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Head On PDF, ePub eBook


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Title: Head On
Author: John Scalzi
Publisher: Published April 17th 2018 by Tor Books
ISBN: 9780765388919
Status : FREE Rating :
4.6 out of 5

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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 o 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.

30 review for Head On

  1. 5 out of 5

    Matthew

    An enjoyable sequel to Lock In! 4.5 stars! I am a big fan of the world Scalzi has created. The science of the threeps, Hadens, and how that can all play into a mystery are very fascinating. I think that this book would be accessible to both mystery and sci-fi fans alike – it is just a bonus when you are a fan of both. Also, I have to say that I think I liked this better than Lock In. That is likely due to one of the two following reasons (or both) 1. Getting used to a new world with the first book An enjoyable sequel to Lock In! 4.5 stars! I am a big fan of the world Scalzi has created. The science of the threeps, Hadens, and how that can all play into a mystery are very fascinating. I think that this book would be accessible to both mystery and sci-fi fans alike – it is just a bonus when you are a fan of both. Also, I have to say that I think I liked this better than Lock In. That is likely due to one of the two following reasons (or both) 1. Getting used to a new world with the first book may have been a bit tough and possibly lessened my enjoyment a bit. Now that I know how it all works, it was a lot easier to jump right into the story. 2. Since this is the author’s second mystery in this world, he may have done a better job of writing a story in it so it came off more comfortable and better overall. I am hoping that Scalzi continues writing mysteries in this world. It is fun and unique – he has a lot of things he can play around with that are not available in conventional mysteries. As long as he does keep writing them, I will keep coming back for more. Note: the oddest coincidence! I just finished Space Opera by Catherynne M. Valente this morning. I had never heard of Valente before Space Opera. At one point in this point in Head On, a character picks up a book by Valente and mentions it is very good. It doesn’t mention the title, but it is weird that she would come up right after I finish one of her books!

  2. 4 out of 5

    jessica

    i went into this remembering next to nothing about what happened in the first book (didnt feel like a reread) - i only vaguely remembered that some people have robot bodies. lol. but thank goodness this acts as a standalone or else i would have been so lost! and for a book about a sport where the goal is to decapitate people, i was expecting this to have been a little more brutal, but the main focus was definitely on the police investigation (and i wasnt too bothered by that). this was your typi i went into this remembering next to nothing about what happened in the first book (didnt feel like a reread) - i only vaguely remembered that some people have robot bodies. lol. but thank goodness this acts as a standalone or else i would have been so lost! and for a book about a sport where the goal is to decapitate people, i was expecting this to have been a little more brutal, but the main focus was definitely on the police investigation (and i wasnt too bothered by that). this was your typical crime mystery with a cool sci-fi environment which made me question what i know about human rights and morals. it had its ups and downs, but it was a pretty decent story, overall! 3.5 stars

  3. 5 out of 5

    Robin (Bridge Four)

    This review was originally posted on Books of My Heart 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 don This review was originally posted on Books of My Heart 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? “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.” 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. "I did not destroy another threep,” I said. “A car did.” "You got hit by a car.” “Twice.” “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.” 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 received this book for free from NetGalley for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Bradley

    This is a super easy read that hits all the fun spots for all you folks who're into Sports, Mysteries, and great concept SF filled with robots designed for tele-reality and virtual reality. I'm one of those readers who are very partial to the SF stuff and I like a good mystery, too, so I had a great time on that alone. But here's the funny part: the sports aspect is unique as hell and full of some great twists. :) Such as getting your head pulled off during the play to be used as a football. As p This is a super easy read that hits all the fun spots for all you folks who're into Sports, Mysteries, and great concept SF filled with robots designed for tele-reality and virtual reality. I'm one of those readers who are very partial to the SF stuff and I like a good mystery, too, so I had a great time on that alone. But here's the funny part: the sports aspect is unique as hell and full of some great twists. :) Such as getting your head pulled off during the play to be used as a football. As part of the game. :) Those people from the previous book, the folks who're stuck in their bodies and can only get out by using a waldo-robot or by those biological peeps who are wired for it are now pretty much the only game in town when it comes to full contact sports. It's all robots, of course, and transferred consciousnesses, and a wild story that's the equal of any modern mystery in that OTHER genre. :) In a lot of ways, I think this sequel featuring our favorite FBI Lock-In is superior to the first. :) I'm totally glad to have read it. It's just plain good and fun. :)

  5. 4 out of 5

    Jilly

    *Shakes Fist at John Scalzi!!!* Damn you, Scalzi! We still don't know if Chris is a male or female. You just like mind-fucking us don't you? Come on!! Now who's messing with us? VEGAN cookies? Eww... no thanks, I'll have crab juice instead. Chris is out narrator and he/she is in the FBI, and look, I'm just going to assign Chris a gender right now because I'm not writing out he/she for every stupid thing I say. Chris is a girl. I've declared it because: 1. I want Chris to be a girl because she's so fr *Shakes Fist at John Scalzi!!!* Damn you, Scalzi! We still don't know if Chris is a male or female. You just like mind-fucking us don't you? Come on!! Now who's messing with us? VEGAN cookies? Eww... no thanks, I'll have crab juice instead. Chris is out narrator and he/she is in the FBI, and look, I'm just going to assign Chris a gender right now because I'm not writing out he/she for every stupid thing I say. Chris is a girl. I've declared it because: 1. I want Chris to be a girl because she's so freaking cool and snarky. 2. Chris mentions a book that was one of her favorites as a child by author Catherynne Valente and I looked her up. The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making is a series. Seems like something girls would love. 3. In the first book, when her partner saw Chris's actual body, she said that she was surprised. I think she had been assuming Chris was a male. 4. Did I mention that Chris is too cool to be a boy? She's one of us. So, problem solved. You might as well write it in now, Scalzi. No, I'm serious. Get on this. You're riding my last nerve here. Chris's partner, Leslie, is also very cool. In good cop-bad cop, she's always bad cop. She just does it so well. The crime they are trying to solve has to do with a death during a game that is basically robot wars. Robots trying to rip off each other's heads to use as a ball. Strangely, this doesn't even seem silly or crazy anymore. We all know that if we get robot bodies - this will become a sport. Really, how many years away can this be? Scalzi is a genius! hey wait...it's been done. Screw you, Scalzi!! There is tons of humor and fun while they try and solve the crime. Plus, as an added bonus, more people and robots die. This series is a must for sci-fi fans. You will like it almost as much as you like goateed Mr. Spock.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Gary

