Lock In, by John Scalzi
In the near distant future, a new virus takes its place on the world stage; the majority of those who are infected suffer flu like symptoms, a smaller percent suffer meningitis-like symptoms. While many of the smaller group die, a few survive and find that they are “locked in” to their own body, fully aware but unable to move or respond to their surroundings. While the numbers of those locked in are small comparative to the total population, about 1.7 million people in the U.S. alone must deal with this condition. Technology comes to the rescue, creating a new “virtual” environment called the Agora, where lock in’s can interact with each other and with those in the real world. This technology also allows lock in’s to put themselves into robotic bodies called “threeps,” (after C3PO, natch!) so they can interact with the physical world. A few virus survivors, called integrators, have the new ability to allow lock in’s to “borrow” their human body and use it as their own, for a price. Enter Chris Shane, FBI agent and a lock in who works his job both via a threep and via the Agora. His partner, Louise Vann is one of the rare individuals who can allow lock ins to borrow her body. When integrators start dying, and a major medical research firm is blown up, the FBI fears a deeper conspiracy. Someone, it seems, is trying to use the lock in’s and their special needs for their own profit or gain. It’s up to Shane and Vann to figure out whom, before the conflict escalates beyond repair.
This book reminded me of “I, Robot,” by Isaac Asimov, in that it explored what it means to be human. This is an excellent sci-fi thriller, with great pacing, snappy dialogue, and a thought-provoking plot. I highly recommend it.
Dry Bones in the Valley, by Tom Bouman
Officer Henry Ferrell works in Wild Thyme, Pennsylvania, a rural northern town whose economy and landscape is slowly being changed by encroaching gas drilling operations. When the body of a young man is revealed by the March snow melt, Henry and his deputy, George Ellis, start an investigation. When George Ellis winds up dead, Henry is pulled into a maelstrom of police politics, small town attitudes, family feuds, and drug-related crimes. Like a hound dog following scent, Henry tenaciously follows lead after lead, hoping for a revelation into the cause of both murders. Yet the truth remains elusive. Henry must become more cunning and daring in his attempts to solve both crimes, efforts that soon make him a target as well.
“Dry Bones in the Valley” is first of a series and a debut for Tom Bouman. The pacing was even and relentless, and Henry was likeable man with hidden depths. The rugged Pennsylvania landscape provided an evocative setting for an excellent mystery. Next book, I hope that Henry gets more of a chance to sleep and eat, though. He was pretty busy in this particular book. Poor guy!
Ask Me, by Kimberly Pauley
Aria Morse must answer any question she hears; she is an oracle, one descended from the Sibyls from ancient Greece. While the talent may have been valued in ancient Greece, Aria feels as if she has been cursed. She has no control over her impulse to answer questions, and people ask a lot of questions every day. Questions on the bus, questions at the market, questions at school; if Aria hears them, answers come flying out of her mouth. If the answers made sense and she could have helped her grandparents win the lottery, life might have been much better. The answers don’t always make sense though, and when they do, people often don’t want to hear them. If the answer to your wife’s question of “Where have you been all night?” is “Out with my new girlfriend,’ then the truth is just going to make people mad.
In order to deal with life in school, Aria listens to music and tries not to hear any questions. She is known as ‘the mumbler,’ in spite of her best efforts. When one of her classmates goes missing, people start to ask questions, and Aria gives answers. The answers aren’t good ones, and soon, the classmate turns up dead. As the questions surrounding the girl’s death escalate, Aria is appalled to hear the answers. More girls are going to die, and suspicion seems to fall on Alex, a boy with a known troubled family. Aria seeks the help of Will, another classmate, and soon the two of them are deeply involved in trying to stop more deaths. Aria may find that her efforts put her in more danger than anyone, and her oracle powers may not be any help at all.
This was an interesting young adult title. While many paranormal books focus on vampires or werewolves, it was nice to see a book focus on a different paranormal being. Kimberly Pauley’s take on the life of an oracle was fresh, and Aria was a wonderful character to get to know. I actually would have liked to see more of the history of these women, and what they have accomplished in the world. The murder mystery was not terribly hard to figure out, but I enjoyed the journey to the end of the book nonetheless.
Filed under fantasy, mystery