Cuando falla la gravedad By George Alec Effinger


There really is a noir-ish sameness to most cyberpunk novels. 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 whoring and Breasts! With Nipples! Described! 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'm giving it 3.5 stars, rounding down because I've just read too many similar books. Mass Market Paperback

I looked at myself in the mirror. I looked awful, but I always look awful in the mirror. I keep myself going with the firm belief that my real face is much better looking.

That is a very trenchant sentence. That is exactly what you're signing up for when you get this book. A rarity now, in the 1980s this book was a unicorn for dealing with Muslim culture in any way, and using near-future SF to highlight the way whites are colonizing the world was still cutting-edge stuff. Digging deeper into themes of identity with transgender characters, refugees from dying Europe, and pharmacological solutions that become terrible problems, the book prefigures the 21st century's obsessions. Readers of transgressive fiction need to rediscover what amazed us in the 1980s because it will amaze and delight you, too. Mass Market Paperback As King of this Text-Box, my first action is to proclaim this review's title to be When the Back Cover of When Gravity Fails Fails.

So here’s what’s on the back cover:
In a decadent world of cheap pleasures and easy death, Marid Audran 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 Audran has been made an offer he can’t refuse.

The two-hundred-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.

WHAAAT?! Every psychopath since the beginning of time! Awesome! So this is a kickass detective vs killer noir, with a tough, morally grey badass as a protagonist. And this idea of personalities as software on like Nintendo cartridges! Genius! Like like like like what if maybe possibly Marid and this killer get into a high-stakes paper-rock-scissors game where they boot in different personalities to take advantage of the other’s currently slotted personality. Like, hey Marid boots in Sherlock Holmes! So killer boots in Professor Moriarty! And then Marid turns up the heat by booting in Hannibal Lecter! But then the killer tries to turn him by booting in, like, fucking Cleopatra! And won't this all serve as a wonderful pretext for some sci-fi style philosophical explorations of identity. Yeah, this is gonna be BadAss, with a B and an A so capital that I had to add this extra clause despite already capitalizing them in the first place.


I’ve taken the liberty of rewriting the back-cover to better reflect the reality of When Gravity Fails:
In a decadent world of fluid gender and body image, where literally every male-turned-female is a prostitute, Marid Audran is a loser with no real relationships, no real morals, & no real toughness, who spends the majority of his time (and ours) drug binging and sitting around in strip clubs, making banal comments about the artificiality of paid intimacy…

…for it is not until page 163 – over half way through the book – that Marid Audran is enlisted as the “godfather’s” instrument of vengeance and undergoes the most sophisticated of surgical implants, after which he promptly fails to use them and avoids confronting the killer who most certainly does not possess the power of every psychopath since the beginning of time.

There, much better. Well. Much more realistic, anyway.

Where’s the book promised on the back cover? I want to read that one! Mass Market Paperback This is a noir cyberpunk with a fresh setting, in a Muslim country at 22nd century. I found the characters could be better (in personality, to grab reader's sympathy), and the plot story could use more conflicts at early chapters.

Now the fun part. I love the world-building of this story. It is a unique approach in English science fiction (for SF published at 1988), but at the same time I feel the Muslim setting in the novel is rather familiar with my life, (unlike if I read a life of characters at a colony on Mars). I found some dark humors in this story are lighten the story a bit. Maybe because I live in a nation with majority Muslim people so I see some of the Muslim setting as hilarious, bravely said jokes.

I am looking forward to read the rest of the series, especially due to world-building sake. Mass Market Paperback I've had this on a list of Sci-Fi books to read for quite a while, a list passed on to me by one of my favourite Profs, but it took a group read (thanks, Kim) to finally make me pick up the old, water-stained copy that's been sitting on my shelf.

I imagine I knew what to expect once upon a time, but that time was long gone and When Gravity Fails was full of fun cyberpunky surprises. I loved the easy, full acceptance of the transgendered in the contained culture of the Budayeen, especially the acceptance of it by our protagonist, Marîd Audran. His acceptance made it seem normal, barely worth mentioning, and I loved the comfort this engendered (sorry ... couldn't control myself there). Moreover, I thought George Alec Effinger offered one of the best visions of cyberpunk body alterations that I have ever read. Daddies designed to boost one's skills -- mostly for language, but for all sorts of other physical and mental skills -- mods to give you other personalities and experiences, and plenty of plastic surgery to reassign one's gender, reshape one's look, reinvent oneself. None of it went too far. All of it made sense to me.

At the nuts and bolts level, the story was a readable one (despite its familiarity). A gritty, noirish, underground mystery where the hard loner who moves teflon-coated through the dirty streets is sucked into a murder investigation to protect himself and the place (and people) he loves. We've seen it a squillion times before (and it rarely tires me). I liked it just fine and was all set to give When Gravity Fails three stars. Don't get me wrong, it was better than okay for most of the read, but it never compelled me to pick it up and read voraciously to the last page. It was mostly just a comfortable read -- the kind I'd pick up when my brain needs a rest.

But then Audran found his killers, and When Gravity Falls did things with Audran (freshly modified despite years of remaining free of augmentations) that I didn't expect. What he becomes, beyond his control or not, is a tale-changer, and the way those around him react is precisely as it should be.

Sometimes bad endings can take something I love and make me hate it; it's nice to know that great endings can take something mediocre and make me love it too. Mass Market Paperback

When Gravity Fails was pretty good, without ever quite achieving greatness. I enjoyed it, but the pieces never entirely came together and swept me away. It was, however, part of my ongoing project to read all the Hugo nominees for novels. It's going to take a while.

