This novella gives a lot of the background for Scalzi’s latest novel, Lock In. I was in kind of a reading funk, so I thought I’d try reading something short to whet my appetite for Lock In — or just fiction in general, really. It worked for me: I know what effect Scalzi is going for, and he manages to hit the sweet spot between being too technical and too much like a documentary, and offering glimpses of character (like the President) and an idea of the kinds of things in play when you get to Lock In.
He gets the form pretty well, and while I don’t know much about the technology he suggests, I didn’t see anything completely impossible about the biological aspects of Haden’s syndrome. It pretty obviously draws on the Spanish flu of 1918 and the roughly concurrent encephalitis lethargica epidemic. There are separate diseases which produce the effects Scalzi posits for Haden’s syndrome, he just has them combined — with a suggestion that they have been deliberately combined.
Overall, it can be quite a dry read if you’re not interested in that kind of background, but I am. Still, it’s lacking in real narrative and urgency because of the post-facto documentary nature of it.