Source: NetGalley – many many many thanks to the publisher!
Tl;DR: A fantastic snap short story of a city in the future and the implications of love and robotics.
Plot: This is super plot driven, our characters drawn together to the ultimate conclusion
Characters: The characters are each unique but not overly detailed – simple but fantastically drawn.
Setting: Beautiful. I loved the descriptions of this setting and future world.
Tech: Absolutely wild and interesting. It’s SF Light, no super techy details but the ideas here? Perfection!
Neom by Lavie Tidhar is an incredible little novel telling the story of a varied cast of characters coming together to change the future of a city, all in the name of love and a red rose. At first this book will read almost like separate short stories but gradually the characters come together to, what was for me, an unexpected but amazing climax.
The story follows a group of characters starting with Miriam, a young woman who is working several jobs (including that of a flower seller) just to get by in this big city. Neom is a city of the ‘new’ things and consequently it takes a lot to survive for a woman on her own, supporting an ailing relative. Her childhood friend Nasir works as a shurta, one of the peace keeping officers in the city. Outside the city we meet Saleh and eventually Jackal, two desert dwellers driven by circumstance into the city. Finally we meet Nasu, a terrorartist and the robot. The robot is nameless but is ultimately the driving figure of the story, both grieving and seeking love. Nasu is ominous, a killer but one seemingly without purpose, that adds an edge of tension to the story.
There is so much here I loved. Two of my favorites were two of the biggest themes or ideas explored. The idea of Terrorartists, people who created ‘art’ from terror. Like a bomb with the tiny heart of a black hole that detonated and trapped people in their moment of death forever. That’s both horrifying but almost believable, almost something I can see someone doing in the ‘name of art’. I have a degree in art so this is something that really tickles my interest and was so fascinating here. The other highlight for me were the robots and UXOs and other mechanic beings we were told about. The depth and breadth of these creations and their consequent history we’re fed in tidbits throughout the tale were amazing.
Overall this story and the world it’s set in are amazing to me. It feels as if we got just a snapshot of an event that ultimately might have gone under the radar for most of this world. There was so much of the almost mundanity of life that this felt poignant but small in the ultimate scope in a way that has me wanting more. I am definitely going to download and seek out far more of Mr. Tidhar’s work moving forward.
5 Electric Sheep out of 5