The book is no more than ~15 years old, and may have been reviewed on Boing Boing.

Set far in the future, civilizations on rogue planets in interstellar space (or perhaps orbiting brown dwarfs?) have evolved a form of social organization where people cope with lower energy (lack of bright yellow stars) by having machinery accumulate solar power and resources for decades or centuries, then people wake up, the cities are warmed, etc.

This goes on for tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands of years, while "fast" civilizations rise and collapse around the warm stars.

  • Superficially, Vernor Vinge's "A Deepness in the Sky" might fit. However it was published ~1999 which rules it out. Sep 29, 2023 at 8:30
  • 1
    Greg Egan's Schild's Ladder (published in 2002) also mentions a similar idea, although the motivation is different.
    – David
    Sep 29, 2023 at 18:18

1 Answer 1


Lockstep by Karl Schroeder from 2014. From the author's website:

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 millenia, 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.

Here's the Boingboing review

Lockstep's central premise is a fiendishly clever answer to the problem of creating galactic-scale civilizations in a universe where the speed of light is absolute. The "Lockstep" worlds all enter into a contract to go into suspended animation on a synchronized schedule — in lockstep, in other words. The main Lockstep civilization is 360/1: they are frozen for 359 months, and then awake for one, and then go back to sleep. Other Locksteps run faster, and when two or more synch up, there is a "jubilee" where everyone is awake at once and can trade. Meanwhile sleeping for years and years at a time is ideal for the harsh environs of space, where it might take your free-floating asteroid years to bank enough stray hydrogen atoms or photons from distant weak suns to sustain your civilization.


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