Neom is the story of a city settled in the desert, born from a long ago dream to create a sprawling metropolis of the future. Tidhar’s writing is sharp, touching on futuristic wonder, daily life, and the tragedy of societal ignorance.
The piece is a day-in-the-life of a woman, following her as she walks through the city, cleans a couple’s home and deals with the trappings of a typical day. It’s peppered with futuristic technology, from automated cars to robots to large numbers of startups with ridiculous names (not much different from present day). It was quite interesting to get a story that revolved primarily around its setting. The city acts as its own character, and it’s easy to imagine the bustling streets and productive citizens milling about.
This typical day is broken up by the murder of a robot she’s known her whole life. We see her private devastation and her realization that the world doesn’t care about the loss of a robot she considered a friend. It’s a bit of tragedy amidst a city that keeps on going around her. This bit of sadness doesn’t affect the pristine streets, and that speaks to the tragedy of a city whose only focus is to produce more and to wring every last cent out of the available time. The street is cleaned up, the robot’s body is whisked away, and it becomes a memory to few. This is a future not unlike the present day, where money and the next big thing are all that matters to society at large. Our main character seems to come to terms with that at the end as she watches the city begin to fall asleep.
Written by Lavie Tidhar
Asimov’s Science Fiction