Central Station by Lavie Tidhar
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.(via Goodreads)
My first brush with Central Station was Lavie Tidhar’s story “Strigoi.” It was originally published in 2012, but I didn’t read it until two years later. I didn’t read its sort-of sequel “The Bookseller” until early this year. Those two stories are part of an interconnected narrative of 13-14 tales, all with Central Station and the Jones and Chong families at their heart. This book, Central Station, is compilation of all those stories with, I assume, some changes to better weave them together.
And it’s great.
Set in an unstated year in the future, Central Station rises to the stars in Israel, near Tel Aviv. It is part launching point and part space dock for humanity’s movement off-world. But against that backdrop, the stories are grounded on Earth, in Central Station, in the sprawl of cities that surround it, and in the virtual world that exists for a noded population, part of the world-wide Conversation.
Despite being science fiction, there is a sort of organic-ness to Tidhar’s Central Station. The technology feels more like a part of the world rather than an overlay. The world is grimy and filled with all sorts of people. Not everything is explained, not everything needs to be. It has a very Blade Runner feel about it.
All the stories, though, come back to the characters, a intertwined group of family, friends, and lovers. Achimwene, the unnoded bookseller, is by far my favorite, but I wouldn’t mind spending more time with any of them.
Publishing info, my copy: Kindle/ePub ARC, Tachyon Publications, May 10, 2016
Genre: science fiction