18 internautes sur 20 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile
- Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Format Kindle
I’m starting to feel like a broken record (Google it kids) here the past month or so, having had the same general reaction to a long run of books now—“good premise, flawed execution.” The latest perpetrator is Lockstep, a new YA space opera by Karl Schroeder, who has come up with a wonderfully engaging premise and setting, but has failed to create that same sense of engagement with regard to the characters and plot.
Way back in time in the Lockstep universe, Earth was controlled by the super-rich. In order to escape that highly stratified world, Toby McGonigal’s family buys Sedna (a real recently discovered trans-Neptunian planetoid smaller than Pluto’s moon) and sets up an independent colony. While there, Toby, the eldest child, is sent to claim one of Sedna’s moon’s and accidentally goes into suspended animation, only to wake 14, 000 years later. Soon after he had disappeared, going into “sleep” (“wintering over”) became standard practice on Sedna—the colonists would sleep for year—using up no precious resources while robots did whatever was necessary to mine/grow/process/manufacture, etc.—and when the people woke up, they’d live a good month consuming resources, trading, and so forth, then go back to sleep. Eventually this became the typical fashion for colonizing and maintaining the new worlds—everyone would be on the same “lockstep’” cycle of wintering over (for decades by now), waking and “living”, then wintering over again. This way you could travel to another planet in sleep, arrive, stay in orbit, then wake when they do, and it would be as if it took you a mere day out of your life. The system cleverly obviates the need for FTL technology.
By the time Toby awakes, the lockstep universe has thousands of planets (most not actual planets, but smaller objects such as Sedna), and to his surprise, his brother and sister basically rule the Empire, his family having grown incredibly rich and powerful early on due to their monopoly on the original sleep technology. Because it furthered their aims, his siblings allowed/encouraged an entire mythology based on Toby (nobody ever knew what happened to him) as progenitor of the Lockstep concept and of his eventual savior-like return. Unfortunately, that was always predicated on the assumption he never would return, and now that he has, his siblings see him as a threat to their power, one they feel the need to remove by all means possible. Soon Toby is fleeing for his life, helped along by Corva, a young girl who has her own personal issues with how the Empire is run, even as his appearance causes all sorts of disturbing ripples—political, social, religious—throughout the universe.
As mentioned, I really like the thinking behind this premise. I enjoyed learning how it gradually came about, I like how it is reasoned out and solves in large part the question of how one has a multi-planet/multi-system society without FTL drives (which often involve a lot of handwaving). Along with that, because of how the Lockstep planets are out of the normal time line, they become witnesses to and a kind of seed bank for the “fast worlds”:
They gave rise to godlike AIs, and these grew bored and left the galaxy, or died, . . . or ran berserk . . . On many worlds humans wiped themselves out, or were wiped out by their creations . . . . [there were] expansions, contractions, raptures, uploading, downloading, mind control, body-swapping plagues. .. . wars, dark ages . . . when those would-be gods had wiped themselves out, the telltale silence from formerly buzzing stars would alert this or that lockstep, and they would send some colonists back. A few millennia later, the human population on Earth and the other lit worlds would again number in the billions or trillions.
It’s a great concept and I love visualizing how all that really cool space-opera-y stuff that is usually the basis/focus of a novel here becomes “weird stuff that happened while we were sleeping.”
As good as the premise are the tours we see of a few of the worlds, which are imaginatively crafted by Schroeder, such as one whose cities float in the midst of a gas giant: “the bubble he was in was at least a kilometer across, yet it was attached to an unknown number of others, like one soap bubble clinging to a raft of others . . . hover [ing] high in the atmosphere of some vast, dark planet.”
While I really liked the stage dressing, though, the characters and story were a different matter. None of the characters ever flashed to life for me—Toby, Corva, side characters all were pretty flat (side characters in fact had almost no discerning traits across the board).
Both Toby and Corva are a bit too passive, reacting more than acting, which combined with their flat characterization, makes it hard to care much what happens with them.
