Central station, by Lavie Tidhar

Central station Book Cover Central station
Lavie Tidhar
Science fiction
May 10 2016

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. The city is literally a weed, its growth left unchecked. Life is cheap, and data is cheaper.

When Boris Chong returns to Tel Aviv from Mars, much has changed. Boris’s ex-lover is raising a strangely familiar child who can tap into the datastream of a mind with the touch of a finger. His cousin is infatuated with a robotnik—a damaged cyborg soldier who might as well be begging for parts. His father is terminally-ill with a multigenerational mind-plague. And a hunted data-vampire has followed Boris to where she is forbidden to return.

Rising above them is Central Station, the interplanetary hub between all things: the constantly shifting Tel Aviv; a powerful virtual arena, and the space colonies where humanity has gone to escape the ravages of poverty and war. Everything is connected by the Others, powerful alien entities who, through the Conversation—a shifting, flowing stream of consciousness—are just the beginning of irrevocable change.

At Central Station, humans and machines continue to adapt, thrive...and even evolve.

Central station is a collection of loosely knitted short stories - that's nice to know beforehand, which I didn't. I still very much enjoyed the reading, but was perhaps left with the impression of an even more gloriously sprawling mess than I would have, otherwise.

There isn't a lot of plot here, or, well, resolved threads of any sort. This normally makes me unhappy. But Central Station never feels like it's supposed to be setting up for that; Indeed, it feels like people-watching in an airport or train station, overhearing snippets of conversation, looking around at distinct groups and running children and individuals meeting each other, by accident or by plan.   The difference is that in Central station, all of these random people are very, very interesting.  So interesting, I want to know more about each and every one of them. I want to know about that implant behind the ear, I want to know about those immersion pods, I want to know why the kid is flickering, I want to know about those robotnik beggars, I want to know about the others. This is idea-dense enough to put me in mind of novels by Peter Watts.  Having read a couple of Tidhar novels, though, I sort of expect that if any larger story comes out of this, it'll be about the religious robots.  (Which I say in a very hopeful tone of voice, by the way!)

So - read it? Yes, if you want to sort of sail across the river in a glass-bottomed boat to watch, rather than put on the diving suit and get fully underwater.  Go for it.

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