In a decadent world of cheap pleasures and easy death, Marid Audrian has kept his independence the hard way. Still, like everything else in the Budayeen, he's available for a price.
For a new kind of killer roams the streets of the Arab ghetto, a madman whose bootlegged personality cartridges range from a sinister James Bond to a sadistic disemboweler named Khan. And Marid Audrian has been made an offer he can't refuse.The 200-year-old godfather of the Budayeen's underworld has enlisted Marid as his instrument of vengeance. But first Marid must undergo the most sophisticated of surgical implants before he dares to confront a killer who carries the power of every psychopath since the beginning of time.
Wry, savage, and unignorable, When Gravity Fails was hailed as a classic by Effinger's fellow SF writers on its original publication in 1987, and the sequence of Marid Audrian novels it begins were the culmination of his career.
©1987 George Alec Effinger (P)2011 Audible, Inc.
"Fast, cool, clever, beautifully written, absolutely authoritative. A kind of cyberpunk Raymond Chandler book with dashes of Roger Zelazny, Ian Fleming, and Scheherezade - but altogether original." (Robert Silverberg)
"Ingenious, layered, sophisticated, and consistently bloodcurdling, When Gravity Fails kept me awake long after I had finished reading it." (Spider Robinson)
"[Y]ou people are cheating yourselves if you don't forego food and rent to pick up on Effinger's work. Now, this time, will you for pete's sake listen to me and buy When Gravity Fails? It's as crazy as a spider on ice skates, plain old terrific; and if you don't pay attention I'll have to get tough with you!" (Harlan Ellison)
This is another noir cyberpunk story with a reluctant hero who works for people he swore he'd never work for, doing things he swore he'd never do. If you've read "Neuromancer" or "Altered Carbon", you've read "When Gravity Fails". Just replace future-Tokyo or future-San Francisco with future-Damascus. (Actually, the city is never actually named: it could just as easily be Beirut or Amman or Jerusalem or Cairo.) While this was a good story, I'm thinking it was nominated for a Hugo and Nebula in 1988 because "Whoa, dude! Cyberpunk! In the Middle East! Like, everyone's Muslim!"
Aside from that novelty factor, When Gravity Fails serves up what you expect in a cyberpunk novel: digital personalities, downloaded brain modifications, surgically altered bodies, fractured nation-states, and lots of crime and grit and whores.
Marid Audrian is a Moroccan son of a prostitute who's your fairly standard noir protagonist: he hangs out in the Budayeen, an Arab ghetto in an unnamed Middle Eastern city, and his friends, lovers, and business associates are all grifters, bartenders, prostitutes, various-shades-of-dirty cops, street hustlers, just trying to get by, preying on rich tourists and their fellow citizens alike.
Marid gets dragged into a convoluted plot involving a serial killer who initially uses a James Bond persona, which was a mildly clever touch. Since he begins the story stating his abhorrence of having his brain modified, we know he's going to wind up chipped and jacked to the max.
The action scenes are fast-paced and well-written and the technology blends smoothly with the Middle Eastern setting. The "mystery" is a bit of a let-down, as I was expecting something more clever and twisted, but it ultimately made sense, and why should the real killer be some shocking Big Reveal instead of just another grimy scumbag?
Effinger's handling of Middle Eastern culture from a first-person POV did not, I think, exoticize it too much. Marid, while not devout himself, sees Arab culture and Islam as the default, so if he's sometimes critical or even mocking of it, it's no more so than an agnostic American who's not above taking shots at American culture and Christianity.
There are a lot of sex-changed characters in the book, including Marid's girlfriend. I wouldn't say it's particularly sensitive to trans people (there are the usual jokes about "You didn't know she used to be a man?"), but they seem to be accepted like everyone else. When Gravity Fails was probably pretty progressive for 1988. The "Whores! Whores! Whores!" sensibility is pretty de rigueur for cyberpunk. (That said, if you want cyberpunk that's not full of whores and nipply breasts, try Neal Stephenson or Hannu Rajaniemi.)
