Review: Lockstep by Karl Schroeder

July 4, 2014 2.5 stars, Book Review, Science Fiction 34 ★★½

Review: Lockstep by Karl SchroederLockstep by Karl Schroeder
Published by Tor Books on March 25, 2014
Genres: Adult SFF, Science fiction
Pages: 352
Format: Hardcover
Source: Gift

*This book was provided by the Gift for review. No compensation was provided and all opinions are strictly my own.

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.

Karl Schroeder's Lockstep is a grand innovation in hard SF space opera.


Lost in space for 14,000 years!

Lost in space in suspended animation for fourteen thousand years, when Toby awakens he finds the universe very different. The outer worlds in which Toby’s family was attempting to colonize have devised a way to manage resources with a method called lockstep. Lockstep worlds are animate or awake one month and then enter suspended animation for thirty years. Made possible by the suspended animation beds, this technology it turns out has been developed and is controlled by Toby’s sister and brother, who have become… corrupt with the power and money they have. To make matters more interesting, there is a new religion which I won’t give away, but it’s definitely interesting.  Toby’s brother and sister find out Toby has been found and his brother orders his death. Will Toby be able to hide from his family long enough to learn to function in the new world and undo the corruption he is sure can’t really be his brother and sister?

Interesting world concept, promising story, lack luster characters:

In this very interesting setting we watch Toby struggle with who to trust and dealing with essentially loosing his family. Unfortunately, he just kinda shrugs off his emotions and thinks really rationally about things. Which makes him feel rather flat to me as a reader. There is a large range of secondary characters and it takes a long time to really see which characters are going to be important and which ones are worth getting attached to.  The story thickens which is nice, but I found myself not really caring how it turned out because I just couldn’t get attached to Toby, or any of the less central characters. It wasn’t a bad read, but it definitely fell short of it’s hype. The world building was interesting and the story line seemed open to exploration but just never got fleshed out in a way that fulfilled it’s potential. For me this was a science fiction filled with technology that they never really explained and reached a little to far to be believable. Add in the weird lockstep and following the math on how the worlds work would probably turn off quite a few readers. I also found a lot of holes, when the worlds are in suspended animation, what keeps others from waking early and pirating other worlds resources. How do they keep in sync and why doesn’t a rogue world run on a little bit different schedule and go steal everything? A lot of it just didn’t seem plausible at all. Between this and the lack luster characters, I wouldn’t recommend this book to any but those that are very interested in suspended animation and even those I would caution that there isn’t a whole lot of technical information given on how the system works at all.

*copy gifted to us by the lovely Anya @ On Starships and Dragonwings


Gamer girl extraordinaire, law student, mother of twin boys and one lil girl. I can often be found taking care of my family, working on home renovation projects, reading, gaming, and all the while text warring with Tabitha.

34 Responses to “Review: Lockstep by Karl Schroeder”

  1. Rabindranauth

    I’ve been craving some hard sci fi after some short stories I’ve read recently sparked my interest in the genre, and this is definitely a book I’ve got on my TBR, heh. It really seems to fall short at some point or the other for readers, though.
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  2. Zoe @ The Infinite To-Read Shelf

    Tina…Awww…I’m so sorry this was such a letdown for you! 🙁 I can totally understand why though – if the characters aren’t well developed than the story – no matter how unique or original it is – just won’t work. Hopefully your next read will have some better developed characters! 😀
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  3. Megan (Adrift on Vulcan)

    Such a shame that such a cool idea had to go to waste; you seem to be having really bad luck with books lately, Tina. 🙁 I’m glad that you at least found certain aspects interesting, like this religion you mentioned. But yeah, ultimately, if the characters are bland, I don’t think I’d be able to enjoy the story much either!

    I think not forming a sort of emotional bond to the characters — especially the main ones — is one of the worse things that can happen while reading. The storyline can be super original and cool, but in the end, it is the characters that give the book life. And most of the time, if the characters are lackluster, they make the book pretty boring for me, too. 😛 And bah for the not-very-developed plot, too. I hate it when potential is missed.

    This one wasn’t really on my radar to begin with, and now I don’t think I’ll ever give it a go since it sounds like a waste of time. Gosh, I really hope your next read is something amazing, or I’m going to have to give you some of my five-star recs! 😉 Lovely review!

    • Tina

      Thank you, I am pretty excited about my current read. Hoping it stays as good as it is atm. We shall see! I have to have that bond with the characters to even care about the story. I can handle a slow story, not my favorite but it’s tolerable compared to lackluster characters!
      Tina recently posted…Just Couldn’t Put it Down Giveaway HopMy Profile

  4. Melliane

    Oh I’m sorry it wasn”t for you. I had it but as I’m not that much into sci-fi, I gave it to a friend and she told me that she really enjoyed it. I’m curious to read her review and to share it. But well I know I won’t read it.
    Melliane recently posted…Stacking the Shelves #100My Profile

    • Tina

      I’m glad your friend enjoyed it. I wonder if growing up a sci-fi nerd has made if more difficult for me to enjoy some of the genre. If it’s supposed to be hardcore sci-fi I expect to see some heavy explanations and realistic logical jumps to future technology.
      Tina recently posted…Just Couldn’t Put it Down Giveaway HopMy Profile

    • Tina

      I got my brain wrapped around it but saw too many holes they left. I also just didn’t care enough about the characters to care much about the sleeping… I’m glad someone else felt at least a little the same way though!
      Tina recently posted…Just Couldn’t Put it Down Giveaway HopMy Profile

  5. Kel

    Hmm, normally I don’t have a problem with characters who shrug off emotions and respond rationally. (It’s definitely far preferable to its extreme opposite.) At the same time, gaping plot holes, questionable technology and generally lackluster characters would drag the book down, so probably no. Thanks for checking it out for us!
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  6. Rachel @ Paper Cuts

    Aww, that’s a shame! I read the synopsis and got really excited. But I need a character who I’m connected to, most definitely. Oh well. Great review! 😀

  7. Kirsty-Marie

    See, Characters can ruin books, if you can’t find a connection or they’re just really boring or no emotions that brings them to life then nope. I’m done. And you haven’t even got a good world to distract you. On one hand, I hate when everything in the world building’s complicated and over described, but I’d kind of take that rather than one that’s under and can’t make you go with it. Which is a shame, it does have an interesting premise, I mean, 14,000 years!
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