A review by essinink
Central Station by Lavie Tidhar


Central Station is not a novel. I start with this, because it's important to how I had to understand the work. If you go into this book reading it as a novel, you will be frustrated. Seemingly significant details emerge, are studied, and then are dropped before they follow through to a satisfying conclusion.

Central Station is not a short story collection, though it started out that way. Most of the 'chapters' were originally published as separate works, forming the Central Station Story Cycle, but the versions published were--according to the copyright page--'substantively different' versions than those which appear in this volume.

And so what the reader experiences is more than a collection, less than a novel, and yet still somehow moving.

"There comes a time in a man's life when he realizes that stories are lies. Things do not end neatly."
-Lavie Tidhar,
Central Station

And so they don't. The story should feel unfinished--and it's true that I'm left wondering about many things--but that's okay. What's presented here is a patchwork of human (and I suppose, 'post-human') experience. From Boris Chong, to Kranki and Ismail, to Carmel, to the Robotniks--and oh my heart breaks for the Robotniks, there's a great deal here that I like.

There's also some commentary that I didn't connect with. Faith and religion of all creeds are ever-present in the background (We see Jews, Catholics, Buddhists, and others milling about this future Tel Aviv and Central Station), but the one that the reader hears most of is the Church of Robot, with the psychotropic drug called 'faith' or 'Crucifixion,' coupled with a mish-mash of terms from religions around the world coupled to new definitions. In another segment, add in Eliezar the god-maker, and the nature of the Others (and by extension the children) ...It's a great example of where a book and I have to nod and part ways.

It's unsurprising that Lavie Tidhar has drawn comparisons to Philip K. Dick, I definitely got that vibe from his style. But unlike PKD, I'm missing that final a-ha! moment where the crazy becomes clarity.

Ultimately, I enjoyed it. There's just enough tilt to the world to keep me intrigued. As a series of snapshots, loosely connected into a narrative of human experience, 4 stars without question. As any kind of novel in the traditional sense, 3.