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 by Lavie Tidhar
Publication: May 10 2016 by Tachyon Publications
Source: ARC via Netgalley
The immersive quality of the visual textures and the aural soundscape of a culturally diverse diasporic future in Central Station really rang true for me. I like reading about what the future could actually be like when diaspora and pidgin languages take a central role in the imagination. I dip into cyberpunkish post-human works every now and again, and I find that I love delving into those speculative explorations from a character-based point of view.
One of my favourite aspects of the books was Boris’ and Vladimir’s perspectives on having generations of family memories literally being passed down to subsequent generations through an augmentation. I’ve encountered the concept of family memories being passed down in other works (E.g. Aliette de Bodard’s Xuya universe stories) but this was the first time I’d read a story where such extensive memories become confused and fractured (in a way that reminds me a little of Alzheimers.) It made for a very poignant exploration of a person who could remember many lives other than their own.
Likewise, the idea of virtual Gameworlds where people can escape into a fantasy world of their own making is not an unfamiliar SF idea. Although I liked how gameworlds are just one aspect of this universe, which was tied to a specific character’s need to escape. I was also completely immersed in Carmel’s life as a data vampire and her exploration of humanity and what it means to feed on others. She comes to know Achimwene who is another outsider. Achimwene is an outsider because he is unable to connect to the virtual Conversation of the universe. Although he collects old pulp novels and finds solace as a bookseller. There’s a mutual understanding of their differences and together, they are an intriguing team:
And so the lovers by complicit agreement, became detectives.
This novel is bit like an interwoven web of character-driven stories with a reflective edge, which I enjoyed as the post-human universe still fascinates me. Definitely recommended for speculative fiction readers.