    At some point in the future – when early 21st century media culture is assessed in all its heedless glory – a full audit of the blogger/novelist phenomenon will come to pass, and John Scalzi will likely be held as one of its most successful and admired specimens. By blogger/novelist I don’t mean “novelist who blogs”, or blogger who turns their blog into a book, but of a specific mutant hybrid of both mediums. Scalzi has transposed all the elements of a thriving blog into his fiction writing care At some point in the future – when early 21st century media culture is assessed in all its heedless glory – a full audit of the blogger/novelist phenomenon will come to pass, and John Scalzi will likely be held as one of its most successful and admired specimens. By blogger/novelist I don’t mean “novelist who blogs”, or blogger who turns their blog into a book, but of a specific mutant hybrid of both mediums. Scalzi has transposed all the elements of a thriving blog into his fiction writing career: a prolific output that needs to be both urgent and memorable, that feels like a product of the present-day culture’s collective consciousness as much as a piece of his own brain spilling out onto page and screen. A unique biochemical cocktail is required for a brain like this to squirm its way into the marketplace of ideas, a kind of ego-driven charisma that relies far more on generosity than selfishness, but also acknowledges that a healthy dallop of self-centeredness is an essential part of the formula. There’s a moment in his new novel, the near-future crime thriller Head On, when FBI agent Chris Shane takes a “classic” Catherynne Valente novel from a suspect’s bookshelf during an interrogation, and both interviewer and interviewee awkwardly profess their love for it before moving on to the business at hand. Shout-outs to friends and colleagues are a staple of Scalzi the blogger and Scalzi the novelist, a show of warm-hearted regard that accedes not only to an author’s place in the production of a text, but to this author’s in particular. It’s not just a shout-out to Valente as a fellow traveler, but to Scalzi’s own devoted fan base, who know that moments like these express why he loves doing what he does. Head On is the standalone sequel to Lock In, Scalzi’s popular and well-regarded technothriller from 2014. Lock In set up a near-future scenario where a small but significant percentage of the population is afflicted with Haden’s syndrome, which leaves its victims with fully active brains literally locked inside their completely inert bodies. Public accommodations for this new class of persons with disabilities ensue, resulting in, alongside other technological advances, robotic vehicles called “threeps” that a Haden can operate remotely using a neural net attached to their brains. Threeps allow Hadens to live relatively normal professional and social lives while their bodies remain stationary. Lock In introduced us to Haden FBI agent Chris Shane and his partner, non-Haden Leslie Vann, as they investigated a murder committed using Haden-based technology. In Head On, Scalzi explores the way Hadens culture leaves its mark on mass entertainment – in this case a professional sports league called Hilketa, where Hadens pilot their threeps in a game where scoring depends on forcibly removing the (robot) head of an opposing player. At the opening of Head On, a player’s real body dies as its threep’s head is removed, and suspicious activity by the league’s front office points to a coverup. Shane and Vann once again become enmeshed in a high-profile case with huge stakes, big money interests, and intense media scrutiny. I’ve always felt that Scalzi writes fiction with a journalist’s flair for delivering information in accessible, controlled bursts. The overture to Head On comes in the form of a magazine (or probably webzine) article, a very convincing bit of faux sports reporting for Scalzi’s imaginary Hilketa league that effortlessly manages to pulls off the holy grail of genre writing: the invisible info-dump – a way of setting the table for the estranged reader in a way that would feel organic to a familiar one. It’s an effective tone-setter that plays on Scalzi’s strengths as a writer – his ability to write science fiction that appeals to SF fans without alienating non-SF readers. Scalzi can sometimes be overly meticulous in designing his plots, so part of the fun of Head On comes when you realize that his protagonist shares his creator’s passion for methodical professionalism, but his enemy is more likely akin to a belligerent fool who let one bad idea spiral dangerously out of control. A snapshot of the present moment in America, if there ever was one. In many ways, Head On and its predecessor feel closer to the Scalzi of internet lore than his space operas do. POV narrator Shane disseminates his tale in the same easygoing, smart and snarky manner that Scalzi the blogger is known for, and while one could say the same of his other protagonists, only Shane gets to do so in a milieu that roughly approximates present day America. Because as much as Scalzi likes to make up cool stuff about things that might happen someday, he also likes to say witty things about stuff that’s going on right now, and in Head On he gets to do both in the kind of quick, digestible bites that fire up the neurons without weighing the reader down. In other words, Head On is about issues that matter to readers’ lives today, told with characters who pilot anthropomorphic robot suits. Add to this the fact that he is doing so in the form of the invincibly popular crime thriller and that the deciding agent of the story is a cat named Donut, and you know you are dealing with an author who sucks up to his readers in all the right ways. As much as I find Scalzi’s writing consistently entertaining, I’m actually surprised at how much I liked Head On. Lock In has the distinction of being my least favorite of Scalzi’s novels; I can say with confidence, however, that Head On won me over without diverging much from the formula its predecessor established. Fans and skeptics alike should be satisfied by the time they reach the final page. Many thanks to Netgalley and the folks at Tor Books for the opportunity to read this ARC.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Mike

