Review – Central Station by Lavie Tidhar

Posted: May 10, 2016 in Sci-Fi
Tags: , ,

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A worldwide diaspora has left a quarter of a million people at the foot of a space station. Cultures collide in real life and virtual reality. Life is cheap, and data is cheaper. But at Central Station, humans and machines continue to adapt, thrive, and even evolve.

Whilst the blurb for Lavie Tidhar’s Central Station reads like a cyberpunk thriller, the book is complex, engaging and full of wonder. It’s a novel of dichotomies, divergences and bifurcations; it’s about life and death, evolution and creation, the virtual and the corporeal, about vast space and local neighbourhoods, and strange, new technologies and ancient, human emotions.

At the heart of the book lies the eponymous Central Station, a huge hub for sub-orbital flights, religion, virtual gaming suites and more. Based in Tel Aviv it is the nucleus around which all manner of cultures and beings revolve, and is the main character around which Lavie Tidhar weaves the various stories. Across generations, Central Station has been home to the Chong family, a sprawling collection of cousins, aunts and siblings, each of whom has been touched by and affected the social and physical space of the station.

Against an awe inspiring background of interplanetary colonisation, the evolution of digital intelligences and strange technologies, is a collection of interweaving and diverging stories about a father losing his mind under the weight of shared memories; a data vampire seeking more than satisfaction for her hunger; a robotic priest contemplating existence; a strange child birthed from hacked digital elements; a returning son and his lost teenage love; the creation of virtual life; the love between a women and an ancient cyborg soldier.

Each tale weaves complexly into the next but each has it’s own trajectory and, though the epic scope of Tidhar’s story is huge, it’s real concern is with the details that make up the human condition. Each is a personal account of thoughts and ideas, relationships and changes. Yet, and importantly, these ideas also intersect with the other major concern in Central Staion; what is consciousness or self or identity. A concept brilliantly handled by the inclusions of virtual networks, digital entities and robot minds.

This is a novel that captures the heart of human experience (in all it’s odd ways) whilst simultaneously building a world full of wonderful and far-reaching ideas. It’s beautiful, considered and complex in equal measure.

Review copy
Published by Tachyon Publications

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