As good as Head On is, I absolutely loved how it picks apart socio-cultural responses to disability and gender both within the novel’s world and the reader’s ... Over and over again in Head On we hear how non-Hadens are turning on Hadens. Able-bodied people and Hadens privileged enough to gain access to the abled community see Haden’s Syndrome as an obstacle. The world had to be rebuilt around the needs of Hadens, but as any minority will tell you, the majority hates having to bend to the will of those it deems lesser ... With Head On, John Scalzi proves once again what an exciting storyteller he is. He deftly explores gender and disability through a rollicking science fiction crime thriller. It’s fun, fresh, and layered with meaning and interpretation. I enjoyed the hell out of it. Head On will be high on my recommendations list for years to come.
Sci-fi authors love to imagine ever more violent entertainments being used to pacify the masses. In John Scalzi’s Head On, the game is 'Hilketa.' Two sides slug it out with swords and warhammers, with the aim of decapitating a player on the opposite side—the randomly designated 'goat'—and throwing his head through the goal or hoop ... Crime in the Scalzi world is like chess in three dimensions, in a game expertly controlled by the author.
The novel is a fast-paced, compelling mystery not unlike Isaac Asimov’s robot novels. Scalzi takes readers through the logical investigative steps regarding Chapman’s death, assembling a larger conspiracy that’s built on organized crime, money laundering, and more. While the book is a fun diversion, it’s also an intriguing addition to the world that Scalzi set up in Lock In, and it serves as a good parable for how the world deals with — and takes advantage of — marginalized communities.
Scalzi is one of the sf genre’s most popular writers, and it’s easy to see why: his prose flows like a river, smoothly carrying us through the story; his characters are beautifully crafted; and his future world is impeccably designed, at the same time wildly imaginative and wholly plausible. Let’s hope the author doesn’t wait another three-plus years to deliver another book set in this exciting world.
Readers will definitely show up for the witty banter and smartass takedowns Scalzi...liberally sprinkles through all his novels. They may be less amused at Scalzi's running joke about the way Chris’ threeps are always being destroyed, reminiscent of how Stephanie Plum’s cars are always exploding in Janet Evanovich’s novels; this sort of mild physical humor gets tired quickly. There’s also a vital clue that’s somewhat too reminiscent of a plot point in Men in Black. Very clever, wonderfully satisfying fun.
Scalzi expands his complex future with master strokes, balancing buddy-cop wryness with thought-provoking social and political commentary. This taut mystery, filled with memorable characters in a well-constructed world, will keep readers on the edges of their seats.