Head On, John Scalzi (Tor 978-07-6538891-9,$25.99, 336pp, hc) April 2018.
John Scalzi’s Head On picks up where Lock In left off, for the most part. FBI agent Chris Shane still has Haden’s Syndrome, a condition where an infected person’s body remains inert while his or her mind roams free in a robotlike machine called a threep. Chris’s partner Leslie Vann, who does not have Haden’s, still remains the more impulsive and bite-y member of the team. Together, they find themselves on a new case, one that has a direct connections to Shane’s wealthy family.
In Scalzi’s near-future, Hilketa is a growing sport, sort of a cross between rugby and American football, but even more violent. Points are scored by ripping the head off of a designated opposing player, then carrying it downfield for a goal. That works if all the players are driving threeps. Their actual bodies are safe at home while the mayhem stays in the stadium. Or, at least, that’s what should happen. When a player dies on the field during a game, the FBI is called in. Shane and Vann get to work.
It’s fair to say that if you enjoyed Lock In, you’ll enjoy Head On even more. Scalzi has a better sense of this world and its characters here – and seems to know how to showcase secondary characters (like Chris’s roommates). Lock In also might be one of his titles that feels like a commentary on the our current political situation, vis-a-vis folks in power who play fast and loose with the law. Mostly, though, it’s just a page-turning whodunit within a science fiction framework.
Adrienne Martini has been reading or writing about science fiction for decades and has had two non-fiction, non-genre books published by Simon and Schuster. She lives in Upstate New York with one husband, two kids, and one corgi. She also runs a lot.
This review and more like it in the June 2018 issue of Locus.
While you are here, please take a moment to support Locus with a one-time or recurring donation. We rely on reader donations to keep the magazine and site going, and would like to keep the site paywall free, but WE NEED YOUR FINANCIAL SUPPORT to continue quality coverage of the science fiction and fantasy field.