Having sent up superheroes in The Violent Century , given a post-modern twist to the deconstruction of of the 21st Century’s most feared terrorists in Osama and depicted the true brutality of concentration camp life in A Man Lies Dreaming, Lavie Tidhar’s latest novel takes the cyberpunk route, sea-sawing in location from Tel Aviv to Mars via the space-set Central Station.
With 250,000 people decamped at the foot of the space station to escape the desolate backdrop that the world has become, it could be tempting to view this as an allegory for the current state of affairs in Europe. Instead, Tidhar is more interested in following his protagonists: Mars exile Boris, and two of his former lovers: Miriam, who comes in tow with a gifted child; and Carmel, a ‘data vampire’ on the run from the authorities.
With the narrative constantly shifting between the real and virtual world, making few concessions to its readers, this is arguably Tidhar’s most ambitious book to date – which says a lot, considering the singular nature of his previous output. However, while his other work always had something to latch onto, Central Station is an infinitely tougher proposition to get a handle on.
The way Tidhar takes on heavy sci-fi concepts and runs with them bears comparisons with the likes of William Gibson, Isaac Asimov and Philip K Dick, although while they were always able to ground their work in something relatable, the same trick isn’t managed here. Tidhar is so in love with the world he has created that as a consequence, the story isn’t given quite the level of coherence it needs.
Even if he doesn’t quite nail it, Tidhar’s exploration of the possibilities of cyberpunk yields some interesting results. Where he goes from here is anyone’s guess, but the genre is all the better off for his presence.