Book Review: Lockstep by Karl Schroeder

Lockstep by Karl Schroeder

Genre: Science Fiction, Young Adult

Rating: 4/5

I was given the opportunity from Macmillan-Tor/Forge to review an advance copy of Karl Schroeder’s novel Lockstep. I was not paid in anything other than the joy of reading a fantastic story.

If the fact that the book is labeled Young Adult is turning you off be comforted by my words. The book falls under the category of Young Adult because the main character is 17, but the story is filled with science, plot twists, humor, drama, and wonder.

Let me give you a spoiler-free version of the summary. I say spoiler-free because the synopsis on Goodreads and bookseller info gives far too much away! So take my word and read this:

Toby McGonigal lived on a dying, corrupt earth. The 1% very much controls every aspect of life. In order for his family to make a name for themselves and rise in rank they decide to found a planet. In order to find a planet you must claim all the moons of that planet. Toby is seventeen, but more than adept at handling a ship on autopilot and claiming the moon. Unfortunately, he doesn’t wake up from cryogenic sleep at his destination. He wakes up in another world. His body is 17, but he’s actually 14,000 years old.

How much changes over 14,000 years? A lot. Toby is filled with hope as he is told his family is indeed alive. How? Enter the Lockstep, a time balanced hibernation that makes planets normally light-years away neighbors. Sleep thirty years, wake up for one month, sleep thirty years. Rinse and repeat. For Toby to reunite with his family he must take in over 14000 years of history. In a month he learns more than he’d ever wanted about space, his family, and even himself. Deceit, politics, science, and the bond of a family are all wrenched together like the cogs of a clock in Karl Schroeder’s intensely fast paced Lockstep.


Lockstep is like a mix between Star Wars and A Wrinkle in Time. There aren’t any true aliens, but reading the scenery in Lockstep- Toby visits several planets, I was reminded of how each planet touched by people in Star Wars was decidedly human even in a very non-human environment. (If that makes any sense.) There are robots that have replaced worker-bee type jobs. There are overly crowded cities stacked from poor on the floor to rich in the sky. There are people with cybernetic limbs, body modifications, and technology we are dreaming about today. While I thought of Star Wars when taking in the scenes of the novel I was still very taken with Schroeder’s own vision of the future and planets beyond our own galaxy. His imagination has no limits from ice planets to hot houses to keep human life sustainable.

I was reminded of A Wrinkle in Time because of the human element of the novel.  Toby is faced with the problems, and solutions, of his past catching up with this fast paced future. Like the beat of a butterfly’s wings, he sees the implications of one tiny act in the grand scheme of life. Toby’s meditations extend from social castes to politics, to the importance of family. The commentary in the novel can get a bit heavy at times, but Schroeder has some excellent support characters that supply plenty of comedic relief.

As a whole, I enjoyed the world created. The author thought of nearly everything that would be needed to sustain humans on planets that were never meant to sustain life. Schroeder is no chump when it comes to his science. How feasible he made colonizing far away planets sound made me want to jump up and scream ‘I volunteer!’

Toby is an extremely smart, but friendly 17 year old. His emotions and struggles are very real to a teen, which I find can be difficult for an older author to write and sound convincing as. The story is written in third person limited, you only see what Toby sees, but the narrator gives you glimpses of his thoughts and a beautiful depiction of the worlds around him.

The book is fast paced and I both loved and hated that aspect.

I would have loved for this book to have been longer! It didn’t take me long at all to get through the book and yet I craved more! This isn’t a bad thing, but I did notice that Schroeder shied away from action scenes and lengthy dialogue. At some points this ‘skip’ was needed in order to keep up suspense and had me hurriedly turning the page, but at others I was left wondering ‘What did Toby and character x say to each other in that moment that led to this?’

I wanted some fighting and more dialog from the characters in conflict!

Generally, I just wanted more.

I really hope Schroeder writes more novels involving the Lockstep Empire because the world is utterly enchanting! I saw no indication that this book was the first in a series, but it really ought to be. I mean, I’m salivating here just thinking about another time-traveling tale between worlds light-years away!

I swear, if he’d just given me one more action sequence I would have given this book five stars.

This novel will be available March 25, 2014.

Check out Lockstep on Goodreads: here

Check out Karl Schroeder: here


2 thoughts on “Book Review: Lockstep by Karl Schroeder

  1. Great review! I read this book as well and I found the world a bit confusing at first, because there was just so much to learn! I got used to it as I read further into the book though. The world is just so intricately woven that it’s so incredible just to think of the sheer magnitude of the lockstep.

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