Oral History of Haden’s Syndrome. That’s almost descriptive enough.

Unlocked isn’t precisely a narrative, it’s more like a collection of narratives around a single event. By presenting the story as snippets from oral interviews, it gives the reader the kind of “you are there” perspective that doesn’t usually happen in fiction. It brings the reader to the center of the story, as though we were watching it as it happened, or as if it were part of our shared consciousness.

Which it is for the people involved.

The individuals don’t stand out, but what emerges is the history of how the world dealt, or would deal, with a global pandemic in the age of mass transportation and mass media, where the survivors and their families could become, not just “poster children”, but symbols for all those who suffered and are suffering.

Even after some of them have discovered that Hadens may be the best thing that ever happened to them.

There are historic parallels for this kind of disease, the 1918 Flu Pandemic and the Black Death are examples.There have been instances where the loss was so pervasive that it touched every family, the U.S. Civil War being a prime example there. But with Haden’s Syndrome, the author has created a leveling disease that cuts across all boundaries, and everyone sees the effects on the daily news.

Escape Rating A-: This is hard to rate. While I was reading, I myself was “locked in” to the narrative. It rang true as the way that things might happen, given the circumstances. It also brought me back to the questions about “the needs of the many”, and how society would handle it when the relatively small percentage affected adds up to huge absolute numbers. What would we do?

The mistakes made, and the successes discovered, followed a kind of logical progression that kept me going from one personal account to another, watching the picture unfold.

lock in by john scalziUnlocked does an absolutely terrific job of setting up the background for Lock In (which yes, I have an ARC of and could not resist after Unlocked).

Unlocked presents an all-too-real possibility and stretches it into a future that is scarily easy to envision. If you are waiting with bated breath for Lock In, read Unlocked first. It makes reading Lock In a much richer experience.

And it’s GOOD!

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