Toby McGonical's family has escaped from Earth and its super rich dominated society to settle Sedna, a planet millions of miles away. The McGonical family has altered a hibernation bed - a cicada bed- which was previously invented to treat the incredibly sick, into a device which freezes the passengers of star ships enabling them to fly incredible distances before waking up the crew. Since they are hibernating they do not age, which is a key part of "Lockstep", Karl Schroder's latest science fiction novel.
Seventeen year old Toby is out on a mission to claim an asteroid for his family when his ship is severely damaged. Toby goes into the cicada bed and is finally woken up 14,000 years in the future. His delivers however want to use him for his family connections. A young girl Corva and her friends help him escape. They want Toby's help to change the system that controls the planets and time.
The universe is a vastly different place. There are 70,000 settled worlds. Schroeder's focus is on time travel, revolution, the economics of space travel and justice. Apparently the invention of the cicada bed has made trade possible between star systems, but not every planet is a great fit for human colonization. A planet may have a terrible atmosphere or scant resources to feed all of its inhabitants. Since it takes such a long time to travel between star systems, people on planets have voluntarily agreed to a period of self hibernation. The result is that planets can husband their scant resources and selectively use them when the inhabitants are awake. More trade is possible between worlds when all are in lockstep in time. The most common form of self hibernation is the 360/1 planets, all of which have 360 months of cold sleep and one month awake. Its an ingenious idea, and Schroeder builds his whole novel around it.
Because the ruling strata of the 70,000 planet system still controls the cicada beds, they can control trade and the self hibernation system. Moreover, they can punish a planet by making some people hibernate shorter period than others - thus prematurely aging some people. Corva's family is being punished in this manner. She needs Toby's help to change the system.
Toby's quest to try to overthrow the system is slow, but has some rewards. Schroeder also successfully shows the perils of the system including the injustice of trapping people in one time continuum while their loved ones age.
However, ultimately the novel rises or falls on whether you can believe that people would adapt a system for economic purposes where they would sleep for 30 years and be awake for just one month even if it was a great month.
Schroeder writes a good tale of a young man's attempt to change the system, but in the end its just hard to believe in the Lockstep system of self hibernation.
I received this book for free from www.netgalley.com in return for an honest review