Review: Lockstep by Karl Schroeder

When seventeen-year-old Toby McGonigal finds himself lost in space, separated from his family, he expects his next drift into cold sleep to be his last. After all, the planet he’s orbiting is frozen and sunless, and the cities are dead. But when Toby wakes again, he’s surprised to discover a thriving planet, a strange and prosperous galaxy, and something stranger still—that he’s been asleep for 14,000 years.

Welcome to the Lockstep Empire, where civilization is kept alive by careful hibernation. Here cold sleeps can last decades and waking moments mere weeks. Its citizens survive for millennia, traveling asleep on long voyages between worlds. Not only is Lockstep the new center of the galaxy, but Toby is shocked to learn that the Empire is still ruled by its founding family: his own.

Toby’s brother Peter has become a terrible tyrant. Suspicious of the return of his long-lost brother, whose rightful inheritance also controls the lockstep hibernation cycles, Peter sees Toby as a threat to his regime. Now, with the help of a lockstep girl named Corva, Toby must survive the forces of this new Empire, outwit his siblings, and save human civilization.

*I received a copy through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review*

This honestly went way different then I thought it would go. If this is aimed at young adults then I truly feel like an idiot. Multiple times the whole lockstep thing is explained and the complications of that, but I still do not fully understand it. I get the part of sleeping for thirty years, waking for a month, though when you add different hibernation/waking cycles and the effect on traveling, and commerce etc. it just gets too complicated.

What I found most interesting was the fact that people were able to travel way beyond our solar system, settle down on new planets, invent the craziest stuff except for being able to travel faster. They are not able to travel at speed of light, therefor the whole hibernation thing started, because it would take years to travel from one planet to the other.

Now in this story Toby wakes up from hibernation and instead of only a couple of years having passed, 14,000 years have passed. The world is no longer as he knew it and the strangest thing might be that his family is now the ruling power in the galaxy. Though it seems that a lot of people disagree with the way his brother rules everyone and everything. Since Toby is the oldest, he is the rightful heir of the throne, sort of speak. In reality things are way more complicated. 

Since Toby has no clue how this current world works, he needs to rely on others to explain it to him, without him becoming some pawn in a grander scheme. Honestly half the time I felt as confused as Toby, as I had no idea what exactly was going on, what the intentions were of most people and where this story was going.

Also you can expect something to happen between Cora and Toby, but it did not feel believable. She saved him, then he helped her and then they are trying to figure out what to do next. Then suddenly they kiss and then they are in hibernation again, so thirty years pass. Lots of things happening while they are in hibernation and afterwards everything is still very unclear etc.

Mostly this story just left me confused. We get a lot of details on the technical stuff, but to me it lacks very much in human connections. I like me some sci-fi, but this was just too much for me. There needs to be that balance between the characters and the world they live in and in this case that balance felt off-kilter. The focus was too much on the world and not enough on the characters. Now the world building is exquisite and very well done, though I feel it is more suited for the very die-hard sci-fi fans. 

The Author
Karl Schroeder (born September 4, 1962) is an award-winning Canadian science fiction author. His novels present far-future speculations on topics such as nanotechnology, terraforming, augmented reality and interstellar travel, and have a deeply philosophical streak. One of his concepts, known as thalience, has gained some currency in the artificial intelligence and computer networking communities.

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