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When Gravity Fails: The Classic of Cyberpunk SF Paperback – October 13, 2005
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“Like a dive into the eye of a storm.” ―The Washington Post Book World on When Gravity Fails
“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 on When Gravity Fails
“Ingenious, layered, sophisticated, and consistently bloodcurdling, When Gravity Fails kept me awake long after I had finished reading it.” ―Spider Robinson
“Great entertainment...Places Effinger in the company of writers like Gibson.” ―Fantasy Review on When Gravity Fails
“Superior science fiction . . . among the best I've come across.” ―The Denver Post on When Gravity Fails
“A brilliantly written, knife-edged futuristic detective story . . . destined to be the year's most intense and emotionally involving SF work.” ―Houston Post on When Gravity Fails
“Wry and black and savage... there's a knife behind every smile.” ―George R. R. Martin on When Gravity Fails
“Muscular, convincing, yet continuously surprising.” ―Richard A. Lupoff on When Gravity Fails
“One of the best cyberpunk novels I've read . . . Effinger's prose is terse, direct, vivid and often laced with an enchanting sense of humor . . . this is only part of the book's delightful texture . . . gives you a real sense of what it's like to be an old-fashioned gumshoe in the seedy backreaches of a futuristic arab nation.” ―The Providence Sunday Journal on When Gravity Fails
“Wry, inventive, nearly hallucinatory . . . a well-written, baroque riff on the time-honored themes of Raymond Chandler.” ―Publisher's Weekly on When Gravity Fails
“This is the fourth or fifth time I've been asked to give a public comment on an Effinger book; and each time I've done it; and each time I've said you 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! We have your childen and your dog. Buy, read and marvel...or else.” ―Harlan Ellison on When Gravity Fails
About the Author
A winner of the Hugo and Nebula Awards, George Alec Effinger was the author of What Entropy Means to Me and Schrodinger's Kitten. He died in 2002.
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Top Customer Reviews
In this future world, medical procedures and pharmacology exist for physical re-engineering and sexual transformation. Men can readily become women and vice versa. Direct modifications of the human brain are now commonplace through surgical implants that permit those suitably "wired" to become anyone or anything commercially available in "moddies". By "chipping in" a small circuit board, one can become any character from literature or history from James Bond to Genghis Khan, with true identity submerged. "Daddies" are also on hand - temporary data transfer chips that lend instant knowledge of any language, skill, or corpus of facts, however esoteric, for as long as the chip is in place.
To navigate this world with integrity intact, one must be "the best man in his world and a good enough man for any world." Our narrator, Marid Audran, is such a man. He is an easy-going hustler from the Mahgreb, an impoverished region of Algeria. He has found a home in the Budayeen, pulling himself up by his bootstraps from nothing to next-to-nothing. He has an uneasy relationship with the police, welcome acceptance by nightclub proprietors, a trio of friends, and the love of Yasmin, born a boy, now a voluptuous club dancer with the knockout looks that only surgery could provide.
A Muslim by birth, Marid is well versed in his creed, but knows how to take it or leave it. He refuses to have his brain wired, preferring to find pleasure and solace in pharmaceutical products. As he puts it:
"Drugs are your friends, treat them with respect. You wouldn't throw your friends in the garbage. You wouldn't flush your friends down the toilet. If that's the way you treat your friends or your drugs, you don't deserve to have either. Give them to me."
Even the Budayeen is subject to influences agitating the world beyond its walls. Marid accepts an assignment from a foreign diplomat to locate a missing person. His client is murdered before his eyes. Soon others in his social circle fall victim to grisly homicides. He is recruited by Friedlander Bey, the Budayeen's wealthy godfather, whose interests are threatened by the murders, to track down the killer. To prepare Marid for his dangerous mission, Friedlander Bey intimidates Marid into the brain wiring he has always avoided, adding an extra implant and a rack of special "daddies" that sharpen Marid's senses and suppress fear, anger, hunger, thirst, and lust. His investigation confronts mystery and mayhem with street smarts and hard-boiled banter.
In the book's prefatory page, Effinger (1947 - 2002) acknowledges his debt to Raymond Chandler and his source for the title in a quote from Bob Dylan's "Just Like Tom Thumb's Blues". In two sequels, "A Fire in the Sun" (1989) and "The Exile Kiss" (1991), he returns to the Budayeen with Marid, Friedlander Bey, and others of the original characters, including Bill, the transplanted American taxi driver, who has had one of his lungs removed and replaced with a sac that drips a continuous psychotropic fluid into his bloodstream - a deliciously sardonic invention, considering that the author suffered from childhood ailments that rendered him unable to pilot an automobile.
Effinger's employment of courteous Arabic verbal genuflections and Muslim pieties add spice, and flavor his trilogy with cultural insight.
I'm also thrilled that some terrible editing errors that have been in at least three print versions of the book have finally been corrected in the kindle version.
When a client is killed in front of Marid's eyes and Marid's acquaintances start dying horrible deaths, Marid is drawn into an uneasy alliance with both the police, whom he does not trust, and Papa, to whom he does not want to be beholden.
Effinger has created a world that is unlike most science fiction books, keeping the actual science light, and letting us believe that this is how the Arab world might be in the 23rd century, with not much changed except a bit of technology. Effinger offers both an interesting who and why-dunnit, while examining the issues of faith and identity. Is Marid, a heavy drug and alcohol user who lives by his own code and is committed neither to Allah nor any other human, the faithful one, or is it Papa, who kills and extorts in the name of business but who faithfully prays 5 times a day? What is it like to be an outsider, and how do you find yourself?
This book is sadly out of print, but easily available used on the internet. Still compelling after all this time and well worth tracking down.