Like Neuromancer, When Gravity Fails is a book that might have been edgy and mind-blowing in the 80s, but now has nothing you haven't seen rolled out in mass production by Hollywood and dozens of SF imitators. This story about a street operator tracking down a serial killer in an unnamed futuristic Middle Eastern city is an entertaining enough read, but unless either cyberpunk or the Middle Eastern setting holds special appeal for you, it isn't something I'd recommend you go out of your way for.
I like scifi and urban fantasy. I don't like romance novels. If you are the same my reviews should help.
Both are top notch. I couldn't say one was better than the other.
This is one of the must read cyberpunk series. Mr. Effinger died too young as I would have like to see hum expand on this series. He has a unique fully formed world. It is arabic in nature but also loosely based on the French Quarter in New Orleans where the author was known to hang out quite a bit. he caught the sleazy feel of the area and the internal desperation of the charachters caught in it. The Cyber elements may seem a little trope now, but he was the first one to develop a lot of these concepts.
He has great range. Each character was distinct and unique. he also really caught the feeling and emotional content of the book.
Just the overall desperation of the main character. He isn't the standard sci fi/fantasy superhero. He is very flawed and often goes and gets drunk or high rather than deal with his issues.
This is a must have as I said in the header.
Loved it!! I have been waiting for any electronic versions of these, for me, definitive Effinger works. The story I already knew but Jonathan Davis did a wonderful job adding life to the characters. Actually Davis delivered voices very close to what was in my head each time I read the novels. If you like pulpy detective fiction, a taste of cyberpunk and the story taking place in an exotic (to us in the US anyway) part of the world you should enjoy this one a lot.
It's not an ordinary story there is drug use, mature subjects though tame dialog so know it's probably best to listen before deciding if it's for your kids. Depends on the kids. But the story is fun if let yourself get into things. And also it's a nice light read or listen, so I consider it sort of escapist material for those days when I just want to get away from news and the world. ;)
It is also refreshing to read a non-negative story with Muslim society as a plot mechanism. Granted these were written several decades ago. But it's nice none the less.
I can't wait until next month when I can burn a credit on the next book.
I read this series several years ago and enjoyed them immensely. Recently I saw they were offered as audio-books and I took a chance - hoping they were as good as I recalled.
The voice actor is PERFECT for Marid - just the right blend of accent/age/humor. He manages to differentiate all the other voices/ethnicities of the book as well, so there aren't any moments of wondering "who said that".
So glad I gambled on this
I'm enjoying every word of this interesting story and it is narrated so well by Jonathan Davis. I am looking forward to listening to books 2 and 3.
The story was so-so, but the world was good, and the narrator was excellent!
I'm disappointed that all of the women or trans women are vapid secondary characters. However since this is more of a mystery it can *almost* be excused, since mysteries don't rely on character development as much.
Naughty sci-fi goodness
Marid Audran. Honestly not to much was written about to many of the other characters.
When Marid was confronted with the life changing decision to modify his brain.
I read these books when I was in my teens in the late 80's. I really enjoyed these books then. I enjoyed them even more now. I was so glad to see them come to audio-book format. Some 20 plus years later.
One has to keep an open mind with reading. This is very different then what most are used to reading.
I could so see this being something not to far off in the distant future. We are already doing body augmentation. Imagine would it will be like in 200 years. Personality chips why not there is already work on rats using brain tissues and processors.
George Alec Effinger published this in 1986. Not too much about muslims then so it is interesting he has this dystopian thriller set in the future where the USA is fully broken, new boundaries formed and almost everyone is muslim... ok, I can live with that. Robert Ferrigno did it exceptionally well in his Assassins trilogy. But somewhere about 1/3 or 1/2 into this book, it is so heavily peppered with "allah bring you peace' and 'allah bless you' and 'by the will of allah' and allah be praised' and 'if allah desires' and 'allah praise your house'. Now I am not talking about any religious setting... it's used in every other sentence... 'it may rain, if allah wills' or 'goodbye and see you later, if it is the will of allah'' and 'would you like a ride, allah bless your children' sort of thing and it gets really tiresome. Take away all the allah lines and the last part of this book would be considerably reduced. Like taking away 90% of the adjectives from the latest Anne Rice books.
