LOCKSTEP by Karl Schroeder


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Far-future family power struggles from the talented Schroeder (Ashes of Candesce, 2012, etc.).

With Earth dominated by a handful of trillionaires, the only road to financial success is to colonize one of the solar system’s remote worlds. For 17-year-old Toby McGonigal and his family, this is a very real possibility thanks to Toby’s mother’s invention: a flawless hibernation device. Following an accident in space, Toby is alone, forced to enter cold sleep to await rescue. But when he revives, he’s astonished to find himself on a flourishing, inhabited planet—one of thousands in the galaxy—and to learn that 14,000 years have passed. Welcome to the Lockstep Empire, so-called because its citizens exist mostly in cold sleep, with brief waking cycles that are carefully synchronized. This approach is engineered to surmount the challenges of intergalactic life: Travel between stars takes decades or centuries, and the resources required to sustain waking populations are used up far more quickly than they can be accumulated. Toby soon grows suspicious of the motives of his hosts—especially when he learns that the empire is owned and ruled by his brother Peter and sister Evayne, both of whom see Toby’s return as a threat to their power and would like nothing better than to quietly murder him. With the help of Corva, one of a community of professional stowaways who’ve developed a hibernation technique independent of the cold sleep beds invented by Toby’s mother and controlled by his siblings, Toby must understand the structure and operation of the Lockstep. He has one powerful clue: Back in the past, Toby and Peter collaborated to develop “Consensus,” a worldbuilding virtual-reality game—to which the Lockstep bears a remarkable similarity. Unfortunately, this intricate, logical and fascinating construction lacks particularly well-defined characters and narrative force. It also seems to take decades to inch its way to a resolution.

A disappointing effort that, if shorter and considerably tighter, would have sat happily on the YA shelf.

Pub Date: March 25th, 2014
ISBN: 978-0-7653-3726-9
Page count: 352pp
Publisher: Tor
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1st, 2014


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