Central Station by Tidhar Lavie

Vertigo

Mad Mountain Man
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Oh dear, I so often seem to struggle with literary authors who decide to try their hand at science fiction. There are exceptions like Iain Banks, George Orwell, Aldous Huxley and others, but there seem to be a significant number who just treat future science like magic in fantasy; simply inventing ‘speculative’ science to fulfil their narrative needs. To be fair a very high proportion of ‘golden age’ science fiction also does exactly this, which is maybe one of the reasons I also tend to struggle with them. So far as I’m concerned treating science in this way just changes the genre to science fantasy. To pick one example from this book, he has ‘discarded’ cyborg soldiers who are all rusting. Please! Who would build military cyborgs using metal or alloys that are susceptible to rust? How useless would they be? Also, these discarded cyborg soldiers are, apparently, only good for begging or very menial jobs; they are, apparently, unable to do any useful work… like security for instance? Oh, of course, it’s because they are rusting and falling to pieces! Why do non science fiction authors who decide to dabble in science fiction seem to think that there is no need, or even point, to making the science plausible? That to me is disrespectful to a genre that already struggles for any kind of literary acknowledgement.

Sadly, I also didn’t notice that it is a mosaic novel. I generally dislike mosaic novels and, had I realised, I probably wouldn’t have bought it. Almost all the chapters have been previously published as short stories, though I struggle to see them as short stories since, for me at least, even short stories should have some sort of conclusion. These chapters were just linked vignettes but even once they are all linked together there is no real conclusion to the story. All sorts of elements are given implied importance making the reader think “Ah, this is going to be significant later, and I’m sure it will make sense then.” But it never does. Very little is explained which I’m sure is all very artistic and literary and so forth but for me it was just a waste of two days reading.

I notice that Tidhar has received loads of literary awards including one for a fantasy novel and the James Campbell Memorial award for this one. And, yes, he writes well there is a considerable amount of very clever prose that was a pleasure to read. And, despite the appalling science, the world he creates is interesting. It’s just that he doesn’t do anything with it. There is no story, just a bunch of colourful vignettes.

Sorry despite the good prose this one was not for me.



3/5 stars.
 

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