Friday, March 28, 2014

Lockstep by Karl Schroeder

The Basics:
Lockstep by Karl Schroeder
Tor Books
Science Fiction
Published March 25, 2014
Source: Received via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Why I picked up this book:

The cover reminded me of the urban fantasy series by Rob Thurman - the same artist, I imagine. I also love and trust Tor as a publisher of fantasy and science fiction, so this seemed like a safe bet.


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.

My thoughts:

I'm very picky about my science fiction. I think because I like my balance to be tilted towards the fiction and away from the science, slightly. I love stories about exploring new worlds, intergalactic trade routes, aliens, and scientific innovation that's had an impact on... life? What I don't like is when a book is heavily laden with scientific concepts - real or imagined - that  dominate the action of the book. I want science, but I don't care so much about how that science works - I want to know what effect it has on the people and culture and plot of the book.  Still with me?

Lockstep is on the edge of my kind of book, and this is why: the main idea has to do with people skipping along through time by hibernating while bots take care of primary industry and spaceships shuttle across great distances, then waking to take part in trade, in manufacturing and in all the necessary social work of living. 

Now, the part where the book could have lost me is that Toby, our hero, has been asleep for 14 000 years, and so he could have been faced with an incredible amount of technological advancement, cultural change and generally woken up to a completely alien universe. 

Fortunately this isn't the case. And exploring the whys and hows of that really sucked me into the story. Lockstep established a universe that I want to spend more time in. The implications of the technology of lockstepping are fascinating to me.

More intimately, I really loved Toby and felt for him. He had to face some extreme changes and I think he's in shock for the first portion of the book. The story really narrowly follows him, and whiel there's a range of secondary characters whose lives he touches, no one else really held my attention the way that Toby did. 

Toby's brother being named Peter made me think of Ender's Game, and I think that does signal Toby's genius, aligning him with Ender. 

Wrapping your mind around lockstep time does take some getting used to, but the benefits and drawbacks are clearly obvious. And I think that so much trickles down from this central idea - such a well-written book!

The story travels quite a bit, from Toby's small spaceship to large stations and planets of various kinds. There's a lot of variety and imagination in the settings, and each one was a vivid, intriguing enviroment, ripe for storytelling.  

Bottom line:

I really loved this book. I devoured it, which is one of my highest compliments! This was an emotional journey about family and time. It grapples with politics and culture, and frankly, I look forward to reading it again.  

5 stars
For fans of science fiction, clever heroes

1 comment:

  1. Love the sound of this book, adding it to my tbr list!