Friday, January 24, 2014

REVIEW: Lockstep by Karl Schroeder

Lockstep Lockstep by Karl Schroeder
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This was one of my most anticipated books for 2014. I enjoyed the read but I was not wowed as I had hoped to be.

What I Like

+ the world building

The world building confused me, which I should have expected because the book was hard science fiction. It wasn’t till the middle of the book that I finally understood what lockstep was, and I felt giddy when I did. It took some time but it was worth it. I was amazed by how sophisticated and creative the world building was.

It was very interesting reading a world where human civilization had expanded into the endless outer space yet they didn’t have superluminal travel. I must confess; I was resistant to the idea because I really do believe one day — in the far-off future — humanity will have superluminal travel, and I didn’t like reading something that would challenge that belief. Now that I have read this book, I’m not greatly resistant to idea of a world where superluminal might never be possible. I could perfectly imagine how people can live on the same timeline despite the immense distance between worlds, the different planetary cycles, and other forces of time.

One of the things that surprised me was the underlying environmental theme. There is a saying that “money runs the world.” In this distant future, resources run the world — all of the worlds. No matter how far human civilization may have expanded into outer space, the message in the book says we will always be restricted by natural resources and we will fight amongst ourselves over them.

Another thing that surprised me was how there were robots yet humans still had to do menial labor, and some of them, specifically the very poor, even worked for the robots. The idea of lazy robots outsourcing their jobs made me chuckle. It reminded me of the robots in Futurama but without the sassy personalities.

The only thing about the world building that left me thinking was the fate of trillionaires left on Earth. What happened to them after the McGonigals took over? The book never really did say.

+ the main character

I liked Toby. For someone who woke up fourteen THOUSANDS years into the future, discovered he was the heir of an empire and a Jesus-like figure of the empire’s religion, and slapped with the fact that his once-loving family wasn’t too keen on reuniting with him to put it nicely, the guy had a level head on his shoulder. He did panic of course, but he didn’t go into a mood and give up on life. He fought as befitting of his role.

I was very grateful to follow a main character who commanded common sense and caution. I liked the fact that even though he began to have feelings for Corva, he didn’t automatically think what was best for her would be best for him and follow her like a puppy, doing whatever she wanted. In other words, he didn’t think with his dick. The fact that he was careful in whom to place his trust gave me a book erection.

What Could Have Been Better

+ the main character’s father

For someone who played a pivotal role, he was rarely talked about. I recall only three times, and two of those times were very brief. Say what? I would have thought with certainty that the reader would get to learn what happened to him after the rift with his family. All the reader learned was that he remarried and nothing after that. Whether he had other children or if his second wife was still alive, we never know. I still didn’t really understand how everyone else in his first family was still alive, yet he wasn’t, or why his family was famous with a religion built around them, yet he faded into obscurity. Carter McGonigal was a major character, but the book inappropriately treated him like a minor character. It fell into the trap where just because a character is dead a long time ago, it doesn’t mean he’s not important to the story and his influence on the other characters should be any less than a stranger.

+ the ending

It was kind of flat, emotion wise. I liked the happy ending and the reconciliation, but considering what had happened, how human civilization was at stake, and the bad feelings and trade of threats among the characters, the ending felt too neat to be real. I found it hard to believe the revolution happened without bloodshed.


I rate Lockstep 3-stars for I like it. The book description led me to believe the story would be on epic scale, but the only thing truly epic about book was the setting. When I take away the fancy setting, the book is about a broken family. A missing son; a traumatized little brother who grows up to be a tyrant; a typical middle child of a sister whose life became all about her brothers; a grieving mother and an absent workaholic father. The plot was about Toby finding his way, trying to make things right, and saving his family, even if some of them wanted him dead. It’s almost like a literary fiction.

The book was a good read, and I do recommend it but with the caveat that the reader check their high expectations.

Goodreads | Amazon

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