Character’s strengths and weaknesses as related to plot

I just finished the John Scalzi book, Lock In, and even though I don’t think style was the most noticeable feature of this novel, I definitely think character development is, which is what I’ll try to focus on.

The main character is Agent Chris Shane, a newly appointed FBI agent, who is assigned to his veteran partner, the old Agent Vann. Agent Shane is a locked-in Haden, who uses his threep to interact within society and within his job, while Agent Vann is a survivor of Haden, who gained the potential to become an integrator. Both have their own strengths and weaknesses, and I’ll go over a few of each in order to stress why this was a great addition to the character’s development.

SPOILER! (Some of these details aren’t revealed until later in the book)

AGENT SHANE – main

Weakness: His threep, or mechanical robot body

I know this is hard to believe for a weakness, but because technically he is a victim of the Haden’s symptoms, where his consciousness is permanently locked into his body, I would consider this a disability. The only way he can escape is through this special biological engineering, where his consciousness can be linked to this robot. This turns around in the book to be a strength, which I really appreciated, because when he is required to travel, his consciousness can be inserted instantly into any threep, leading to him being the only partner who can travel for his detective work. And because his body is technically a robot, he can take far more damage and far more pain than a normal human, leading to him catching the bad guys after any normal person would cave in from abuse. This was a great dual characteristic!

Weakness: His fame, being the son of a famous NBA/running senator

Again, seems like it would be a strength, but fame can be really distracting for a normal life or job, when you’re fame as the son of a famous man and poster boy of the Haden syndrome can influence people to already recognize you or fit you to their own perspective. Shane certainly doesn’t like it, but he ends up overcoming this negative characteristic when he starts his job. All the sudden what was once a burden becomes a critical technique in doing his job. Coincidentally, his job as an FBI agent, conducting cross-country integrator investigations, becomes connected to the same people his father is supporting, directly related to the politics the country is currently experiencing – how many rights are the Haden sufferers losing?

Strength: His brains, or smartness

This seems silly to say, and I’d have to go through to point out exact instances where this comes across, but thank goodness Shane is smart! He can actually figure this case out on his own, although there is definitely some visual struggling. This makes more sense to me as compared to Seven, where the new detective kind of flailed when compared to the old detective. I was happy to get someone smart here since he was hired for his brains. Otherwise, I don’t think he’d be the right fit for the FBI.

AGENT VANN – secondary

Strength: Experienced agent of the FBI

Any time you’re older or more experienced, you have a greater advantage over the newbies, such as Shane. And this comes through the book. Vann is used to arguing with potential perps; she can play the good cop, bad cop routine. She’s used to and good at doing her job. So it makes sense to have her be good at it. If she’s been at it for this long, she should be good. A good detail of her experience is how local law enforcement hates her for taking their cases. I like the added complexity, and it helps make her feel more realistic.

Weakness: Human

This shouldn’t be a weakness. This is how everyone is, and yet, when it comes to a gun fight between good guys versus bad guys, of course she loses. She’s human. I thought this was a good way to reverse Shane’s weakness to a strength and turn her positive characteristic into a negative.

Weakness: Bad experience with integrating

*Integrating – merging consciousness with another human to share the same physical body

This doesn’t come through until later in the novel, but Vann used to be an integrator. You have to go through special training and education, and when she was put through practice sessions, she learned that she had to drug herself to make herself feel comfortable with the process. And when she finally won the job, there was a horrible experience where a Haden client tried to kill herself in Vann’s body in order to know what it felt like. This disturbed Vann on such a level that she is consistently self-medicated, especially during the investigation in the book since it’s specifically about clients hijacking integrators’ bodies – her exact fear. This plays out to why she is at a disadvantage, why she isn’t as big a help as you would expect from the senior detective. I really appreciated this because while it gave the new detective the lead for the investigation, it excused the older detective for her seeming laziness.

Overall, I appreciated the complexity of the character development. There was justification on why this characteristic should exist, why it makes sense, and it ended up with a balanced relationship between main and secondary characters, which ended up with me happier than I was with the movie Seven. I would call this a nice read and recommend this to others when examining how to develop characters.

Scalzi, John. Lock In. New York, NY: Tor, 2014. Print.

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