The plot has some pacing issues—moving too slowly in some places and too abruptly in others. There are some clunky expositional scenes. And I think it gives little away to say that one can see the romantic angle coming from light years away (sigh—couldn’t we once throw a male and female together and not have them fall in love? Please?).
By the end, the last 50-75 pages or so, I was tempted to start skimming, though I resisted the urge. Better pacing and characters as vividly drawn as the settings they moved through and Lockstep could have been a thoroughly enjoyable read. As it stands, it’s moderately pleasing through parts, lags in a bit too many sections, and ends up disappointing.
8 internautes sur 8 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile
- Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Format Kindle
Upon initial evaluation, Lockstep sounds like your typical YA: young protagonists engaging in a soppy romance while navigating a loopy plot with staggeringly bad logic and science.
But that is not this book.
What we have is an intelligent, well written, and thoroughly grounded hard sci fi with a surprisingly warm heart at the core. Originally published in parts in Analog magazine, the story provides a realistic method by which decades spanning space travel can be achieved without resorting to deus ex machina speculative light year technology.
Plot: Toby awakens from a routine stasis flight to claim an asteriod - only to find that something terrible has happened while he slept. His ship never awakened him and he finds himself in a future that has both greatly changed - and yet oddly stayed the same. Now Toby must navigate the new politics of the human race - a politics heavily influenced by his own family and the emergence of a new technology. With the help of a local girl and a genetically modified cat companion, Toby will have to survive long enough to find out why his own family is so desperate to kill him off.
The conceit of the book is using long hibernation periods in order to lower resource usage and synch the long travel time between worlds to trade/sell/buy resources (e.g., a trader can leave his wife at home and travel the 100 years to do a trade run and return to her being the same age). This process, called lockstep, typically could mean sleeping up to 30 years and then being awake for a month at a time. Admittedly, the math of trying to figure out how to match up the locksteps (many operating on different sleep/awake ratios), was difficult to track.
Author Schroeder doesn't sugar coat or resort to info dumps/telling - he's all show and so this is a book that you don't skim through lightly. Casual scientific references/concepts are dropped subtly and without fanfare - here's an author who knows his stuff but doesn't have to show off that knowledge every other sentence. As with all science fiction, you don't need reality in concepts and can take them on face value - so if you don't know the science the author is using, you can continue reading without losing the story. But those with a strong science background will get more depth and nuance from the story (e.g., knowing the additive color theory will explain why someone can point three lasers (one red, one gree, one blue) and create a white sun).
But at the same time, although this is a hard science, this is not a gritty, cynical, dystopian with cold heart. Rather, what we have is a warm center of humanity and a world created with ideals at heart. Toby and all the characters are rich with hope and decency, acting with intelligence and admirable goals. At its core, this is a story of family and Toby seeking to find out what happened to his sister and brother to so change them while he slept - and also to come to terms with actions taken by his mother and father.
There are a lot of treats in the book - beyond the science to also include cultural references. E.g, Toby has a hard time not smirking every time he hears that Mars has been renamed to Barsoom and has creatures on it called Tharks.
If you take away the hard science, this is very much a YA story. Young boy, young girl, their friends, operating at the fringes of society and each with goals, motivations, and reasons to betray each other. The addition of genetically and technically modified cat pets called denners give more personality and heart to the story.
Though demanding, Lockstep is a clean read - no sex, swearing, drugs, violence, overt evilness, etc. It may seem a bit sanitized compared to what we see in a lot of today's literature and pop culture but it does work here in the world that Schroeder has created. As Toby evades and plans, we have a lot of adventure and adventurous circumstances to keep the read interesting. As well, there is a lightly played romance that is appropriate for the story. But that science is always there too - it can be jarring to read of Toby casually mentioning that to get from one chapter to the next, he was asleep for 30 years.
So, in all, highly recommended. Very well written, very well thought out, with warm characters, and interesting plot full of adventure and politics, and at its heart the story of the importance of family.
Reviewed from an ARC.
