Neom by Lavie Tidhar was not quite what I had expected but certainly has an interesting premise. This quick read takes place in a possible future, primarily focused in the Middle East, with centuries of robot evolution and colonies on other planets and moons. Continue reading to see my thoughts on this new book by Lavie Tidhar.
The city known as Neom is many things to many beings, human or otherwise. Neom is a tech wonderland for the rich and beautiful; an urban sprawl along the Red Sea; and a port of call between Earth and the stars.
In the desert, young orphan Saleh has joined a caravan, hoping to earn his passage off-world from Central Station. But the desert is full of mechanical artefacts, some unexplained and some unexploded. Recently, a wry, unnamed robot has unearthed one of the region’s biggest mysteries: the vestiges of a golden man.
In Neom, childhood affection is rekindling between loyal shurta-officer Nasir and hardworking flower-seller Mariam. But Nasu, a deadly terrorartist, has come to the city with missing memories and unfinished business.
Just one robot can change a city’s destiny with a single rose—especially when that robot is in search of lost love.
(Disclaimer: I received this book from the publisher. This has not impacted my review which is unbiased and honest.)
I think I liked the premise much more than the plot itself. That being said I think the issue was there was not much of a plot. By the end of Neom, I was not really sure what had entirely happened. There was not a huge about of character growth or the like. I still can’t tell if we can say there was a conflict in the book. At one point I was like “oh here comes the major conflict of the novel,” but then the plot just took the nearest exit ramp that avoided it. Thus it did not feel like there was much on the line for any of the characters that would have the reader worry about consequences.
I think Tidhar’s world-building really carried Neom. I loved how they envisioned the future and brought it to life for the readers. They created a world beyond Earth in a future where humans have settled throughout the solar system on various planets and moons. It would have been interesting to see what happened on those planets, but the story firmly took place on Earth. While some characters mention things on other plants, such as Martian soap operas or their pasts traveling to other places, the reader did not get to experience those places.
I did also enjoy seeing a glimpse into the robots in this book. Neom is set where several hundreds of years of robot culture were built and eventually evolved over time. There were some points of view through the robots, which certainly helped to build an understanding of some of the sentience of robots.
I really enjoy the world that was created in this speculative fiction, but the plot really fell flat for me. I wanted there to be more on the line and to be really invested in what was going to happen. But in the end, the plot of Neom did not live up to the expectations of the premise. I would still recommend the book on the basis of the world that Tidhar created.