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Book Review: Robots in love with "Neom"

From sci-fi extraordinaire and writing genius, Lavie Tidhar is back with “Neom,” a love story set in the universe of his award-winning “Central Station.” Although I haven’t read “Central Station,” this novel can stand independently without having any prior context to the universe it’s set within.

In the futuristic city of Neom, humans and robots live side-by-side in the port between Earth and the intergalactic stations. In the desert, orphan Saleh joins a caravan salvaging bits and pieces from a long-ago war to pay for his passage to Central Station. An unnamed robot unearths the remains of a legendary golden robot. In the city, a passion is rekindled between an officer and the hardworking florist Mariam. And lastly, Nasu, a dangerous terrorartist, revisits Neom for unfinished business and pushes Neom and its inhabitants toward a revolution.

Despite not knowing anything about the “Central Station” universe, Tidhar easily builds upon it and doesn’t info-dump prior events or histories from his best seller. Tidhar always nails the art of making a magical or sci-fi world believable to the reader.

Tidhar is already known for his remarkable storytelling and deep emotions, and “Neom” does not disappoint. Although significantly shorter than “Central Station” and “The Escapement,” this new novel is as beautifully written as those. The histories and cultures of the world are woven seamlessly into “Neom” and piece together a larger tapestry of a post-apocalyptic, war-torn world. Even the character’s motivations and growth are pithy and delicately nuanced without any issues.

Woven into the story are themes of memory, war, art, technology, and above all, love. The love stories range from romantic to platonic and illuminate the power and transcendence of love––even for robots.

Passionate and superbly written, “Neom” is my gateway drug to Tidhar’s “Central Station” and the rest of his work.

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