    Review for Lock In. Scalzi continues the great momentum he built up in Lock In with this excellent sequel. Once again the daring duo of Chris (of the indeterminate gender) and Van find themselves involved in a complex investigation that intersects with the Haden community. In this case Hilketa, a sport that combines football with gladiatorial combat and robot bodies. Of course all is not as it appears, billions of dollars in investments are at risk, and death is always just around the corner. As f Review for Lock In. Scalzi continues the great momentum he built up in Lock In with this excellent sequel. Once again the daring duo of Chris (of the indeterminate gender) and Van find themselves involved in a complex investigation that intersects with the Haden community. In this case Hilketa, a sport that combines football with gladiatorial combat and robot bodies. Of course all is not as it appears, billions of dollars in investments are at risk, and death is always just around the corner. As far as the mystery goes Scalzi once again delivers a twisty-turny case that meshes very well with the wider plot and makes good use of the world he has conjured up. I don't want to get too deep into it, sufficed to say I had no idea what the conspiracy was until the very end and I was engaged in the story the whole time. All the characters are great and jive well together. I continue to love the Van-Chris partnership. I am happy to see there is not a whiff of sexual tension there, they are both dedicated investigators who work well together and respect each other. For my money they are the best investigative duo in the SFF space. But what I would rather talk about is how Scalzi uses the fictional medical condition in this series to explore broader social ideas. I have always maintained that good science fiction is a reflection on contemporary society, either how it is or how it could be. In the case of this series Scalzi examines just what it means to be an outsider of society. People suffering from Haden's Syndrome are physically separated from the rest of humanity, forced to interact through an online space or through robots (threeps). They are very much separate from the rest of humanity and rightly view themselves as a distinct minority group, even if their numbers span the spectrum of humanity. That is what makes Hilketa so interesting. It is a respected space where Haden's actually have an advantage over the rest of humanity. Because they have spend so much of their lives interacting through Threeps they are much, much better suited to navigating them in a competitive environment even if, in theory, the league is open to everyone. It is a mark of pride for the community so when one of the players dies on the field it is a big deal. On top of that the previous book saw the repeal of many support programs and funding for Hadens. We see early impact of this repeal in Head On. Hadens will find it more difficult to afford threeps and be forced more and more to the fringes of society. Even with Hilketa and prominent Hadens like Chris they rightly fear they will become another marginalized group. Compounded with the seemingly inevitable trend that would allow normal humans to also operate threeps and the Haden community in this book feels very much under siege. And I found that interesting. Scalzi didn't just make the disease and its effects as a convenient means of forcing Chris to drive a threep and thereby distinguishing him/her from other similar characters. Scalzi extrapolated just how such a community would behave and how society to adjust to their existence. That exploration feeds into the stories and gives the world a very deep feel. Slap on some of that trademarked Scalzi snark and you get a really fun, engaging, and surprisingly insightful sci-fi mystery. If you wanted to know about Hilketa (the fictional game from this book) here you go, courtesy of Tor.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Robin (Bridge Four)

    A Solid 4 Star Read In a world where 1% of the population interacts with the rest of the world in something akin to C-3PO this was a game that was bound to be invented. The reason Hilketa is so popular is that the players score points through simulated decapitation, and go after each other with melee weapons. It’s team gladiatorial combat, on a football field, with a nerdy scoring system. It’s all the violence every other team sport wishes it could have, but can’t, because people would actually A Solid 4 Star Read In a world where 1% of the population interacts with the rest of the world in something akin to C-3PO this was a game that was bound to be invented. The reason Hilketa is so popular is that the players score points through simulated decapitation, and go after each other with melee weapons. It’s team gladiatorial combat, on a football field, with a nerdy scoring system. It’s all the violence every other team sport wishes it could have, but can’t, because people would actually die. I'd totally watch this sport if I lived in this world. Full review to come.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Mogsy (MMOGC)

