I'm trying to recall the title and author of a science fiction novel written in the past 10 years. The plot involves a future human civilization where slower than light travel between the stars is common.

In order to synchronize the lives of citizens living on or travelling between the many worlds of the empire, and to shorten the subjective time it takes to travel between star systems, most people periodically go into cryogenic sleep for several years. Therefore, while maybe thousands of years have passed in real time, for most citizens only several decades have transpired.

  • 1
    Could it be The Worthing Saga, in which society awards merit with greater sleep periods, so that the rich and the artistic live days out of tens or hundreds of years?
    – gowenfawr
    Jun 11, 2021 at 0:18
  • 1
    Children of Time & a follow-up book Children of Ruin has a similar concept, where humans in space ships go into hibernation in order to travel across space.
    – pijemcolu
    Jun 11, 2021 at 12:18
  • 1
    A very similar idea is used in Greg Egan's novel Schild's Ladder, in which rather than hibernating, the people who stay at home drastically slow down their metabolism in order to experience the same amount of subjective time as the travelers.
    – David
    Jun 11, 2021 at 15:43
  • 2
    "A Deepness in the Sky" (Vinge) has this as a concept as well; probably not the one you're looking for (more than 10 years old); however well worth putting on your list...
    – poncho
    Jun 11, 2021 at 18:57

3 Answers 3


Lockstep (2014) by Karl Schroeder

The publisher's blurb:

When seventeen-year-old Toby McGonigal finds himself lost in space, separated from his family, he expects his next drift into cold sleep to be his last. After all, the planet he's orbiting is frozen and sunless, and the cities are dead. But when Toby wakes again, he's surprised to discover a thriving planet, a strange and prosperous galaxy, and something stranger still—that he's been asleep for 14,000 years.

Welcome to the Lockstep Empire, where civilization is kept alive by careful hibernation. Here cold sleeps can last decades and waking moments mere weeks. Its citizens survive for millennia, traveling asleep on long voyages between worlds. Not only is Lockstep the new center of the galaxy, but Toby is shocked to learn that the Empire is still ruled by its founding family: his own.

Toby's brother Peter has become a terrible tyrant. Suspicious of the return of his long-lost brother, whose rightful inheritance also controls the lockstep hibernation cycles, Peter sees Toby as a threat to his regime. Now, with the help of a lockstep girl named Corva, Toby must survive the forces of this new Empire, outwit his siblings, and save human civilization.

Pretty much exactly as you describe it

  • 2
    Could you edit this to explain how this matches?
    – TheLethalCarrot
    Jun 11, 2021 at 12:50
  • 2
    Yes this is the book. There are many science fiction novels with characters using hibernation during interstellar travel, but the entire human species periodically going into cryosleep is unique.
    – RobertF
    Jun 11, 2021 at 13:45

Children of Time and a follow-up book Children of Ruin has a similar concept, where humans in space ships go into hibernation in order to travel across space.

Hibernation / cryogenic sleep allows them to travel huge distances in order to attempt and preserve humanity.

Might not be what you were looking for, but those are still good books, so I pulled the answer out of the comment.

  • 1
    Thank you, I'll put on my reading list.
    – RobertF
    Jun 11, 2021 at 12:28
  • FWIW as you know this isn't the answer this really should have been left as a comment. Answers should be used to answer the question only. Similar works/recommendations should be left in the comments.
    – TheLethalCarrot
    Jun 11, 2021 at 12:36
  • @TheLethalCarrot I'm not yet convinced this isn't the answer. The accepted answer has nothing to support it.
    – Spencer
    Jun 11, 2021 at 12:43
  • From the question, I'm pretty certain that this is not the right answer (though I will say they're are well worth reading anyway.) The question mentions that there are many worlds in an empire, and that is most definitely not the case for Children of Time.
    – andrewsi
    Jun 11, 2021 at 13:36
  • 4
    Cryosleep for lengthy space-travel is such a common trope in SciFi that just that feature alone can't pin down any answer. There are thousands of SciFi books with some form of cryosleep travel. So please don't post answers like this unless you have more key-points that match the question. Question itself is also not very good as it doesn't really provide much else to go on.
    – Tonny
    Jun 11, 2021 at 13:37

A Deepness in the Sky (2000) by Vernor Vinge does this. Crews from a galaxy-spanning trader civilization wake up in shifts from cryogenic sleep after thousands of years. The short story Giants (2012) by Peter Watts does the same thing.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.