Hilketa is a frenetic and violent pastime where players attack each other with swords and hammers, seeking their opponents' heads. Since the players are "threeps," robot-like bodies controlled by people with Haden's Syndrome, they aren't supposed to undergo any real harm. But when a star athlete drops dead on the playing field, FBI Agents Chris Shane and Leslie Vann are called in to investigate in this sequence to Lock In.
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.