    4.5 of 5 stars at The BiblioSanctum https://bibliosanctum.com/2018/04/23/... I’m a huge fan of John Scalzi, having read almost all his novels, and when Lock In came out a few years ago it quickly became one of my favorite books by the author. It was therefore with great excitement that I picked up Head On, which is described as its standalone sequel. And indeed, you may choose to read this without having read the first book, but personally I feel you will be missing out on the subtler nuances of 4.5 of 5 stars at The BiblioSanctum https://bibliosanctum.com/2018/04/23/... I’m a huge fan of John Scalzi, having read almost all his novels, and when Lock In came out a few years ago it quickly became one of my favorite books by the author. It was therefore with great excitement that I picked up Head On, which is described as its standalone sequel. And indeed, you may choose to read this without having read the first book, but personally I feel you will be missing out on the subtler nuances of the series if you skipped right to this one. The world of Lock In and Head On is a very complex place and, as I will explain later in my review, reading both books will give you a fuller view of the picture. Once more, readers follow Chris Shane, the series’ rookie FBI agent protagonist. Chris is also a Haden, the name given to those individuals whose minds are “locked in” as the result of a devastating flu that swept across the globe several decades ago. This disease killed many in the first stage of the infection, but a percentage went on to survive only to suffer acute meningitis, which affected the victim’s brain and caused them to become trapped in a state of being fully awake and aware but having no control over their voluntary nervous systems. A cure for this condition (dubbed Haden’s Syndrome after the then president’s wife who was the most famous person to be affected at the time) was given the highest priority, though none was ever found. Instead, scientists created humanoid personal transports called “Threeps” into which locked in individuals were able to link their minds remotely, allowing them to interact with their world even as their physical bodies remained immobile. By the time this series takes place, personal transport technology has become much more developed and advanced. It has even permeated into the world of professional sports, in which Hadens pilot specialized Threeps in a fast and furious game known as Hilketa. Though the sport itself is extremely violent, involving the lopping off of heads with swords and war hammers, no one technically gets hurt because the only “bodies” getting battered and broken on the field are the robot-like Threeps. However, during a high-profile special exhibition game, an up-and-coming player named Duane Chapman suddenly dies in the middle of a match meant to attract new investors to the North American Hilketa League, his vitals disappearing off the boards for all to see. NAHL officials are quick to cover up the incident, leading Chris, who was present in the skybox during the fatal match, to suspect there’s more to Chapman’s death than meets the eye. Like its predecessor, Head On reads like a sci-fi mystery thriller, following FBI agents Chris Shane and Leslie Vann as they sniff out clues and hunt down the perpetrators in Haden-related crimes. But unlike the previous installment, it dispenses with much of the social commentary and focus on topical themes, putting the emphasis on investigative procedures the actual crime solving. Happily, the culprit also wasn’t as obvious this time compared to Lock In. As a result, I felt that this sequel was more exciting in terms of pacing and levels of suspense, especially since the trail to find Duane Chapman’s murderer subsequently leads Chris to all kinds of strange personalities and bizarre happenings related to the dark underbelly of the Hilketa industry. Uncovering everything from backroom deals to sordid affairs, our protagonist winds up being caught up in series of harrowing events that include arson, assassination, and a whole pile of destroyed Threeps. Needless to say, this novel ended up being a very quick read, since all that intensity and action made it hard to put down. That said, the book also lost much of its cerebral and philosophical bite due to the diminished exploration into social themes like disability, ethics in medicine, and other discussion-worthy subjects related to a world in which a significant percentage of the population suffer from an expensive and life-altering condition. While Head On lightly touches upon some of these issues, such as government funding for individuals with Haden Syndrome or the social perceptions of them in public, in this particular arena, Lock In still holds the edge. This isn’t really a dig at Head On, however; after all, you can only expound upon these themes beyond the first book to a certain extent before it starts becoming repetitive. As such, this is why I think it would be a good idea to read the two books in order; you’ll get the insightful commentary in the first one and the action and suspense in the second—the best of both worlds. Head On, though, is still in every sense a Scalzi novel. It has his signature style all over it: in the clever premise, the slick sense of humor, the quippy lines of dialogue. It’s also interesting to note, while the author is careful not to reveal the gender of the series protagonist, in my mind I still picture Chris Shane as male because Scalzi can’t ever seem to write a convincing enough female POV (see examples Zoe’s Tale or The Sagan Diary). However, that’s just my personal opinion and ultimately a non-issue, since it didn’t distract or take away from my overall enjoyment of this particular novel, whose pages I devoured while loving every moment of the story. In the end, I think I enjoyed this book just as much as Lock In, even though its tone may have shifted slightly more to a traditional mystery thriller narrative—which can be a good thing, depending on the type of reader you are. For me, Scalzi’s stories are always a delight because of how clever, witty, and approachable they are, and this one was no exception. I had a smashing good time with Head On, and whether you are new to the author or a long-time fan, I think you will too.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Ashley

    Scalzi's books are always such good palette cleansers. Head On was fast and fun (and a little bit infuriating). This is the second book in the Lock In series, which started with 2014's Lock In. You don't need to have read the first book if this one tickles your fancy, but you should, because it's great. The premise here is that in the near future, a disease called Haden's Syndrome (after the first lady of the US, it's most famous victim) makes it so that a portion of the population are locked in Scalzi's books are always such good palette cleansers. Head On was fast and fun (and a little bit infuriating). This is the second book in the Lock In series, which started with 2014's Lock In. You don't need to have read the first book if this one tickles your fancy, but you should, because it's great. The premise here is that in the near future, a disease called Haden's Syndrome (after the first lady of the US, it's most famous victim) makes it so that a portion of the population are locked in to their bodies, perfectly aware, but unable to move on their own or care for themselves. But because of the first lady, massive amounts of funding and research happened early on, and led to social progormas, legislation, and inventions to benefit the new population. The most significant of these are the Agora, a virtual space where Hadens (as they've come to be called) can be ambulatory and interact with one another, and Threeps (short for Threepio), robot bodies that Hadens can use to move about in the physical world. Half the fun in these books is watching the way Scalzi plays with the social and economic order in a world where something like this has happened. Of course, I say fun, but it's not ALL fun. These are also murder mystery/thrillers, after all, and our protagonist is a Haden named Chris who was famous in childhood for being a Haden and having a famous NBA player father, but who is now an FBI agent. The dynamic between Chris in a Threep body and Chris's partner, Leslie, is continually fascinating. Not least because Leslie is a really fun character, very bitter and full of piss and vinegar. Scalzi has thought out the worldbuilding here very well. But in this one specifically, the mystery is also a delightful combo of dark humor and surprising pathos. Hilketa is the fastest growing sport in the world, and it can only be played by people in a Threep, because the entire point of the game is to rip your opponent's head off and use it to score points. Not something a person in a non-robot body would be able to handle, but very amusing to think about, and just as in the world in the book, entertaining to watch. However, also just as in the book, we as the reader are immediately made to feel guilty for our barbaric impulses, as the case of a murdered Hilketa player who died in the middle of gameplay after having his Threep's head ripped off three times in one game, brings to light the dark underbelly of the sport, and the corporate greed that is steadily making things worse for all Hadens. I expected for this book to make me laugh, because Scalzi's stuff always does that for me, but I didn't expect it to make me angry. I hope Scalzi keeps putting these books out every once in a while. Not least because I want him to write a book that deals with the worsening conditions for Hadens legally, and in a substantial way instead of a background one. Chris, as an extremely privileged person, has not really been affected by it all because all that NBA money means multiple Threeps can be bought, not one but two personal carers can be hired, and Chris never has to worry about healthcare or job security, so I think that might be an interesting POV to write from.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Veronique

