Neom: A Nov­el from the World of Cen­tral Station

  • Review
By – November 7, 2022

Lavie Tidhar’s Neom is a delight­ful jour­ney through a fan­ta­sy of out­er space and a future Mid­dle East. Tidhar’s world con­tains lik­able char­ac­ters who work togeth­er (some­times acci­den­tal­ly, some­times begrudg­ing­ly) to tell a sto­ry full of adven­ture, mys­tery, hope, and love. Com­mu­ni­ties of bio­log­i­cal beings, mechan­i­cal beings, beings that are both, and beings that are nei­ther: they all expe­ri­ence the mem­o­ries and con­se­quences of a war from the dis­tant past as they live in a chang­ing present, excit­ed about but fear­ful of the future. Tid­har writes sci­ence fic­tion with real-world par­al­lels and comedic tim­ing, if also a bit of a ten­den­cy toward hope­ful romanticism.

Tidhar’s prose is var­ied and inter­est­ing: one moment, it recalls ele­gant Mid­dle East­ern poet­ry, and the next, it pri­or­i­tizes sim­ple state­ments and dia­logue. While his robots lack com­plex human emo­tions, some of them speak with the soul of a bard: I felt it only once, but I nev­er for­got it. Like a sweet and painful ecsta­sy from which it is impos­si­ble to part. I have been half whole all this time, and now I am myself again. Well, good­bye. I would shake your hands but they are rather small. Ma’a salama.”

Notable, too, is the author’s treat­ment of reli­gion. He does not ridicule it, nor does he make it a rel­ic of the past. (His allu­sion to Judaism in par­tic­u­lar comes clos­er to the end of the sto­ry.) Sci­ence fic­tion likes to depict reli­gion as an unciv­i­lized human mis­take, away from which mankind has evolved. Tidhar’s char­ac­ters, on the oth­er hand, dis­cuss their faiths, cel­e­brate them, and are proud of their his­to­ries. Zoroast­er lived thou­sands of years ago, yet his faith still lives in me and my line,” one char­ac­ter says. Although the machine-based life­forms that expe­ri­ence reli­gion do not refer to it as such, they behave as tra­di­tion­al dis­ci­ples and believ­ers, pro­found­ly mov­ing the human characters.

Neom is a won­der­ful read for any lover of sci­ence fic­tion. For some­one who has not yet vis­it­ed the world of Cen­tral Sta­tion—Tidhar’s nov­el from 2016 — it is easy to catch on to the col­lo­qui­alisms and cus­toms of the sto­ry uni­verse. But after read­ing Neom, new Tid­har fans will sure­ly want to go back for more.

Sele­na A Nau­moff, Holo­caust Aware­ness Insti­tute at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Den­ver, holds a Mas­ter of Divin­i­ty and is a spe­cial­ist in com­par­a­tive reli­gious stud­ies. She is a read­er and writer of young adult fan­ta­sy and enjoys the gen­res of mys­tery, sci­ence fic­tion, clas­sic lit­er­a­ture, and non-fic­tion. She is also a spe­cial­ist in Holo­caust and non-fic­tion graph­ic novels. 

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