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Lockstep: A Novel Hardcover – March 25, 2014

3.9 out of 5 stars 57 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

When 17-year-old Toby awakens from an accidentally extended hibernation, he discovers, to his amazement, that 14,000 years have passed. Even more surprising is that his younger brother and sister, Peter and Evayne, are only 40 years older than they were when he went to sleep. How can this be? But there are more surprises in store: Toby has become one of the most famous persons in history, a deity regarded as the Emperor of Time, thanks to a cult his sister has formed around him. And his brother, who has become a tyrant over the 70,000 worlds of the Lockstep, wants to kill him! The space-opera plot sounds relatively simple, but it is often lost in the fevered world building with which the author surrounds it—that and the vagaries of time, which even the characters acknowledge is complex. This is doubtless old hat to serious science-fiction fans, but tyro readers, feeling at sea, will welcome a humanizing touch: Toby meets a girl named Corva; they fall in love and together struggle to bring democracy to the Lockstep. And, yes, an open ending leaves room for a sequel. --Michael Cart

About the Author

KARL SCHROEDER lives in Toronto, Ontario. He is the author of Ventus (New York Times Notable book for 2001), Permanence (winner of the 2003 Prix Aurora Award for best Canadian SF novel), Lady of Mazes, and the Virga Series, beginning with Sun of Suns.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Tor Books (March 25, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0765337266
  • ISBN-13: 978-0765337269
  • Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 1.2 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (57 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,040,643 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By B. Capossere TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on March 26, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition
I’m starting to feel like a broken record (Google it kids) here the past month or so, having had the same general reaction to a long run of books now—“good premise, flawed execution.” The latest perpetrator is Lockstep, a new YA space opera by Karl Schroeder, who has come up with a wonderfully engaging premise and setting, but has failed to create that same sense of engagement with regard to the characters and plot.

Way back in time in the Lockstep universe, Earth was controlled by the super-rich. In order to escape that highly stratified world, Toby McGonigal’s family buys Sedna (a real recently discovered trans-Neptunian planetoid smaller than Pluto’s moon) and sets up an independent colony. While there, Toby, the eldest child, is sent to claim one of Sedna’s moon’s and accidentally goes into suspended animation, only to wake 14, 000 years later. Soon after he had disappeared, going into “sleep” (“wintering over”) became standard practice on Sedna—the colonists would sleep for year—using up no precious resources while robots did whatever was necessary to mine/grow/process/manufacture, etc.—and when the people woke up, they’d live a good month consuming resources, trading, and so forth, then go back to sleep. Eventually this became the typical fashion for colonizing and maintaining the new worlds—everyone would be on the same “lockstep’” cycle of wintering over (for decades by now), waking and “living”, then wintering over again. This way you could travel to another planet in sleep, arrive, stay in orbit, then wake when they do, and it would be as if it took you a mere day out of your life. The system cleverly obviates the need for FTL technology.
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Format: Kindle Edition
Upon initial evaluation, Lockstep sounds like your typical YA: young protagonists engaging in a soppy romance while navigating a loopy plot with staggeringly bad logic and science.

But that is not this book.

What we have is an intelligent, well written, and thoroughly grounded hard sci fi with a surprisingly warm heart at the core. Originally published in parts in Analog magazine, the story provides a realistic method by which decades spanning space travel can be achieved without resorting to deus ex machina speculative light year technology.

Plot: Toby awakens from a routine stasis flight to claim an asteriod - only to find that something terrible has happened while he slept. His ship never awakened him and he finds himself in a future that has both greatly changed - and yet oddly stayed the same. Now Toby must navigate the new politics of the human race - a politics heavily influenced by his own family and the emergence of a new technology. With the help of a local girl and a genetically modified cat companion, Toby will have to survive long enough to find out why his own family is so desperate to kill him off.

The conceit of the book is using long hibernation periods in order to lower resource usage and synch the long travel time between worlds to trade/sell/buy resources (e.g., a trader can leave his wife at home and travel the 100 years to do a trade run and return to her being the same age). This process, called lockstep, typically could mean sleeping up to 30 years and then being awake for a month at a time. Admittedly, the math of trying to figure out how to match up the locksteps (many operating on different sleep/awake ratios), was difficult to track.
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Format: Kindle Edition
The lockstep is the weirdest concept I have ever come across. By hibernating, the population of a far flung colony can exist on almost nothing but the power required for the deep sleep modules. While they slumber, bots tend the day to day activities, harvesting and harbouring resources to sustain the colony when it wakes, and to fuel a journey across the stars to another colony for the purpose of trade. If they sleep on the ship, they can awaken at that other colony, having travelled multiple light-years ‘overnight’. If that other colony hibernated at the same time they did, then they, too, would have years of harvested materials to trade and the resources for their own journey elsewhere. Sleeping planets in a wide network become linked by a schedule of hibernation that allows trade and faster travel. But what happens to all the years falling away in between?

That was the question that poked me throughout ‘Lockstep’. Karl Schroeder expends quite a bit of effort toward explaining the theory and the math and I sort of got it. I understood the concept enough to take it as given, so I could get on with reading the story. But a sense of urgency gripped me as years floated away between periods of hibernation. On many of the planets, folks ‘wintered-over’ or hibernated for thirty years at a stretch. They’d wake for a month, burn through their gathered resources and then go to sleep again. Even though I understood it, it felt like just another night to them, I could not get over the wasted time, the years that went by unchecked. I missed them on their behalf.

When years hit the ratio of fourteen thousand real-time to forty actually lived, I had to cast myself adrift from the loss. It was too impossible to contemplate.

‘But what is the book about?’ I hear you ask.
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