Book Review: Central Station by Lavie Tidhar

I have wanted to read something of Tidhar since his name first cropped up on my radar. I am an occasional reader of more literary and heavier science fiction and his style and subject matter appeared to hit the spot. I had an email from the publisher (Tachyon Press) asking if I would like an ARC. Gratefully, I accepted as eagerly as I accepted Slow Bullets by Alastair Reynolds last year. Here is what I think of this book.

The titular Central Station is a giant spaceport located in the middle east, somewhere between modern Tel Aviv and Jaffa. Though the spaceport is intimidatingly its central “character”, and it is ever present, the story follows several families who have made their lives in a city that surrounds its base – wild, uncontrolled and growing. They reflect on the changes going on in Israel and the middle east, both socially and technologically, and develop in this new world.

It is essentially a story of family, of life and love, and getting by. Each chapter is told from the perspective of a different character. This switching about may confuse some and annoy others, especially if you are not used to this more literary end of the science fiction scale. In this way, it can be hard going. It is not exciting by any stretch of the imagination, but we are compelled to keep reading. Fans of China Mieville and Alastair Reynolds well know exactly what I mean here,  though you will find a lot less in the way of action.

The tone is slow and deliberate, almost densely written. Not everybody will have the patience for this density. I notice from Good Reads that several readers simply gave up after a chapter or two. I can understand why, but I think that is a shame that they did not have the motivation or the patience to keep reading. This style is certainly an acquired taste and its not a “lazy Sunday morning” sort of a read. Tidhar could also have done more to make the style accessible. In places, it feels a little over-written.

Something about this book feels very much thrown together as though the chapters do not quite fit as intended. I wasn’t surprised to discover later that it had appeared piece by piece elsewhere and had always intended to be one story. Cleverly done, but I feel the author slightly misses the mark on that issue too.

Not a bad book, but not great either. I feel that missing the cultural references made me poorer for the experience. Had I got these, I am sure I would have got the book a bit better too. 3.5 / 5 for me. Definitely an acquired taste, even your somebody used to the style.

2 thoughts on “Book Review: Central Station by Lavie Tidhar

  1. Joachim Boaz

    “Tidhar could also have done more to make the style accessible” — why? Perhaps the failing is on your part… There is so much mainstream SF that is super action, things blowing up, etc. Why can’t there be reflected SF that is more intelligent and layered with some meaningful depth? It’s certainly not for everyone…

    1. The failing may be on my part, but I do enjoy reading hard sci fi. I am a big fan of Alastair Reynolds and Peter F. Hamilton (to name some of the modern big names of this style). But they are adept at making the text flow and I enjoy their writing style even when I am not so keen on the story.

      I didn’t feel this work achieved that and came across as quite clunkily written.

      It is helpful to absorb the entire paragraph there, particularly the sentence following the one you highlighted.

      Thanks for your comments. We can agree to disagree I am sure.

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