Central Station by Lavie Tidhar
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
You know you've got a winner when:
You keep saying to yourself, over and over and over, I hope this never ends, I hope this never ends.
You get so deeply immersed in ideas, with so much world-building and awe and exploration of humanity, post-humanity, robot, evolutionary AI, and how everyone interacts, explores, and lives together pretty much harmoniously, that you cry and say, I live here. I will always live here. I have already been living here.
You snap out of a nested story self-reference long enough to realize that the author just Louis Woo'd you or slammed you right into a data-singularity mine within the Game-World or you just found your way to the mythical land of Pac-Mandu.
This novel is not a plot-heavy. It doesn't need to be. It follows an ensemble list of characters, all fascinating and wonderful in their own rights, following a dense nested stream of short stories tightly tied to the place of Tel-Aviv a good long while AFTER the technological singularity had had its way with the world and the solar system, until everyone from normal humans, noded humans, cyborgs, demi-godlings, and most especially, the "Others" (Post-Singularity Intelligences) coexist and live in an extremely idea-dense world.
Its full of Jewish-Robot religions, a wide assortment of post-mortality packages, Strigoi (data vampirism, damn I loved Carmel,) and a heavily advanced system of MMORPG's that is tied very tightly to real-money systems, and can help you earn enough to book passage off-planet by way of captaining a starship in-game. How cool is all this? I can't even begin click off all these hundreds of wonderful ideas, and so many of them get explored so deeply, too.
Yes, it's a setting piece, but the characters are much more than just setting. The themes are also deep and introspective and Lavie Tidhar loves to explore everything deeply and interestingly.
I just couldn't get enough of this novel.
But don't expect a plot payoff, mind you. This isn't that kind of novel at all. Think about an interwoven tapestry of dense short stories that touch and caress Central Station, itself, and just revel in the glory of sensations. You won't be disappointed.
As something of an afterward, I do want to bring up one last thing. Another reviewer mentioned that the feel is close to Hannu Rajaniemi in many ways, and I have to agree. Hell, the one thing that decided me on reading this book was that reference. It sold me and sold me HARD.
So what about a post-analysis comparison? Both artists love their nested stories, their sometimes nearly hidden easter eggs, their wide and exhaustive knowledge of the SF field, and the glory of the godlike *idea*. Both imagine a Post-Singularity solar system. The difference between them are pretty fundamental, though. Lavie Tidhar focuses on reflection and coming to grips with reality and just plain living. It's gorgeous. Hannu Rajaniemi doesn't ignore those themes, but he also ties some really damn BIG rip-roaring adventures and plot twists among all the nested stories.
You might say that this novel has a bit more yin to Hannu's yang. This might be a major selling point to prospective readers. Who knows? I know I loved it, but it IS quite different in tone. :)
I could read this novel forever. I could keep reading its like from now to eternity. It's just that good and it's BRIGHT in my head.
Thanks to Netgalley for the ARC!
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