Space was full of questions, life was a sentence always ending in an ellipsis or a question mark. You couldn’t answer everything. You could only believe there were answers at all.
― Lavie Tidhar, Central Station
A robot built for battle, and cast aside at the war’s end, an eerie vision of this country’s homeless veteran problem… A gamer girl who spends much of her time encapsulated in a pod battling in virtual worlds, conflicted because she loves a robot at a time where the Catholic church forbids human/robot love… A gifted child, manufactured like a science experiment, but still undeniably human… And his best friend, who seems to shimmer in and out of the physical world and into the virtual one, where so much of the future takes place… Others, sentient machines who live amongst humans, sometimes pairing with them to create superhuman-like oracles… A vampire who feeds on data from the Conversation, an ever-humming networked buzz of connection.
All of these characters weave in and out of Lavie Tidhar’s Central Station, a complex and elaborate vision of a future directly extrapolated from our present. Close your eyes, take two deep breaths forward into technology’s advancement, and you are there–with the towering, bustling space port of Central Station bursting through the atmosphere above you, its height creating its own miniature weather systems.
Central Station is Tel Aviv, or was Tel Aviv, but is now a bustling space port, a cultural mecca where creatures human and other have met, bounced off of each other, merged, fought, loved, and formed some sort of life together. Those looking for a plot-driven novel will only find hints of one here, but those seeking a world built from scratch will appreciate the strong foundations and smart implications of this future vision.
I loved Lavie Tidhar’s Osama, and sometimes I wonder if Tidhar is trying to see just how unpopular he can become. He is a talented writer who doesn’t seem to make his projects more digestible for a mainstream audience, which is fine, but I would love to see him make it big with something more easily to consume one day. I also need to find a copy of his Man Lies Dreaming next, which like Osama, sounds almost a bit too meta and brilliant for its own good. But Tidhar is one of the few authors who can take these big, uncomfortable ideas and story tropes and pull something brilliant and beautiful and fresh out of them.
My last post was on Berkeley’s Bay Area Book Festival, and this book received a shoutout from the authors on the Subversive Speculative Science Fiction Panel. If you are looking for something simple, look elsewhere. If you want something to make your mind and heart expand and ache, you’ve found your author.