John Scalzi’s latest novel, Lock In (Tor, Aug.) breaks new ground in several ways: not only is it a combination of science fiction, thriller, and police procedural that received a starred review from PW, but Audible released two editions of the audiobook this week. One edition features actor Wil Wheaton (Star Trek: The Next Generation) as narrator Chris Shane, and the other features actor Amber Benson (Buffy the Vampire Slayer) as Shane.
Lock In begins in the near future, when a highly contagious virus spreads across the globe. Most of those infected experience only flu, fever and headaches, but a few experience “Lock In” – they are fully awake and aware but unable to respond to stimulus or to move. Twenty-five years later, in a world shaped by what's now known as Haden's Syndrome, rookie FBI agent Chris Shane is paired with veteran agent Leslie Vann to investigate a complicated murder. Another complication is that Shane is afflicted with Haden's Syndrome. And complicating things for the reader (or not) Shane never reveals his or her gender throughout the narrative.
“In the world I created, simply put, Chris could effectively decide to present as any gender, or choose not to present a gender at all. That’s part of who Chris is,” said Scalzi, who won the 2013 Hugo Award for Best Novel for Redshirts. “When it came time to make the audiobook, Audible asked both Wil Wheaton and Amber Benson to record entire versions of the book. I’m impressed with Audible’s commitment to my narrative -- and I’m geeking out that both [Wheaton] and [Benson] are reading my book. This is fantastic.”
“Audible listeners love John Scalzi’s endlessly inventive and imaginative novels and stories, and they also appreciate the power of skilled performance,” explained Audible executive v-p and publisher Beth Anderson. “The character of Chris presented the perfect opportunity for Audible Studios to add another interpretive twist to the production. Both [Wheaton] and [Benson] have delivered superb performances, and we think customers will appreciate the opportunity to choose from two different listening experiences.”
Both actors entered fully into the spirit of the experience and waxed philosophical about it during a videotaped interview. "It's very much about identity. What does a body mean? Does that define who we are as human beings or is it our consciousness?" Benson asked, while Wheaton pointed out that he and Benson “each bring certain choices to [the narration] that are informed by our lives and our genders.” And, he noted, “I’m sure we made different choices for how the other characters sounded.”
While Audible declined to disclose sales figures, the company reported that Lock In had the highest number of pre-orders ever for an Audible Studios production; both editions received “thousands” of pre-orders, with the Wheaton edition topping the Benson edition..
Audible’s two audiobook editions include a bonus: a novella by Scalzi: Unlocked: An Oral History of Haden’s Syndrome, narrated with a full cast.