Lock In by John Scalzi

Scalzi is so good at world building. I went into this book cold. All I knew was Scalzi wrote it and Wil Wheaton did the audiobook narration.

Quickly you’re thrown into a near-future world altered by contagious disease and the technology that helps to ease its effects. Millions of people in the near future have “Haden’s Syndrome,” which most often leads to death or lock in.

Technology progresses quickly to help aid people with the disease, who become referred to as “Hadens.”  It’s as if having the ailment is becoming another race. Those who are locked in can remotely control “Threeps.” Named after C-3PO from Star Wars, Threeps are machines that allow Hadens to walk around their neighborhoods, go to work, or play sports. All the while, their human body remains in a medical cradle at their home.

Laptop displaying audiobook cover art for Lock In next to a sleeping dog.
Lock In’s audiobook cover art, with avid listener dog, Nada.

The plot of Lock In is a police procedural, like an episode of Law & Order. Our narrator is a Haden and our story is his first week on the job as an FBI agent. Going too far into the details would certainly spoil,so I’ll leave that be in case you enjoy police procedurals.

It’s not a great story. It falls for the science fiction trap of solving made up problems with made up solutions without connecting enough to today’s humanity. Scalzi performs that connection so well in the Old Man’s War series, it hurts to see it fall short here.

The world though, is superb. I love the political undertones that motivate so many of the characters, providing depth. Threeps and Integrators (spoiler) are interesting enough that I want to read other stories where such a sudden technological change has consequences we’ve not yet predicted. I think it can be done without a technobabble  resolution. We can expect at least one more novel in this universe, Head On, and I’ll read it even though Lock In was a letdown to me.

I enjoyed this in Audiobook format via Audible, read by Wil Wheaton. The production was great and I’d recommend that version as well if you want to read this one.

Lock In by John Scalzi, part of my 2017 Reading

Audible | Goodreads | Wikipedia


Art Before Breakfast by Danny Gregory

When my mother got word that I was getting into drawing, she supported it whole-heartedly. For my birthday, she got me a sketchpad, art pencils, and Art Before Breakfast by Danny Gregory. Not only does the book exude a can-do attitude that everyone is capable of making art, but it excites the reader into doing so almost immediately.

Danny is also an excellent blogger who uses WordPress.com to host his site. He has an excellent series going on the ‘seven deadly creative sins.’ He also has many posts where he goes through the same creative exercises in this book. In today’s post he shared this lovely video where he does some urban sketching with a friend:

What makes the book enjoyable is how approachable Danny keeps his topic. It’s easy to fall into the trap of refining techniques and insisting on dull exercises that exemplify them. But Danny focuses on keeping his reader excited to draw. He likens taking out the sketchbook to draw to the way smokers reach for their next cigarette. It’s done as a habit, regardless of where you are or what obligations you may be facing. But instead of sickness, we instead teach ourselves the delightful habit of making art all the time and everywhere.

After any session of reading I felt strong urges to draw and I’m beginning to reach for my sketchbook more and more. Style? Technique? Competence? I’ll learn those things overtime. Most importantly right now is that I pick up the pencil and go for it. Here’s a few from Wednesday night:

A sketchbook full of drawings, even lousy ones, is far more beautiful than one full of blank pages. Thanks, Danny, for teaching me that. Thanks, Mom, for the birthday gifts.

Art Before Breakfast: A Zillion Ways to be More Creative No Matter How Busy You Are by Danny Gregory

Amazon ; Goodreads

Art Before Breakfast on dannygregorysblog.com/

You’re Never Weird on the Internet (Almost) by Felicia Day

I’m usually not much for biographies or memoirs. Normally with non-fiction I tend to read business books, or books for helping me learn a skill. But I love everything Felicia Day creates so I needed to read this one.

You're Never Weird on the Internet hardcover with dog
With avid reader pup, Nada

More accurately, I needed to read this one after Amber finished it. While I wanted to read the book someday, my 2015 reading list was so cram packed I wasn’t sure I’d get to it anytime soon. But Amber wanted to read it right away, so we requested it from the library when it was still in preorder. Once the book was released, she was one of the first to get it. I decided to fit in the read before the book had to be returned for the next library patron who requested it.

It’s a super fast read in a good way. Her stories are entertaining and engaging, so 20 pages a night is nothing when you could read 50 and giggle 2.5 times as much! And giggle all the way through is what I did.

This book is best read by someone who already knows and loves who Felicia Day is, she says so herself. Haven’t watched (or at least heard of) The Guild? Ehhh, maybe you won’t giggle as much.

But the memoir is smart as much as it is funny. I respect her even more having heard her story and the struggles of her creative life. Really glad to be in her audience, and really thankful to hear more about the person behind the online avatar.

You’re Never Weird on the Internet (Almost) by Felicia Day

Amazon ; Goodreads ; Wikipedia


A Conversation with Amber about Cats and Bacon

Perusing the internet, I learned about this gem of a blog post from John Scalzi in 2006. He literally taped bacon to his cat just to prove to the internet that he would do it. I had to share this post with Amber right away. Her response:

Listen, I know you’re going to replicate this. You can put bacon on the cat but you can’t tape it to the cat. And after you’re done with it you have to give the bacon to the dog.

I don’t really have the energy to follow through with it right now. But it’s good to know what Ber’s limits are on this issue.