4 out of 5 stars | Goodreads
I received a copy of this book for free from the publisher, in exchange for an honest review.
In case you haven’t already guessed, I love science fiction. One thing that frustrates me is the stigma that comes with the genre – it’s geeky, it’s nerdy, it’s for people with no lives. Which is all a load of rubbish, and since YA sci-fi has become increasingly more common, I hope it’s a stereotype that will soon disappear. One thing I have noticed though, is that the majority of YA science fiction tends to be on the ‘lighter’ side, and I’ve been looking for something a little ‘heavier’. And Lockstep fits the bill quite nicely.
The story of a teenager who finds himself fourteen thousand years in the future after a malfunction with his ship, Lockstep really explores the idea of space and time travel (or at least the ‘freezing’ of time). The title of the book comes from a system called the Lockstep, where all inhabitants within hibernate on the 360/1 system – asleep for thirty years, awake for one month. Robots and A.I. systems maintain the cities and settlements during hibernation, as well as producing food – leaving less work for the people to do when they wake, and meaning they have more free time. It also means that people live for thousands of years – and is also a clever way of getting around the fact that there is no faster than light transport. Cargo ships may have to travel out to planets thousands of years away – but the Lockstep system ensures that the people aboard do not outlive or outage their relatives. It seems for all accounts and purposes like a perfect system.
Toby, our protagonist, soon discovers that things are not quite what they seem (when are they ever?!), and ends up with a ragtag group of friends who introduce him, and the reader, to this futuristic world. Schroeder has invented some wonderful technologies for the book, for example the Denners – cat-like creatures that seem part organic, part machine, and who will support a human through hibernation. There’s also a partial virtual reality element to the book, that may appeal to fans of Ready Player One – Toby and his younger brother build a virtual reality world together, known as Consensus – and Peter has brought Consensus to life in creating the Lockstep. Some parts of the book, such as Toby’s brother and sister, also reminded me of Ender’s Game.
There were a few parts of the book that I felt let it down. Toby’s reaction, for one, on learning that he is now fourteen thousand years in the future. His life, his family, his home – all gone, ancient history. Sure, he freaks out – but not for long, not to the extent that you would expect someone to after learning that everything they once knew and loved is now dust. Of course, his family are still alive – but he doesn’t learn that until later on. This brings me onto the point that this fact was given away by the blurb, but when revealed in the book it feels like it should have been a surprise – which it mostly definitely isn’t to the reader. I also feel that perhaps some more flashbacks of life before Toby set out on the journey would have been beneficial – the reader doesn’t have that much in order to compare young Peter and Peter the Tyrant, so it’s hard in places to understand Toby’s shock. And finally, the ending was a complete anti-climax for me. I loved the story up until that point – it felt like the easy way out, like a build up to a massive action scene and then… nothing.
Despite the disappointing ending, I really did enjoy this book. It is a brilliant introduction to heavier science fiction for those perhaps a little wary of diving straight into the genre – advanced technology and the more ‘typical’ elements of heavy sci-fi, whilst still keeping the feel of a Young Adult book. Schroeder has built up a fascinating universe, which makes it all the more a shame that this is not going to be a series! And also, as previously mentioned: a definite recommendation for fans of books such as Ender’s Game and Ready Player One.