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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 free ARC of Lockstep from Tor Books via Netgalley in exchange of an honest review*
Lockstep started out fairly slow, but once I got into the story, I was totally hooked!
In a multi-planetary society, where humans have almost destroyed Earth and all its resources, Lockstep shows a way to maybe save everybody. It starts when Toby’s family and some friends are able to finally move from Earth and go to Sedna, a small planet that needs a lot of work in order to be viable. One day, Toby leaves on a small spaceship to put his family flag on a small moon called Rockette – only he disappears and only wakes up after 14’000 years. Confused, lost and not understanding the world he’s woken up in Toby has no idea that most of his family is still alive. He, however might not stay alive much longer, if his saviors and his brother and sister have their way.
Lockstep is a quite complicated story, mostly due to both the fact that the galaxy has 70’000 planets and moons where people and AI bots live, and also because most of these planets use a technology called the lockstep to put everyone to sleep for thirty years so they can save resources. Being frozen in a specialized cicada bed, made by the McGonigol family, nobody really has a choice but to go under when it is time. Apart from a few stow-aways who have cat-like animals called denners to help them both stay alive, and wake up at the time when the animal is set for.
Dealing with humanity, the ever-growing populations, religion, garbage and monopoly, Lockstep takes a deep and hard look at what just might happen for real if we continue to tamper with nature, let corporations genetically change our food, and have just a few people in charge of everything, and everybody even on far-away planets. While they are in a deep-freeze sleep, people don’t age, so during the 14’000 years Toby has been missing, his little brother and sister have only aged by around thirty years. They have changed tremendously, though, as they now seem power-hungry and set on making sure Toby stays far away from their thriving family business.
Little by little, Toby realizes that the way society is built now, and the reason behind lockstep, is a video game he had designed to help his brother Peter get over being kidnapped. They had created a complex virtual world, where people would always be safe. Once Toby finds some unlikely allies in Corva, Jay and Shy, he can start working on getting back to his family. And just maybe restoring the settings of the complete lockstep system to each planet to do what they like.
Written in third person, mostly following Toby, Lockstep is an exciting and complex tale. If you enjoy science fiction that is able to take you several steps further than you thought was possible, you should pick it up, and be transported to far-away planets and follow Toby on his quest to save not only himself, but humanity as well.
Who knew what Peter had gotten up to in Consensus while he was asleep? His brother would have had time to invent whole new civilizations, colonize new systems – who knew what? Knowing what had happened in the game while he was asleep was nearly as important to Toby as making sure he’d arrived at Rockette on time.
Toby had once heard that the Eskimos had fifty words for snow. Out here, you needed at least fifty for empty.
Toby threw his legs over the side of the bed and knew that this was no simulation. His feet crashed to the floor of their own accord, nearly taking the rest of him with them. He had to brace himself against the cushions as an invisible force tried to suck him down. Gravity – real gravity.