Wednesday, 4 May 2016

Central Station by Lavie Tidhar: Review

4 stars

Arc provided by Netgalley in exchange for an honest review- thanks to Tachyon Publications for the copy

I've never encountered a novel quite like this. The last great sci-fi novel I read was Theodore Sturgeon's dazzling 'More Than Human', and finally I've found a worthy successor!

The titular Central Station is a space port located in Tel Aviv, Israel. As Earth's only link to vast swathes of the Solar System, Central Station is a melting pot of culture. Immigrants from all over Earth live both within and outside of Central Station, searching for a life close to the stars. Visitors from other planets, the descendants of human settlers, are all drawn to the hive of activity that is Central Station. And infiltrating the lives of all who live in this universe is the digital realm, encompassed by the constant feed of information, 'The Conversation', fed to people through nodes installed in their bodies at birth. The divisions between humanity and digital intelligence are blurring: half-human, half-cyborg robotniks fall in love with human women, vampires roam the universe feeding on data rather than blood, and the omnipresent 'Others', sentient digital intelligences, lurk in the background. Tidhar follows the lives of the people and digital beings caught up in the midst of Central Station, weaving a beautiful tapestry of words that both tantalises the boundless depths of imagination, and affirms the bonds that unite human-kind. 

This is sci-fi done well. The world-building is impeccable: the reader is whisked away in a panoramic view of Central Station and all its inhabitants as we flit between new and old characters, fleshing out this truly vibrant society Tidhar has envisioned. We meet interesting characters such as Brother R. Patch-It, a robot priest who questions what it means to be both human and robot ("To be a robot, you needed faith, R. Patch-It thought. To be a human, too".), drug-dealing robotniks and genetically-engineered children. As their lives intersect, the reader gets the sense that they are witnessing the growth of one big family: if not by blood, they are all connected by the power of Central Station and the continuous stream of data threading between them. This world is exciting: I felt like a child again, suffused with Tidhar's creativity. 

Tidhar's writing is vividly poetic: he describes Earth as "the womb from which humanity crawled, tooth by bloody nail, towards the stars". Imagery of nature, fertility and rebirth can be found in harmony with scientific discussions of cyber-space and gaming, again emphasising the grey area between what is human and what is technological. I was left fascinated with the multitude of themes this novel explores, from religion to love to digital evolution.

This was a great book, and my only issue with it was that it was rather plotless and as a consequence I did not feel that the strands of these characters' stories were pulled together effectively enough at the novel's end. I needed a little more. But despite the lack of a solid plot, the story is never boring. It's a joy to read, and I highly recommend it!

This title will be published on the 10th of May by Tachyon Publications

No comments:

Post a Comment