Book Review: Central Station by Lavie Tidhar |2017 Arthur C. Clarke Shortlist Post #4

The 2017 Clarke Award shortlist was announced at the beginning of May and, as I did last year, I want to read the entire shortlist.

If you have not seen the shortlist already, here it is:

My goal is to read the shortlist before July 27th when the winner will be announced.


 

25986774Genre: Science fiction, Fantasy

Publisher: Tachyon

Length: 275 pages

Format: Ebook

Rating: 3 stars

Publication Date: April 12th 2016

 

 

 

Publisher’s description

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.

Book Review

I first read Central Station last year (you can find my original review here) and, at the time, I said that I wouldn’t be surprised if it ended up being shortlisted by several awards. As it sometimes happens, I was right and I decided to read it again as a part of this particular project.

The first time I read it, I thought it was a brilliant book in its ideas but I didn’t actually especially enjoy reading it, my experience was a bit different the second time around but still, I don’t think Central Station is fully a book for me. It’s full of interesting ideas, the writing is gorgeous but, for some reasons, I couldn’t immerse myself in the stories.

Central Station is a fix-up novel, it is a collection of interconnected short stories that were almost all previously published in several SF magazines (mostly Interzone). Throughout those stories, we follow the lives of several people living in Central Station, a space station set in a future Tel Aviv. Everything and everything can be found in Central Station, to cyborgs, data-vampires, genetically modified children or god designers.

Since the stories are connected, the same characters kept on popping up in different ways and that’s the main thing that didn’t work for me. Indeed, the stories were all published separately and they don’t all have the same atmosphere or tone. Oddly, seeing the same characters through very different lights threw me off the stories a bit because some of their behavior didn’t seem on phase with how they were in other stories. However, I havent’ seen this particular thing mentionned in other reviews so, it might just be me interpreting things too much.  Also, since the stories tended to have very different tones, this collection felt messy because it lacked cohesio. Indeed, some stories are very fantastical and other are way more science fiction-heavy and, as a whole it felt a bit awkward.

I also had troubles connecting to most of the characters,they are all very flawed and since the characters I disliked the most were the ones that were appearing the most in this collection, it was hard for me to care for the stories, especially towards the end. However, the main protagonist of the stories aren’t really the characters per say but Central Station as a whole. I liked the fact that it felt incredibly vivid and almost “touchable”. Everything is described in a gorgeous way, you can almost smell the streets, see and hear the inhabitants of Central Station, it feels real and the way Tidhar describes its history is beautiful. I would have read a novel in the city’s POV with pleasure actually since it felt way more developped than the actual characters.

So, as much as I didn’t fall in love with Central Station, it is a very clever work of science fiction, it is a vrey interesting reflexion on humanity and evolution. Central Station is a hub, a perpetual clash of cultures. It’s a place where you can eat shawarmas on the street, go to a Robot Church or take the next spaceship to Mars. It is both the future and the past, it’s about humans through times and their different stages of cyber evolution. It is an ode to older science fiction books and I would recommend it to everyone interested by intelligent and fascinating fiction even if I had issues with it.

At this point I have read all the shortlisted books and Central Station is, in my opinion, a very strong contender for the prize.

 

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8 thoughts on “Book Review: Central Station by Lavie Tidhar |2017 Arthur C. Clarke Shortlist Post #4

  1. I loved this book, but I do have to agree, it’s one of those books where you have to connect to the storytelling style and the characters in order to fully enjoy it. For some reason it worked for me, although I tend to really like quirky books and this was VERY quirky:-)

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I have not had the pleasure of reading anything by Lavie Tidhar yet, but this is one I hope to pick up one day. Some of reviews I’ve read about its style makes me a little wary that I might not be able to get into it, but at the same time I’m drawn to the kind of themes described here!

    Like

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