Review: Central Station

Lavie Tidhar’s Central Station provides an excuse to date myself without making use of Carbon-14. Reading it reminded me of Robert Lynn Asprin’s Thieves’ World. Thieves’ World began a series of fantasy short story collections from science fiction and fantasy authors. The conceit was that the authors agreed to share the world in which they created a loosely collaborative story. The result was something between an incredibly well written telling of a role playing campaign and fan fiction. Characters and focus came and went as did themes; the quality varied – or probably my appreciation of the writing did so.

I’m not addressing this in a scholarly way. It was the first time I saw that kind of experiment, and I found it engaging.

Central Station has something of the feel of creating a shared world. Tidhar introduces cast of interesting characters who inhabit a rich melieu and have an interesting and open-ended adventure. The book feels not so much that it’s ripe for a sequel, but that the table has been set and we’re waiting for guests to arrive. I even have the same enthusiasm that I felt when reading Thieves’ World. Writers could tell more great stories with these characters in this place.

That may sound like faint praise. Let me heap some more distinct praise on it.

Tidhar builds a world and creates characters that embody the feeling of community that forms in successful melting pots. He creates a rich polyglot community informed by technology, but not based on it. Often writers focus on how technology changes human interaction, but Tidhar’s characters have seamlessly absorbed technology. That’s the way people really adopt it and it’s refreshing to see.

Central Station is also filled with small nods and Easter eggs to the SF community. It’s nothing like the density of Ready Player One, but rich enough to draw the connection between the fictional community and the real-world SF community as melting pots. It’s a nice way to make the point with a wink. The tonal connection to Thieves’ World may even be intentional – an Easter egg for me.

Central Station builds a fictional world in a way that rings true with some of the best of our world. Strongly Recommended.

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