By Karl Schroeder

A number of different technologies — from steam engines and the telegraph in the nineteenth century to the Internet today — have promised to annihilate time and space by allowing ever faster speeds of travel and communication. Once we start getting into navigating distances of light years, however, some really fancy juggling is going to be required.

Enter the Lockstep, a sort of cryogenic rhythm method that operates by putting everyone into synchronized hibernation for thirty years at a time and then waking them up for one-month intervals. Downtime can thus be spent shuttling about the orphan planets of the cold outer reaches of our solar system while mechanical functions are handled by a robot proletariat.

Trouble ensues, however, when Toby McGonigal, a scion of the Lockstep Empire’s ruling family, returns to the waking world after a 14,000-year snooze. It seems not everyone is glad to see him back, and soon he is involved in a political struggle that threatens to upset the carefully calibrated tempo of Lockstep life. Karl Schroeder expertly draws us into this richly-imagined future corner of the galaxy and keeps the action moving at a pace that won’t let you take any breaks for a nap.

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