    Having loved Lock In (and the short story that started it all Unlocked: An Oral History of Haden's Syndrome), I couldn’t wait to get my hands on this sequel. As expected, we are offered another fast-paced police procedural set in a world very much like our own but with some important differences due to a percentage of the population suffering from Haden’s Syndrome, in effect locking people in their own bodies. The murder mystery is treated in the usual way, focusing on the FBI Agents Chris Shane Having loved Lock In (and the short story that started it all Unlocked: An Oral History of Haden's Syndrome), I couldn’t wait to get my hands on this sequel. As expected, we are offered another fast-paced police procedural set in a world very much like our own but with some important differences due to a percentage of the population suffering from Haden’s Syndrome, in effect locking people in their own bodies. The murder mystery is treated in the usual way, focusing on the FBI Agents Chris Shane and Leslie Vann’s investigation of a sports related murder. However, since the violent sport in question is one only played by Hadens using their threeps, nothing is as it seems. On the surface, this is a very easy and entertaining read, but in the background, Scalzi carries on with his treatment of the notion of gender as well as that of perception. If I had one wish, it would be that he develops Chris more deeply somehow, especially since Vann’s portrayal is spot on.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Vivian

    "Basically, Hilketa is both representation and alienation for Hadens." This is an FBI procedural story set in the near future where the case is focused on robot controlled medieval gladiatorial sports, Hilketa. I wish there had been more sport, but this emphasized the political and economical consequences of Hadens, especially how business and legislation are in a constant push and pull. It feels like a Washington D.C. story with the lens decidedly on the business side. The trajectory was good, b "Basically, Hilketa is both representation and alienation for Hadens." This is an FBI procedural story set in the near future where the case is focused on robot controlled medieval gladiatorial sports, Hilketa. I wish there had been more sport, but this emphasized the political and economical consequences of Hadens, especially how business and legislation are in a constant push and pull. It feels like a Washington D.C. story with the lens decidedly on the business side. The trajectory was good, but it felt dry. This is not a thriller even though there are elements which certainly seem pegged as such. But I guess that the protagonist, Agent Chris Shane, because he is a Haden can be preternaturally calm since his physical body is not responsible for the checks his threep is cashing. This had some interesting points about inclusion for people who are limited by their physical bodies in the social world through threeps--imagine androids you can neurally connect to and interact in everyday life from work to shopping to family. Imagine them as star athletes with huge endorsement deals. It also brings to question all the other kinds of human interaction including sex and identity. Overall, this was a fun read. Good choice for a beach, pool, or lazy weekend read. And this world is a lot closer than you think, see this BBC article about a running robot: http://www.bbc.com/news/av/world-us-c.... We just need the neural interface, which is a lot like saying sure we're going to Mars as soon as we figure out how to deal with solar radiation so we don't cook people along the way.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Lindsay

    Chris Shane and Leslie Vann are back and investigating the mysterious death of a professional athlete in Hillketa, a sport where all the players are affected by Haden's Syndrome. What follows is a multi-city investigation involving adultery and a corporate sports league where murders and violent crime are all over the place as someone desperately tries to cover-up what's actually happening and trying to stay one step ahead of the FBI. I thought that this was an excellent follow-up to the brillian Chris Shane and Leslie Vann are back and investigating the mysterious death of a professional athlete in Hillketa, a sport where all the players are affected by Haden's Syndrome. What follows is a multi-city investigation involving adultery and a corporate sports league where murders and violent crime are all over the place as someone desperately tries to cover-up what's actually happening and trying to stay one step ahead of the FBI. I thought that this was an excellent follow-up to the brilliant Lock In, further exploring the world of Haden's Syndrome and the impact of hostile government legislation on a community that depends on it. Parallels with the current US government rollback of health subsidies aren't hard to make. My only criticism of these books so far is that I'm really not getting much of a feel of who Chris is outside of the FBI, with even conversations with their friends and family revolving around FBI cases. That's probably fine this early in the series; I get the impression that young FBI agents probably don't have much of a life outside of their jobs.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Lauren

    Wry wit, social commentary, and a world full of stories: I really enjoy Scalzi's Lock In universe, and was happy to read this sequel. In this rich world of androids and humans, Scalzi explores the role of the body and mind in identity, and dis/ability, business and politics, all in a fun procedural buddy-cop format. Scalzi's mashup of genres is ever-entertaining and I hope he keeps going with this for a long while.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Lata

    First thoughts: fast-paced, love Vann and Shane’s interactions. And the business side of Hilketa was interesting.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Jane

    3 meh, this is an ok story-stars for the Audible edition of Head On, as narrated by Wil Wheaton. Add half a star for the great (as always) narration by Wil, and I'll throw in another half-star in appreciation of Scalzi managing to squeeze in the phrase "Applied directly to the forehead!" Overall: 4 stars, but I sure wish there'd been more Scalzi silliness.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Suzanne

    This is basically a mystery with a really cool setting. I enjoyed it! I liked the premise a lot, and I especially enjoyed the first part and getting back into the world.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Jenny Baker

