Central Station, my new SF novel from Tachyon Publications, is itself a sort of homage to a bygone era of science fiction, one in which many novels were initially published as more or less self-contained stories in magazines before being “collected” into a book. Appropriately, Central Station corresponds with many other works of the corpus of science fiction, though perhaps not always the obvious ones. Here are five novels that helped shape my own work.
Fiction and Excerpts 
Series: Five Books About…
“Terminal” by Lavie Tidhar is an emotionally wrenching science fiction story about people, who, either having nothing to lose or having a deep desire to go into space, travel to Mars via cheap, one-person, one-way vehicles dubbed jalopies. During the trip, those in the swarm communicate with each other, their words relayed to those left behind.
[Read “Terminal” by Lavie Tidhar]
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.
Lavie Tidhar’s cyberpunk novel Central Station is available May 10th from Tachyon Publications.
One of my favorite books is Philip K. Dick’s The Man In The High Castle (an obvious influence on my own Osama), and one of the most important passages in that book comes very early on, on page 10 or so.
And then he thought about Africa, and the Nazi experiment there. And his blood stopped in his veins, hesitated, and at last went on.
It’s one of the most chilling lines in the book, and it’s important, I think, for what it doesn’t say. Dick does go on—“That huge empty ruin” and a little bit more—but we don’t, I don’t think we do, find out exactly what the Nazis did, what the “experiment” was. We get hints, throughout the book, throwaway references, but what Dick does here is to not mention, to allude without clarifying. Which is what makes it all the more horrific, of course. It is the thing We Do Not Like To Mention—something used, more recently, by Howard Jacobson in J, for instance, where it is the obscure “what happened, if it happened,” some sort of nameless Holocaust, too awful to ever mention.
For seventy years they guarded the British Empire. Oblivion and Fogg, inseparable friends, bound together by a shared fate. Until one night in Berlin, in the aftermath of the Second World War, a secret that tore them apart.
Now, recalled to the Retirement Bureau from which no one can retire, Fogg and Oblivion must face up to a past of terrible war and unacknowledged heroism—a life of dusty corridors and secret rooms, of furtive meetings and blood-stained fields—to answer one last, impossible question: What makes a hero?
Lavie Tidhar weaves an alternate history in The Violent Century, available February 24th from St. Martin’s Press.
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