9 internautes sur 9 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile
- Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Format Kindle
The lockstep is the weirdest concept I have ever come across. By hibernating, the population of a far flung colony can exist on almost nothing but the power required for the deep sleep modules. While they slumber, bots tend the day to day activities, harvesting and harbouring resources to sustain the colony when it wakes, and to fuel a journey across the stars to another colony for the purpose of trade. If they sleep on the ship, they can awaken at that other colony, having travelled multiple light-years ‘overnight’. If that other colony hibernated at the same time they did, then they, too, would have years of harvested materials to trade and the resources for their own journey elsewhere. Sleeping planets in a wide network become linked by a schedule of hibernation that allows trade and faster travel. But what happens to all the years falling away in between?
That was the question that poked me throughout ‘Lockstep’. Karl Schroeder expends quite a bit of effort toward explaining the theory and the math and I sort of got it. I understood the concept enough to take it as given, so I could get on with reading the story. But a sense of urgency gripped me as years floated away between periods of hibernation. On many of the planets, folks ‘wintered-over’ or hibernated for thirty years at a stretch. They’d wake for a month, burn through their gathered resources and then go to sleep again. Even though I understood it, it felt like just another night to them, I could not get over the wasted time, the years that went by unchecked. I missed them on their behalf.
When years hit the ratio of fourteen thousand real-time to forty actually lived, I had to cast myself adrift from the loss. It was too impossible to contemplate.
‘But what is the book about?’ I hear you ask. Well, it’s about a boy who is lost to time. Toby McGonigal set out to claim a moon. Once he put a metaphorical stamp on the rock, his family of intra-galactic homesteaders would have successfully mapped the portion of space surrounding the planet Sedna and could rightfully call it all theirs. An accident tosses him off course and out of time. He wakes over a dark planet, figures out he is lost and decides to hibernate again, for the last time. He is surprised to wake up again and even more surprised to find that fourteen thousand years have passed. Then he learns about the lockstep and the lockstep worlds. Hint: Toby grasped the concept more easily than I did. I think he felt the passage of years as keenly, however.
Toby is not simply a boy out of time, however. He soon discovers he has a legacy, one that has had thousands of years to germinate. He is a legend awakened, the emperor of time. Who seeded the myths? His grieving family. Their search for him and the wait for his return, started the trend of hibernation, creating the lockstep. Toby is the heir to that and all it entails. But not all of his family are happy to see him. In fact, they seem bent on his destruction. Why? Answering that question would be giving up the plot of the book.
‘Lockstep’ is pretty unique, as far as far future Science Fiction goes. The concept is really out there. The world-building matches the insane passage of time, though. Periods of enforced hibernation mean people can live in really bizarre circumstances on worlds perhaps only Karl Schroeder can dream about. I enjoyed learning about these different worlds, from concept to creation, and how different life could be in space. The genetic advancements were fascinating. The denners, cat-like creatures that served as an alternate hibernation system, were really cute. I want one. Of course, if I woke up tomorrow to find thirty years had passed, I might want my money back.
As expected, the inhabitants of these worlds have some strange ideas. Here’s where having a boy out of time as the narrator really works. The reader experiences these differences with Toby, which allows the author to insert small chunks of exposition that might otherwise feel heavy. Schroeder doesn’t dump all over the page, though. The explanations are in small, digestible portions that integrate seamlessly with the story.
Toby is an interesting mix of boy and man. He’s believably smart and reasonably sympathetic. At seventeen, his thoughts often felt immature. His lapses in judgment are easily forgiven; he’s lost a near unfathomable amount of time and forty years with his family. The universe is full of strangers living strange lives. Of his new friends, I think I liked Shylif the most. His story really bridged the gap between ‘fast worlds’ and the ‘lockstep’ worlds, fast worlds being those that exist fully in real time without hibernating.
I’ve read Karl Schroeder before, and have admired his imagination before. I love that for every twenty authors out there writing the regular space opera, which I need regular doses of, there is another guy dreaming up the impossible. If he writes another time-bending novel, I’ll check my anxiety at the front cover and leap right in.
Written for SFCrowsnest.org.uk