    This is my least favorite Scalzi novel to date, but this wasn't bad at all. I enjoyed it, but I wasn't as wowed as I was with Lock In and Old Man's War. The summary says that you can read this as a standalone, but I recommend that you read Lock In first. It took at least 50 pages for me to get into this. Once the story picked up I loved it, but there were too many ups and downs for me. One minute I was glued to the book and the next I was a little bored. I just wish there had been more consisten This is my least favorite Scalzi novel to date, but this wasn't bad at all. I enjoyed it, but I wasn't as wowed as I was with Lock In and Old Man's War. The summary says that you can read this as a standalone, but I recommend that you read Lock In first. It took at least 50 pages for me to get into this. Once the story picked up I loved it, but there were too many ups and downs for me. One minute I was glued to the book and the next I was a little bored. I just wish there had been more consistency with the pacing and overall storytelling. I loved the fact that this was a mystery in a science fiction world. I couldn't wait to find out how Duane Chapman died. Chris Shane and Leslie Vann are pretty cool FBI agents. During their investigation, there was a great twist adding yet another mystery to the story! Overall, I'm still a John Scalzi fan and I plan to read the rest of his works. I don't expect to love every novel from an author. If his "worst" novel is a three-star read for me, that's pretty damn good.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Anne

    I really do hope that there are more of these to come. I loved both books so much!

  20. 4 out of 5

    Marianna Neal

    2.5 out of 5 stars Let me start out by saying I don't think this is a bad book. Furthermore, there were parts of Head On that I enjoyed and that actually gave me hope of finally "getting into" this book. But, unfortunately, it just didn't do much for me—the story, the characters, the writing... none of this went above average, hence the 2.5 out of 5 rating. It was just... OK. The idea of Head On is definitely much better than the execution, especially considering how interesting Lock In was.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Maryam

    I always enjoy Scalzi’s books. Always fun and fast passed Sci-Fi. If you like mysteries and sports, you would enjoy this book. Second book in Lock in series is around a unique violent game for Hadens, small percentage of population who cannot move physically but are present in real world nonetheless through their Threep. Although violent no player should be in real danger but everything changes when a player dies during a game and one of the audience is Chris , the most famous Haden which happens I always enjoy Scalzi’s books. Always fun and fast passed Sci-Fi. If you like mysteries and sports, you would enjoy this book. Second book in Lock in series is around a unique violent game for Hadens, small percentage of population who cannot move physically but are present in real world nonetheless through their Threep. Although violent no player should be in real danger but everything changes when a player dies during a game and one of the audience is Chris , the most famous Haden which happens to be a FBI agent who will be in charge for this case along with his not too friendly partner. I liked this book more than previous one.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Obsidian

    Please note that I received this book via NetGalley. This did not affect my rating or review. Not a lot to say here besides I freaking loved this book. I loved Lock In (the first book in the series) and the world that John Scalzi created. I adored the characters of Vann and Chris. Though the book is told via Chris's POV, I do wish one of the books would be told in Vann's POV. She is just my favorite. It's been several months or at least a year since the events in the first book. We have Chris stil Please note that I received this book via NetGalley. This did not affect my rating or review. Not a lot to say here besides I freaking loved this book. I loved Lock In (the first book in the series) and the world that John Scalzi created. I adored the characters of Vann and Chris. Though the book is told via Chris's POV, I do wish one of the books would be told in Vann's POV. She is just my favorite. It's been several months or at least a year since the events in the first book. We have Chris still working for the FBI and partnering with Vann. When Chris goes to meet his parents at a Hilketa game, he witnesses a player being taken off the field. Everyone quickly realizes the player is dead. The FBI is brought in due to the fact that the Hilketa game is played by Hadens and that means though the crime took place in Washington, D.C. the Haden player's body was somewhere else. What follows is a lot of twists and turns until you have Chris and Vann figure out how somehow could have killed someone while they were playing a game. Chris is still living with his roommates and though they were barely in the first half of the book, they do pop up in the second half more. His partnership with Vann is still the best. They crack me up and pop off each other a lot. Chris's parents are still reassuringly there for their son and are involved with the plot in this book too. We do get new characters in this one and we get to meet another integrator (someone who had the first symptoms of Haden's, but didn't get the full disease) whose life I wish we were told more about. I swear that Scalzi could totally publish some novellas featuring new characters and I would not be upset. I do love the world that Scalzi has built in this one. Hadens are unfortunately dealing with the fall-out from a bill that was passed in the last book. Many are struggling to make ends meet and now there are rumblings about having non-Hadens get their own threeps as well. I like that Chris sees the issues with this in this book, and I wonder if this is going to pop up in the next book as a plot point. The ending leaves things with some of the bad guys caught, but with Chris and Vann realizing a bigger conspiracy may be out there. I really did need the X-Files theme song blaring away in the background at this point.

  23. 4 out of 5

    ashley c

    Action film packed in paperback format. Self-contained mystery about a Haden athletic dying while on the field. That isn't too strange if you didn't read the first book. If you did, you'd know that a Haden is someone who is essentially in a coma physically but still able to perceive the world and go about their daily life piloting a robot body with their brain. The athletic died in his bed while his robot body was on the field, which wasn't supposed to happen. It's a short and sweet self-containe Action film packed in paperback format. Self-contained mystery about a Haden athletic dying while on the field. That isn't too strange if you didn't read the first book. If you did, you'd know that a Haden is someone who is essentially in a coma physically but still able to perceive the world and go about their daily life piloting a robot body with their brain. The athletic died in his bed while his robot body was on the field, which wasn't supposed to happen. It's a short and sweet self-contained mystery with a nice ending that tied everything together. I enjoyed the book - sped through it in a few days. I liked the world-building and continuity from the first book about society and life after the Haden syndrome much more than the sports-centered mystery, actually, but to be fair, there was plenty of the former in the book peppered in the background, enough for you to pick it up along the way. Very creative and I was completely immersed in the world and the plot.