That said, I did not understand why all the sex changes. It seems no matter what sex a person was born, he/she wanted a sex change. Makes no sense. I realize our intrepid hero lives in the heart of the sex district, has several 'female' friends who used to be male. And vice versa. (I guess they like their vice, versa?) Still does not explain all the sex changes.
I have to say I never got to like Marid Audran. I realize he is meant to be a flawed protagonist and that's not usually a problem for me. But when you have a hard time caring if the lead character lives or dies, that is a problem. "Sandman Slim" (by Richard Kadrey) is certainly a flawed character and I LOVE him.
Effinger definitely created an intriguing, complex world and the writing is strong (minus all the allahs) and Jonathan Davis is brilliant as the reader but I am really slogging away trying to finish it.
I listen to a lot of SciFi and I had high hopes for this one, but I can't get interested. I've made 2 attempts and find myself actively disliking the story, characters and narration and giving up after a few hours.
All the elements are there, and I can see how it could recover and even become compelling, but I just don't care.
I read several reviews and the book seemed a little controversial, but in a contradictory way... it is set in a Muslim culture, which is atypical and could be interesting... it is an uber gritty quasi cyber punk story that has some of the most unconventional views on sex and gender that I've ever seen, which is unusual but also potentially interesting... blending the two with no explanation just doesn't work.
I just can't piece together the logic behind a city that is based on strict cultural norms that also ignores the fact that seemingly EVERYONE has had a sex change operation, a wide collection of sexual partners and pretty much any other vice you can think of.
There were several reviews I saw that talked about the transsexual characters in the story being a problem, but I ignored most of this as personal bias, but it is really odd. It isn't just the fact that the overwhelming majority of the characters have had a casual sex change, but it appears to be the norm in the entire city, but... what??? Mind you, this is not a virtual reality or a simple body swap (Matrix or Altered Carbon) but actual surgery. And nobody seems to have any compelling reason for it. So the majority of people go through incredibly expensive, painful, and time consuming surgeries but do so casually and with no obvious rational... and it doesn't seem to have anything to do with the story, it's just a part of the background setting, but that'd be like adding systematic euthanasia, mandatory birth control or common plural marriages in a story and then not addressing them... I don't get it.
I am brutally honest. Popular, love everything they read, reviewers are scared to go neg. and risk their ranking. It's your money!!!
I could not figure out if the main character was a private dick or a pimp or both. The only thing I did know was that he was a drug addict and the only one in a city who has not had a sex change and enhancements.
I have no problem with a Muslim culture dominating in the future. Like most Americans I know very little about the culture. What I do know makes it hard to believe that such a culture would be accepting of the life style portrayed in this book.
There is a sort of William Gibson feel to the book and it seems the writer had the knowledge to have taken the book in another direction. The direction he took it was not the direction I wanted to go.
I am usually not a fan of this narrator, but he did an excellent job in this and it was not his fault this book was a failure.
This is a well-paced cyberpunk novel, with lots of tension as the lead character, Audran, tries to solve a series of murders in an Arab ghetto. There were enough twists and turns to stop me figuring out ?whodunnit? before the end, and I also liked the descriptions of the technology involved.
This is one of the most absorbing books I have read combining innovation with new takes on old ideas and this sci-fi particularly thrives in the religious middle eastern setting.
It is hard to pin this one down. There are echoes of 'Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep (BladeRunner)?'; echoes of Asimov's Robots and many non-fantasy works. It is about an imperfect man forced to carry out someone else's mission.
Marid Audran. Totally bought into the emotion and the balance between his old life and the pressure to reform.
Hard to say, I was particularly struck by the fact that many people think the worst of the hero no matter how well intentioned.
Thoroughly enjoyed this and the sequel for the performance, the storytelling and the sense of a credible new world.
"Vaguely SciFi with lots of sex-changing and drugs"
Well written and well read. Great characters and wonderfully colourful world.
Way too much sexchanging and drug taking for me.
Worth a listen but only 3 out of 5.
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