It doesn’t take much to get me interested in a new John Scalzi novel. Having thoroughly enjoyed several of his previous offerings (Redshirts, Fuzzy Nation, The Android’s Dream) I am the type to preorder his new stuff as soon as I possibly can. This time my obsession actually paid off.. preordering this novel earned me a copy of both versions of this audiobook. One version narrated by Wil Wheaton and one version narrated by Amber Benson. I preordered the Wil Wheaton version because of his great performances in Ready Player One, Redshirts, Fuzzy Nation and The Android’s Dream. Amber Benson was an unknown commodity to me so I never really even considered ordering her version.
The strange thing is that when the book was finally available and I had both the Wil Wheaton version and the Amber Benson version available to me I couldn’t help connecting with Amber’s portrayal of FBI agent Chris Shane. When I started the Amber version it was just out of curiosity.. basically just giving her a chance so that I could try to understand why exactly they made two versions of this audiobook. I fully intended to listen to Wil’s version but I just couldn’t go back to it.
The book was excellent. Scalzi has created a very interesting world that has adapted after a highly contagious virus spread around the world. This virus had a wide range of effects. In some it just resulted in the flu or headaches but in others it caused the patient’s body to lock down in such a way that the patient is fully awake and aware of what is going on but unable to move.
Twenty five years have passed since the initial infection and the world has done it’s best to accommodate all of those who are “Locked In”. Entire virtual worlds have been created for these people to inhabit and interact with each other and advancements in robotics have made it possible for people who are locked in to transfer their consciousness into android like bodies.
Rookie FBI agent Chris Shane is one of the unlucky few who were locked in by Haden’s Sydnrome. Chris Shane’s partner, Leslie Vann, was also affected by Haden’s Syndrome. The virus did something to Leslie’s mind that gives her the ability to allow locked in people the chance to borrow her body. People like Leslie are called “integrators”. Integrators basically just take a back seat and let their client’s drive them around. It sounds a little like being possessed but with your hand on the eject button in case the locked in person wants to do anything to0 weird or dangerous with your body.
The ability of locked in people to transfer their minds into android bodies (anonymously at times) and the ability of integrators to allow locked in people to enter their mind and potentially kill people makes for a very difficult case for Shane and Vann to solve and a very interesting and entertaining audiobook.
Overall – Another great offering from John Scalzi. Check it out if you are in to sci fi murder mysteries!
Narration: Amber Benson won me over. Once I started her version I couldn’t stop thinking that Chris Shane was a woman. Once that happened I just couldn’t go back to the Wil Wheaton version. Sorry Wil :-(
I’m sure both versions are excellent.. I think that the key to getting the best experience out of this book is to decide in advance if you want to your leading character to be male or female and then pick the appropriate narrator.