Tag Archives: posthumanity

* NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of KINDLE Ebook Central Station by Lavie Tidhar

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Yep, it was the cover. I took one look at it and was immediately smitten. Did it play me false?

centralstationA worldwide diaspora has left a quarter of a million people at the foot of a space station. Cultures collide in real life and virtual reality. The city is literally a weed, its growth left unchecked. Life is cheap, and data is cheaper. When Boris Chong returns to Tel Aviv from Mars, much has changed. Boris’s ex-lover is raising a strangely familiar child who can tap into the datastream of a mind with the touch of a finger. His cousin is infatuated with a robotnik—a damaged cyborg soldier who might as well be begging for parts. His father is terminally-ill with a multigenerational mind-plague. And a hunted data-vampire has followed Boris to where she is forbidden to return.
Rising above them is Central Station, the interplanetary hub between all things: the constantly shifting Tel Aviv; a powerful virtual arena, and the space colonies where humanity has gone to escape the ravages of poverty and war. Everything is connected by the Others, powerful alien entities who, through the Conversation—a shifting, flowing stream of consciousness—are just the beginning of irrevocable change. At Central Station, humans and machines continue to adapt, thrive… and even evolve.

If it isn’t already apparent from the blurb, this is one of those books where the central character is the world Tidhar evokes in his detailed, layered descriptions that are the pivot around which the various plotlines circle. And if this were a rom-com or whodunit, it would be an issue for the reader – the pace would suffer and the storyline would be compromised. However, this is the harder end of science fiction, set a long way in the future where technology and an alien entity has significantly altered humanity, so we are now confronted with posthumans. Nothing can be taken for granted, as this is a world very different from ours, so that level of information is necessary.

Having said that, if Tidhar had presented info-dumps in indigestible chunks, I’d have found it a problem. So I’m glad to report that he does no such thing. He also manages to pull off another nifty trick – my other issue with posthuman protagonists is that they are often so very alien I find it difficult to care one way or the other as to what happens to them. My attention was held throughout this many-stranded narrative in multiple pov because Tidhar writes with power and economy.

His characters and their concerns bounce off the page, pulling me in and making me care. There are occasional moments of humour, drama and passion. What there isn’t is a single overarching plot that draws all this together into a tidy whole – but that is sort of the point. Tidhar’s scattergun approach, highlighting a number of individuals while they are grappling with aspects of their lives causing them a problem, gives us a vivid, multi-faceted sense of the whole.

Inevitably I cared more about some characters than others, but that was okay – the only time I felt Tidhar’s writing faltered very slightly, was when depicting the children. While I understood they were definitely different, along with the difference, they somehow lost their childishness, which prevented me from fully bonding with them.

A warning, though. If you have followed Tidhar’s short fiction and are poised to dive into Central Station all set to be whisked away into a completely different adventure, then you may be disappointed. As far as I can make out from the notes at the back of the edition, Tidhar has woven together a number of his short stories to create the novel, Central Station. However, if you pick up this book at random, lured by the beauty and alien feel of the cover and hoping for a sense of that other-world atmosphere permeating the pages, you’re in for a treat.
8/10

Teaser Tuesday – 3rd May 2016

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Teaser

Teaser Tuesday is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Books and a Beat.
Anyone can play along! Just do the following:
• Grab your current read
• Open to a random page
• Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
• BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
• Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

This is my choice of the day:
Central Station – by Lavie Tidhar
42%: Motl could no longer recall what the war had been about, or who they were fighting, exactly. The other side had semi-sentient fliers, they were predatory things that came from the sky, silently, that had talons that could tear through armour. Jubjub birds.

centralstationBLURB: A worldwide diaspora has left a quarter of a million people at the foot of a space station. Cultures collide in real life and virtual reality. The city is literally a weed, its growth left unchecked. Life is cheap, and data is cheaper.

When Boris Chong returns to Tel Aviv from Mars, much has changed. Boris’s ex-lover is raising a strangely familiar child who can tap into the datastream of a mind with the touch of a finger. His cousin is infatuated with a robotnik—a damaged cyborg soldier who might as well be begging for parts. His father is terminally-ill with a multigenerational mind-plague. And a hunted data-vampire has followed Boris to where she is forbidden to return.

