cover image Head On

Head On

John Scalzi. Tor, $25.99 (336p) ISBN 978-0-7653-8891-9

Hugo-winner Scalzi returns to the fascinating world of the near-future thriller Lock In with this provocative sequel. Chris Shane was the poster child for Haden’s syndrome, a condition in which a lively mind is trapped in an unresponsive body. Like other “Hadens,” Chris uses an implanted neural network to control a “threep,” an android body, and interact with the rest of the corporeal world. Chris works as an FBI agent handling Haden’s-related cases alongside partner Leslie Vann. This time, they are called to investigate the suspicious death of professional hilketa player Duane Chapman during a match. Hilketa (it means “murder” in Basque) is a violent sport of carnage and decapitations played by Hadens in specially built threeps; the damage dealt to Chapman’s threep shouldn’t have affected his physical body, but he reported unusual pain from his threep’s injuries and then died. The sport is growing in popularity and money-making potential, bringing the possibility of corruption. Is the North American Hilketa League trying to cover up some skullduggery, or did Chapman’s jilted wife kill him? Chris and Leslie need to uncover the truth before the tangled case ignites a national scandal. Scalzi expands his complex future with master strokes, balancing buddy-cop wryness with thought-provoking social and political commentary. This taut mystery, filled with memorable characters in a well-constructed world, will keep readers on the edges of their seats. (Apr.)

Correction: An earlier version of this review misstated the title of the previous book in the series. It also misstated the gender of a character.