Audio: Head On by John Scalzi @Scalzi @amber_benson @Audible_com

Posted August 29, 2018 by Melanie in Book Review / 20 Comments

Audio: Head On by John Scalzi @Scalzi @amber_benson @Audible_comHead On by John Scalzi
Narrator: Amber Benson
Series: Lock In #2
Published by Audible on April 17, 2018
Genres: Science Fiction
Pages: 335
Length: 8 hours and 52 minutes
Format: Audiobook
Source: Publisher
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John Scalzi returns with Head On, the standalone follow-up to the New York Times bestselling and critically acclaimed Lock In. Chilling near-future SF with the thrills of a gritty cop procedural, Head On brings Scalzi's trademark snappy dialogue and technological speculation to the future world of sports.

Hilketa is a frenetic and violent pastime where players attack each other with swords and hammers. The main goal of the game: obtain your opponent’s head and carry it through the goalposts. With flesh and bone bodies, a sport like this would be impossible. But all the players are “threeps,” robot-like bodies controlled by people with Haden’s Syndrome, so anything goes. No one gets hurt, but the brutality is real and the crowds love it.

Until a star athlete drops dead on the playing field.

Is it an accident or murder? FBI Agents and Haden-related crime investigators, Chris Shane and Leslie Vann, are called in to uncover the truth―and in doing so travel to the darker side of the fast-growing sport of Hilketa, where fortunes are made or lost, and where players and owners do whatever it takes to win, on and off the field.

This is the second book in John Scalzi’s  Lock In series. In this futuristic world, many people contracted a plague that left about one percent of the population with Haden’s Syndrome. Anyone who has Haden’s Syndrome, their minds are fully functional, but their bodies are pretty much useless, though they have to be cared for, like fed through a feeding tube and kept clean. In this world, scientist have created a neural net, which is implanted in their brains to allow them to exist outside of their bodies. The Agora is a virtual space where Haden’s sufferers can interact together or have their own personal space. They also have robots, known as threeps, named for C3PO.

Chris Shane, our main character, has had Haden’s Syndrome since they were a child. I use plural pronouns, because we don’t know Chris’s actual sex. The book is written, and narrated by two narrators, so you can choose the sex of Chris (something I didn’t realize when I listened to the first book). Chris is the child of a wealthy former NBA star. Chris is also a former child celebrity, because he had Haden’s so young and had a child size threep. There is even a famous picture of Chris giving a flower to the pope. Now, Chris is an FBI agent who works mostly on Haden’s related cases with his partner, Leslie Vann. Vann is actually a former Integrator. Basically, that means she has the neural net in her brain. She used to allow (for a fee, of course) Haden’s sufferers, to use her body for things they can’t do with threeps or in the Agora.

In Head On, we are introduced to a game that is professionally played by Haden’s sufferers. They have specially designed threeps which they beat the crap out of and try to rip the head off one of the players and get it through the goalposts. That is until someone dies in the middle of a preseason game with a lot of potential investors (including Chris’s wealthy parents). As Chris and Vann investigate, things get even more complicated.

I really enjoyed this combination of cop drama and science fiction. The characters are very well written. I’ve very invested in even the minor secondary characters, like Chris’s flatmates. I think the partnership between Vann and Chris is great. I’m also a big fan of all the sci-fi elements of this story. It really appeals to my geeky side, without being so techy, that I’m lost.


The first book in the series, I listened to Wil Wheaton narrate the male version of the book. This time, I tried Amber Benson’s narration for the female POV. It was interesting listening to this with the different narrator. I’ve never listened to Amber Benson before. I think she did a really good job, though I thought Vann’s voice was a little too masculine for me (though, I think she did this on purpose. She is a very masculine woman).

Even though I was listening to Chris as a woman, I still continued to think of Chris more of a man. I think that is because that was the first time I was introduced to them. I still thought Amber Benson did a great job with her narration. I would listen to her in future, but will probably go back to Wil Wheaton for this series, just because Chris seems to want to be a man in my mind.

Listen to a clip on Audible

About Amber Benson

Narrator: Amber benson

Amber Benson is what we call “a maker of things.” A prolific writer, she is the author of the Calliope Reaper-Jones urban fantasy series—for which she read the audiobooks—and the middle-grade book Among the Ghosts. She has narrated over a half dozen titles, including the John Scalzi bestseller Lock In. Behind the camera, she codirected the Slamdance feature film Drones and cowrote and directed the BBC animated series The Ghosts of Albion. In her previous incarnation as an actor, she spent three years as “Tara Maclay” on the cult television series Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Amber does not own a television.

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.

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Posted August 29, 2018 by Melanie in Book Review / 20 Comments

20 responses to “Audio: Head On by John Scalzi

  1. I read the whole review without realizing it was yours Melanie. This one sounds really different. I admit to being confused though. If you have the disease your body is useless. How is he an FBI agent and has flat mates? I think I missed something. Glad you enjoyed it.

    • Melanie

      They all live in these robot bodies. His flatmates do have their physical bodies in the flat too, but Chris has their body at his parent’s house. You do still have to care for the body, clean it, IV nutrition, etc. Plus, you need a place to charge your robot body. There is a lot going on in this series and there are some thing I probably should’ve covered again. It is easy to follow when you read, though I recommend starting with book one.

      Melanie @ Hot Listens & Books of My Heart

  2. I just got the first book in the Audible Sci-Fi and Fantasy sale so I am primed and ready. Love seeing how much you enjoyed book two. Its such an interesting premise.

    • Melanie

      It is a really great story. I thought it was very interesting how the author decided to make the main character be the gender of your choice. I thought both narrators did a great job, I just started off thinking Chris was a male and it was hard to change that.

      Melanie @ Hot Listens & Books of My Heart