  24. 4 out of 5

    kartik narayanan

    Head On is a good follow up to Lock In. Most of the complaints I had about Lock In have been addressed here, while it still retains all of its strengths. In my review of Lock In, I mentioned that its strength was its excellent world building - on par with any Asimov out there - while it was let down by its poor storyline and paper thin characters. Rejoice! I liked the story in Head On and the characters, while not robust, are definitely better portrayed this time. John Scalzi choses to focus on t Head On is a good follow up to Lock In. Most of the complaints I had about Lock In have been addressed here, while it still retains all of its strengths. In my review of Lock In, I mentioned that its strength was its excellent world building - on par with any Asimov out there - while it was let down by its poor storyline and paper thin characters. Rejoice! I liked the story in Head On and the characters, while not robust, are definitely better portrayed this time. John Scalzi choses to focus on the aftermath of the AK act with its implications on the industries that were relying on the pork coming with the Haden disability act. There is a game here, which while I personally found boring, at least adds to the richness of the story. In fact, the story revolves around this game and its associated league. There is a nice little conspiracy underlying all this. I am looking forward to the next one!

  25. 5 out of 5

    Michael

    I’m so glad that Scalzi returns to the fascinating near-future world of Hadens, people representing about 1% of the world’s population who were stricken with an epidemic causing neural damage in a pattern leaving them totally unable to move. This state, called “Locked-In”and used for the earlier novel’s title, was the target of a massive, “moonshot” of government sponsored research efforts and subsidies which led to the development two avenues for the disease victims to live effective lives. One I’m so glad that Scalzi returns to the fascinating near-future world of Hadens, people representing about 1% of the world’s population who were stricken with an epidemic causing neural damage in a pattern leaving them totally unable to move. This state, called “Locked-In”and used for the earlier novel’s title, was the target of a massive, “moonshot” of government sponsored research efforts and subsidies which led to the development two avenues for the disease victims to live effective lives. One was sophisticated neural implants allowing their immobile selves mental control and emulated sensory input from android robots, as connected via a super, universal-sort of WiFi. The second was a special online virtual world where many Hadens prefer to spend the majority of their time in the company of their peers. Our hero Chris is a famous Haden, the son of a wealthy couple who helped lead the policy initiatives behind the life-giving technology innovations. He humbly and effectively serves as an FBI agent dealing with Haden-related crimes, partnered with a tough veteran female agent, Vann, who complements Chris’ insight-based ethical approach with a sarcastic, no-nonsense style. The case that kicks off the story here concerns a Haden, Chapman, who dies while remote-piloting his specialized combat android in a professional stadium game called Hilketa. This lucrative team sport sounds like a no-holds barred kind of rugby in which points are scored for taking off the head of an opponent and moving it to the goal. The physiological monitoring system suggests an epileptic-like disturbance preceded his death. The league’s owners are concerned that the investigation will conclude that the sport is dangerously stressful to the participating Hadens experiencing the sensations though the virtual sensorium. If instead someone has put an additive into the Haden’s IV supplement, it would suggest someone may be trying to sabotage their gravy train, right when companies involved are trying to expand the league to Asia and Europe for a big new surge in profits. When one of the company executives turns up dead from an apparent but suspicious suicide, corporate corruption and greed seems to be at play somehow. A third alternative is that the player who died was killed somehow for personal reasons. His estranged wife of the dead player, a regular human, in fact clues Chris into the affair her husband has been having with another Haden. How is that possible with Hadens? Via sexbots! Now Scalzi is giving us an innovation of plausibly large economic interest. It is a fair projection that lots of normal humans might be willing to get the same neural implants as the Hadens if they could act out and feel things via their choice of anatomically correct (or fancifully equipped) android avatars for outrageous sex. He doesn’t have to immerse us much into the details to convey some interesting possibilities. They outshadow the potential of normal humans with implants for pursuing play in the Hilketa league. All these novel motivations for murder and its coverup are like new wine in the old bottles of a traditional police procedural. Ditto for the police-buddy teamwork of Chris and Vann, replete with snappy jokes, one upmanship, and good cop/bad cop routines in interviews. At the same time, a regular human detective partnered with an apparent robot harks back to the flavor of Asimov’s “I Robot” series. The ability of Chris, lying in a bed in his parent’s house, to essentially leap across distances to “appear” in the control and form of different android machines in various locations leads to a lot of exciting surprises in the action. Like a cop whose bravado gets him in trouble for wrecking too many vehicles, Chris has a patterns of frequently getting expensive departmental models wrecked, burned up, or run over by vehicles. And Haden criminals hiding out their selves in expensive simulations in the Agora virtual world can be tracked down there by Chris. I’ve always loved sci fi exploration of personalized places in computer networks, starting with Gibson and Stephenson’s work that predates the internet. Here we are treated to some fun with some fascinating variations. This book was provided for review through the Netgalley program.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Renay

    I heard him read from this at a recent event and I almost fell out of my chair because I was leaning forward in suspense. IT'S GONNA BE SO GOOD.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Caidyn (SEMI-HIATUS; BW Reviews; he/him/his)