Rising above them is Central Station, the interplanetary hub between all things: the constantly shifting Tel Aviv; a powerful virtual arena, and the space colonies where humanity has gone to escape the ravages of poverty and war. Everything is connected by the Others, powerful alien entities who, through the Conversation—a shifting, flowing stream of consciousness—are just the beginning of irrevocable change. At Central Station, humans and machines continue to adapt, thrive…and evolve.

This densely written, hard sci fi tale is a slice of daily life with a cast of characters who are all extraordinary and currently impossible. It takes a lot of skill, attention to detail and writing chops to be able to weave such beings into an engrossing story without lots of tedious info-dumping and Tidhar seems to have managed it. I’m really enjoying this one – it’s now a question of how the story progesses…

Review of Glasshouse by Charles Stross

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I’m a fan of Charles Stross’ writing – his work is intelligent, sharply witty, often funny and always enjoyably engrossing. So when I unexpectedly came across this offering on the shelves, I snatched it up with delight.

When Robin wakes up in a clinic with most of his memories missing, it doesn’t take him long to discover that someone else is trying to glasshousekill him… It is the 27th century: interstellar travel is by teleport gate, and conflicts are fought by network worms that censor refugees’ personalities and target historians. Robin is a civilian now – demobilised following a civil war – but someone wants him dead because of something his earlier self knows.

Fleeing from his ruthless pursuer, he volunteers to participate in a unique experimental polity, the Glasshouse. It seems the ideal hiding place for a posthuman on the run, but in this escape-proof environment, Robin will undergo even more radical change, placing him at the mercy of the experimenters – and of his own unbalanced psyche.

If that seems rather a lot of blurb, it is. Because this book carries a large amount of backstory that immediately impacts on Robin’s current plight. Problem is, he cannot exactly recall what it is about his past his would-be assassins are objecting to, because he has undergone memory surgery…

Posthumanity regularly crops up in far-future science fiction and the problem I generally have with it, is that these very old, highly evolved beings often appear so alien and different I find it difficult to really care about them. Not so Robin. He is short-fused, argumentative, judgemental, occasionally violent, amusing and suspicious of everyone to the point of paranoia. He is also very damaged. In order for Glasshouse to work, we have to care for this tricky protagonist, because in a shifting, difficult world full of secrets and treachery, it is Robin who guides us through this landscape. And I found myself immediately drawn into his worldview, his problems and this apparent solution.

But the Glasshouse isn’t all it seems, either. Neither is Robin… I’m not going to continue as I’m allergic to spoilers and the plot to this book corkscrews off in all directions. Maybe other cleverer souls who read it realised where it was going – but I regularly found there was yet another shock as the storyline revealed yet another layer of surprise. Robin finds it hard to keep up, too. And the damage he has sustained becomes all too apparent just at the time when he needs to be at his shiny best – and he isn’t. So as well as a flawed uncertain world, reeling from the savage wars when reality itself melts taking with it the pockets of humanity caught up in the folds, Stross also provides an unreliable narrator through whose first person viewpoint we access this world. It’s an almighty big task – and in many ways, Stross manages to pull this off.

I really cared about Robin – and when he undergoes major physical and gender changes, while the depiction isn’t as visceral and raw as Richard Morgan’s sleeved protagonist, Takeshi Kovacs, there is still a strong sense of confusion and anger. It was interesting to note that Robin never seems fully comfortable in a woman’s body, any more than he is happy wearing silk, which s/he describes as ‘bug vomit’. The steady trickle of amusing asides, while Stross ridicules our way of life through future eyes, adds to the pleasure of this thriller as it steadily builds towards the climax.

If you’re sensing a but, you’d be right. As to the major plot denouement, I have no problem – the climax and reveal are all enjoyable and satisfying. If only the final couple of pages weren’t there… For me, Stross’ final solution to Robin’s misery strikes an entirely false note and seemed utterly unrealistic. We’re into major spoiler country here, so I won’t go into details. But suffice to say, given Robin’s history, where he ends up and with whom simply didn’t convince me, which was a real shame.

With many other books, this would be sufficient to have given the book a 5 and not bother reviewing it – I don’t review books I don’t like – but despite the wrong ending, there is so much about this novel that is excellent, I’m still going to recommend you track it down and read it. Who knows? Maybe you’d even like the ending…
7/10