Head On by John Scalzi @scalzi @torbooks

Posted April 17, 2018 by Robin in Book Review / 3 Comments

Review copy was received from NetGalley. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Head On by John Scalzi   @scalzi @torbooksHead On by John Scalzi
Series: Lock In #2
Published by Tor on April 19, 2018
Genres: Science Fiction
Pages: 328
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley
AmazonAudibleAudiobookBarnes & Noble
One StarOne StarOne StarOne Star

In a post-virus world, a daring sport is taking the US by storm. It’s frenetic, violent and involves teams attacking one another with swords and hammers. The aim: to obtain your opponent’s head and carry it through the goalposts. Impossible? Not if the players have Hayden’s Syndrome. Unable to move, Hayden’s sufferers use robot bodies, which they operate mentally. So in this sport anything goes, no one gets hurt – and crowds and competitors love it. Until a star athlete drops dead on the playing field.

But is it an accident? FBI agents Chris Shane and Leslie Vann are determined to find out. In this game, fortunes can be made – or lost. And both players and owners will do whatever it takes to win, on and off the field.

Lock In was one of my favorite Sci-Fi worlds ever.  I really appreciated all the thought John Scalzi put into how life would be different if the person you presented to the outside world was basically a robot.  The prequel Unlocked (which should actually be read after Lock In) was fantastic, as it was presented as a documentary on how 1% of the population ended up being locked in their minds, not able to move and how all the science was done to create a way for them to get back out into the world.  I actually liked the prequel more than the first book in the Lock In series.

What Head On has over Lock In is a better detective story to accompany all the very cool stuff happening in the SciFi world.  This book will be a little different. For instance, we have zero idea if the Main Character Chris is a boy or a girl, even the audiobooks have two different narrator options one male and one female.  Since everyone interacts with Chris either in virtual space or a robot system you really don’t get normal gender clues. I really like that Chris is essentially genderless by today’s standards.

Chris and his/her partner Vann are FBI agents normally tasked with crimes involving Hadens (members of society who are locked in their bodies and interact with the world virtually or with a robot they pilot).   When there is death of a Haden player at a Hilketa match, Chris and Vann are the natural team to call in for the investigation. How does the beheading of a piloted robot lead to the death of the pilot who is states away?

The mystery plot for Head On worked for me a lot better and seemed more planned and polished.  Chris and Vann have a fun banter between them that makes the dialogue fun and easy to read. I also like that both Chris and Vann are not flat characters but have a good dimensionality to them making them more human.   But the real winner for me, at least in this series, is the world. I really get caught up in what it would be like to live in a world that has C-3POesk robot walking down the street being piloted by a person who can’t move and could be anywhere.

So if you are a fan of cool, fleshed out SciFi worlds and also like murder mysteries then the Lock In series could really be something to put on your TBR list.  Wil Wheaton is the male narrator and I thought he did a fantastic job on Lock In if you are a fan of audio.


“I did not destroy another threep,” I said. “A car did.”

“You got hit by a car.”


“So, once for the experience and twice to be sure?” Tony asked. “Hey, weren’t you hit by a car when you were a kid?”

“It was a truck.”

“Same concept. Three times is a fetish, Chris,” Tony said. “Which is your business. But it gets pretty pricey. You might want to take up a less expensive hobby, like cocaine.”

Tony and Chris


“That threep’s the goat. That’s the player the other team wants to rip the head off of. They try to take his head, while his team tries to keep him from having his head ripped off.”

“And when the head is taken, they try to punt it through the goalposts.”

“Punt it, toss it, or carry it through, yes.”

“And everyone has swords and hammers and bats—”

“They have those because that shit’s just fun.”


About John Scalzi

Born: May 10, 1969

Lived in: LA’s Eastern San Gabriel Valley; Chicago; Fresno, CA; Sterling, VA; Bradford, OH

Education: The Webb Schools of California; The University of Chicago (AB, Philosophy with Allied Fields)

Employment: Film Critic/Columnist; Writer/Editor; Freelance writer; Novelist

Personal: Married. One child. Several pets.

Bibliography: It’s here. New York Times best seller in fiction. Awards won include the Hugo, the Locus, the Audie, the Seiun and the Kurd Lasswitz. Recipient of the 2016 Governors Award for the Arts in Ohio. Works translated into 20+ languages.

Other: Creative Consultant for the Stargate: Universe television series. Writer for the video game Midnight Star, by Industrial Toys. Former president (7/10 – 6/13) of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America. Executive Producer for Old Man’s War and The Collapsing Empire, both currently in development for television.

Rating Breakdown
One StarOne StarOne StarHalf a Star
One StarOne StarOne StarOne Star
One StarOne StarOne StarOne StarHalf a Star
Overall: One StarOne StarOne StarOne Star

Posted April 17, 2018 by Robin in Book Review / 3 Comments

3 responses to “Head On by John Scalzi

  1. I’ve always been sorry I didn’t get the audio of Lock In when it was available on some kind of audible deal. I’ll get to this story at some point. Great review Robin! I like the quotes you chose.

    • Thanks Anne. You read more mysteries than I do so I think it will be interesting to see what you think of it when you listen to it. I got so caught up in the world on for Lock In that the mystery was just a bonus story.

  2. Melanie

    I really need to get this one. I listened to Locked In last year (I think) and really loved it. I listened to Wil Wheaton narrate it. I thought about getting the female narrator this time. Glad to see you loved this one