    This review can also be found here! TW: death (bc it’s a murder mystery) Compared to the first book, this one kind of sucked. Let me back it up. The first book had a great and enthralling plot that just sucked me in completely, along with great characters that I just absolutely loved because they were so complex. I devoured the whole book eagerly. I ended up wanting so much more and needed it at that second once I finished the book. But this book? The plot didn’t interest me. At the start, it was bec This review can also be found here! TW: death (bc it’s a murder mystery) Compared to the first book, this one kind of sucked. Let me back it up. The first book had a great and enthralling plot that just sucked me in completely, along with great characters that I just absolutely loved because they were so complex. I devoured the whole book eagerly. I ended up wanting so much more and needed it at that second once I finished the book. But this book? The plot didn’t interest me. At the start, it was because it involved sports and, well, I’m not a sporty sort of guy. So it bored me trying to get down the in and outs of this fake game when I can’t even tell you what the fuck anything in football (American style) means. Tangent: My friend tried teaching me and I thought they switched goals at half-time and she looked at me like I was fucking nuts. BUT. The plot didn’t pick up from there. Literally, it just didn’t capture my interest. I think that I expected more after waiting, like, four years for the second book in the series. I expected the plot to be just so absorbing that I would space out watching the second season of The Crown and have a reason to rewatch it after two days. Alas. Next, the catching and exciting characters from the first book didn’t have any growth. I didn’t feel like they developed any between the book. They were the same and there was nothing life changing that happened with them. Just doing the same sort of thing. That was all. I think what I was looking for was, after an explosive beginning, was for it to slow down and a case would really effect one of them to the point where something happened. What this book felt like to me was a really action-packed mystery movie or series that had one hit after another that just didn’t feel right. It’s interesting and all, but it didn’t feel right. I even skimmed the last chapter and stopped reading when I had three pages left because I couldn’t be bothered. Will I check out the rest of this series if Scalzi publishes more? Maybe.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Robert

    If you liked Lock In you will probably like this. If you like murder mysteries and aren't opposed to SF you'll probably like this. If you liked anything else Scalzi has written you'll probably like this. And if you like witness protection cats, you will definitely like this! It doesn't repeat the whole subtext of Lock In and doesn't really replace that subtext with anything, but it tells an amusing tale of smart-arsery, corruption, murder, arson, wanton destruction of telefactors - and a cat call If you liked Lock In you will probably like this. If you like murder mysteries and aren't opposed to SF you'll probably like this. If you liked anything else Scalzi has written you'll probably like this. And if you like witness protection cats, you will definitely like this! It doesn't repeat the whole subtext of Lock In and doesn't really replace that subtext with anything, but it tells an amusing tale of smart-arsery, corruption, murder, arson, wanton destruction of telefactors - and a cat called Donut. You're gonna hafta read the book to find out what happens to him.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Kate

    I loved Lock In so much and this is every bit as good. Shane and Bank are such an unusual yet brilliant pair of FBI agents, like none others you'll meet, and the near future in which they operate is perfectly realised. And it's all so much fun! Review to follow shortly on For Winter Nights.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Alan

    I have a confession to make, sports fans: I just can't get interested in sportsball—in any of the many, many (so many) combinations of spheroids (or ovoids) and rules and uniforms and fields with lines on them that obsess so many other people (worldwide; this is not just an American trait). So when I just now told you that Head On, the sequel to John Scalzi's Lock In, was recommended to me in part by "a lifelong fascination with murderball"—well, that was a lie, that was. Which means that I actua I have a confession to make, sports fans: I just can't get interested in sportsball—in any of the many, many (so many) combinations of spheroids (or ovoids) and rules and uniforms and fields with lines on them that obsess so many other people (worldwide; this is not just an American trait). So when I just now told you that Head On, the sequel to John Scalzi's Lock In, was recommended to me in part by "a lifelong fascination with murderball"—well, that was a lie, that was. Which means that I actually had a hard time getting traction when I started reading this novel. The prologue and first few chapters focus almost entirely on describing the sport and business of Hilketa (which literally means "murder" in Basque, a point Scalzi makes during the course of the novel—you can Google it). Hilketa's played entirely via telepresence—all of the players are "threeps," piloted by remote control. The sport kind of has to be played that way—one team is required to decapitate the other team's designated "goat," in order to score points with the head. If you're the goat, you just have to try to keep your head on. You don't have to be a Haden to play Hilketa, technically, but experience with telepresence helps immensely... and so everyone in the North American Hilketa League is a Haden. Okay, maybe I'd better back up a bit. In Lock In, we met Chris Shane, our protagonist here as well. Chris never gets out of bed. He's not just lazy, though. Chris literally can't move a muscle. He has Haden's Syndrome, a slow-incubating meningeal fever that swept the world, affecting rich and poor alike (the disease is named after the First Lady who contracted it, in fact). But Chris' paralysis doesn't prevent him from having an exciting and active career as an FBI agent, because Chris, like most other Hadens in the U.S., has a "threep"—a humanoid robot body that he can control as if it were his own, through high-definition immersive telepresence. When he's "sense-forward," it's easy to forget he even has a meat body lying somewhere in his parents' mansion near Washington, D.C. (Though his parents don't forget—there's a really tender scene where Chris' mother insists on cutting his hair herself, an important reminder that Hadens are human beings, not just pilots of their robotic extremities...). Chris is by no means a Hilketa player, or even a fan, but he happens to be in the wrong place at the right time, when Duane Chapman becomes the first Hilketa player to die—really die, not just suffer a glitch—during a high-stakes game. And since Chris is an FBI agent... well, it's time for him to meet this new challenge, head on. And once that happens, things really start moving. It took me only 12 hours to read Head On, all told, and that despite its slow start. Which is both a good and a bad thing. Scalzi doesn't write that quickly, after all, and Head On felt really light to me, almost fluffy, despite its sometimes weighty subject matter. Perhaps this was at least somewhat intentional, Scalzi's reaction to realizing that2017 was a raging trash fire of a year, filled with horrible people trying to do horrible things and often succeeding. —Acknowledgements, p.333At any rate... Lock In was an immensely enjoyable ride. Head On was a little less so, for me, but it was still a fast-paced near-future thriller that definitely dragged me in.

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