I don’t know why it took me so long to read this sequel to Lock In; I really liked the first book, and Scalzi’s work is always breezy in the best way. Unsurprisingly, when I got to this I steamed through it in two days (and I’d gladly have finished it in just one day, but bedtime is a thing that has to happen now I’m getting to the ripe old age of 31). Head On is set a year later than Lock In, and to some extent, I think you can read it without the previous book; it catches you up pretty well on the most pertinent information.
The investigation centres around the death of an athlete during a game in which people piloting robot bodies try to tear each other’s heads off. Something about what happens during play when one of them gets his head torn off causes him to die… and the league pull his details from the live feed, arousing the suspicions of Chris Shane. It gets worse: right before Vann and Shane go to interview him, one of the bigwigs apparently kills himself.
Curiouser and curiouser, as they say. Everything spirals from there, with Scalzi’s usual pace and wit. Some aspects of the mystery were obvious to me pretty early on, but it’s fun to watch Scalzi spin it out and complicate it before bringing it home.
It feels maybe a little less urgent than the first book, somehow, and I probably still prefer Lock In… but it’s a worthy sequel, and I’d love to spend more time following Shane and Vann around as Vann bulldozes her way through all opposition to solve the case.