Shortlisted for the Arthur C. Clarke Award 2017. 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' ex-lover is raising a strangely familiar child who can tap in to 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.
"It is just this side of a masterpiece - short, restrained, lush - and the truest joy of it is in the way Tidhar scatters brilliant ideas like pennies on the sidewalk." (NPR) "Central Station is in every way a literary masterpiece." (The Future Fire)
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Lavie Tidhar’s Sci-fi Novel Central Station is one of the six on the shortlist for the Arthur C. Clarke Award, was a finalist for the Locus Awards, and only two weeks ago has been awarded the John W. Campbell Memorial Award for best science fiction of the year. The composition of Central Station is known as a ‘fix-up’ novel, meaning that several stories that have been published in the past (in this case ranging between 2011-2015) have been brought together along several new added chapters to form one cohesive narrative. In its essence Central Station is an in-between place, similar to an airport and/or port located between Jewish Tel Aviv and Arab Jaffa. We learn that trades and cargo play a huge role in this distant future, even on a spiritual level:
“Cargo came from everywhere. In space, cargo was a religion all by itself. It came from Earth, shipped up to orbit, to the massive habitat called Gateway. It came from Lunar Port, and it came from the Belt, from Ceres and Vesta where the wealth of the Belt poured.”
The location is the core of the novel because it’s the only thing all the characters have in common. In the prologue an author sits down and writes of a civilization in the future imagining and reminiscing of the past (which is still quite distant from us and what we know). The term often used is the “imagined past.” It reminded me of one of those notebooks that certain hotels or locations make you sign every time you visit. It’s as if all these species of ‘people’ from the future (from all over the Solar System) get to sign their names at Central Station and tell their story.
Every chapter focuses on one character and is told from a different perspective, and the same character will re-appear in future stories as a secondary character. What is astounding is that even though all these species of the future are so different they seem to be a lot more tolerant of each other and understanding than humans are now. They look to us and our history the way we look at Cavemen. There are a few characters that dominate the naraative, mainly Miriam (Mama Jones), Boris, Caramel, and Kranky.
What amazes me is that Tidhar managed to create entities so different from us and somehow breathe air into their lungs and humanize them giving them relatable cravings and vices. The story I found most fascinating was that of a creature called “Strigoi” which we follow in chapter five, by name of ‘Caramel.’ Strigois are data vampires and absorb everything one knows. We follow how Caramel herself became a Strigoi and what her feelings were being at Central Station:
“she had never imagined the Conversation as she experienced it just then –the nearness and yet the distance of it, the compressedness of it all. Billions of humans, uncounted billions of digitals and machines, all talking, chattering, sharing at once. Images, text, voice, recordings, all-immersive memcordist media, gamesworlds spill-over—it came on her at once, and she reeled against it.”
When she meets Boris and Miriam at Central Station her parasite-like nature is viewed by Miriam as a disease, something Caramel can’t help similar to the ways we look at depression or anxiety. For Boris, Caramel is a sexualized entity. He is
“aroused by her difference…all the while knowing his own weakness, admitting to his sexual infatuation with her, this human kink that made them lust for Strigoi, for the thing that could harm them.”
To me this story is representative of the whole. Tidhar takes something so distant from us and makes it relatable. As readers we empathize with the non-human and that is the result of great craftsmanship and storytelling. I absolutely love this book and I will read it again soon.
I recommend this novel to anyone who enjoys science fiction. The reading and performance style of Jeff Harding is brilliant and he compliments the narrative with his voice.
I seriously have no idea if this book is any good. they narration is so annoying I cannot focus on the story at all, but what I did catch seemed pretty bad. why does every other sentence end with the crescendo of a 1950's radio broadcast climax. it is simply unbearable and makes it impossible appreciate the story. I sincerely want a refund because there is no possible way I can finish this story, unless possibly you release it with another narrator