Note: The rest of this review has been withdrawn due to the recent changes in Goodreads policy and enforcement. You can read why I came to this decision here.

In the meantime, you can read the entire review at Smorgasbook Mass Market Paperback Okay, I read this because it was a cyberpunk book and I needed it to complete my Pop Sugar 2018 Reading Challenge. I left this category towards the end because I hate this genre; however this was tremendously good. It is set in a future Moslem city in which everyone is Moslem, although not all are practising. In the Budayeen area of the city, criminals prowl the streets and drugs, prostitution and murder are rampant. Our hero is a minor thug and druggie who unlike the majority of the city's denizens does not partake of the moddies or daddys that everyone else indulges in. Moddies change your personality completely by plugging into your brain and daddys do things like enable you to speak a foreign language. All this sounds terrible, but believe me this is a fun, whiz-bang thriller.

Effinger knows what he's doing and delivers a great story with an anti-hero who grows on you and a lot of scurrilous characters who don't and a real, crummy, miserable, hot as hell world to contain them.

The only reason I wouldn't give this a better rating is because this world is a misogynistic world in which the gals are there for sex or serving drinks only and most of the women in it are actually men who have been surgically modified. This was written in the 1980s, but it is still not as dated as a lot of sci-fi is from earlier eras. Mass Market Paperback Cross posted at Outlaw Reviews and at Shelf Inflicted

In the 22nd century, the fiercely independent Marîd Audran is living in a dangerous middle-eastern city in the Budayeen. It is a rich, fascinating and diverse world where people can easily have their brains wired for “moddies”, plastic cartridges with different personality types, from fictional characters to celebrities, that are inserted directly into the skull and “daddies”, smaller add-ons that are inserted next to the moddies to enhance certain skills, like the ability to converse in other languages, and to depress certain physical and mental functions, like hunger, thirst or fear.

Marîd, son of a Frenchman and an Algerian prostitute, is proud of the fact that his brain is not wired, but instead relies on drugs and alcohol to alter his mood.

The story begins in Chiriga’s nightclub, where Marîd is supposed to meet a client from Reconstructed Russia, a Mr. Bogatyrev, who is looking for his son who was missing for three years. After Marîd receives a packet of money, holotapes, and a complete dossier of his son, a woman screams, a modified James Bond is waving a pistol, Marîd investigates and then returns to his table to find his client took a bullet in the chest.

The shooting becomes a police matter until Marîd’s acquaintances start dying off, one by one. Despite his distrust of the police, he is forced to work with them and then forced by Friedlander Bey, the city’s “Godfather” to undergo modification in order to more easily find the murderer.

This was a fun, gritty, and thought-provoking science fiction story with lots of great ideas about personality modification, knowledge enhancement and ease of changing genders that could be a very real possibility in our future. Some international intrigue caused the story to drag a little and the mystery to fall flat. I loved Marîd’s independence and honesty, though I fear that now he is under Friedlander Bey's control the things I like about him will change dramatically in the next book. I also loved the relationship between Marîd and Yasmin, his fully modified girlfriend who was not born a girl and can’t manage to be on time for anything, even after paying a $50 fine to the owner of the nightclub where she works when she is just a minute late.

I just wished the author used the same loving care in writing a satisfying conclusion as he did in creating this fascinating world.

Mass Market Paperback I don't even. This book engrossed me, sucked me in, took me to the seediest bar in town, plied me with cheap booze and left without even a kiss. Set in a debaucherous, dangerous slum in a futuristic Muslim country where the tricks might be all-girl, ex-boy or something in between, with more pill popping than Charlie Sheen on a bender, you've got to be a bit open-minded to take the ride on this one.

Think hard-boiled noir, crossed with A Scanner Darkly and filled in around the edges with Richard K Morgan's Altered Carbon.


A Hugo and Nebula nominee deserving of its nominations. Four and a half stars, rounding up, because I'm still thinking about it and tempted to re-read. Mass Market Paperback Dirty, gritty, morally ambiguous cyberpunk with a bit of a biopunk feel, too, but more than anything, this was a solid detective fiction.

Was it satisfying to see the one man who'd never let himself get modded fall down the dark hole for the sake of either saving his girl or getting revenge or, just possibly, stopping a horrible killer? Hell yeah.

This came out back in '87 and it was nominated for the hugo for good reason. It's very detailed, full of great cultural stuff, and the concept of personality modding and its execution here, with both the good and the really dark side included, was really great.

I mean, where else can you get a thoroughly Muslim town and a half Muslim/half French main character in the future to casually accept the fact that men and women can change genders whenever they want fairly cheaply? How about taking a ride along a personality path as a great hero or a great villain? Heck, someone here had modded themselves to be James Bond and even bought the snazzy suits to go along with his head-mod. It's a lifestyle choice.

Our MC had a pathological fear of all that crazy shit, and if his life wasn't going all crazy with his crazy disappeared chick, he'd never have found himself diving into the really deep end and losing everything he ever thought he valued. Once you go down the road of the detective, it's very hard to ever come back. Sometimes it's your choice, and sometimes the choices are just made for you.

Truly, this is a great noir cyberpunk.
Mass Market Paperback

El Budayén, los bajos fondos de una ciudad árabe anónima, está costruido al lado del cementerio, y quien se internaen sus callejones lo hace consciente del peligro que corre: ni sus habitantes- prostitutas, proxenetas, traficantes de drogas- ni la policía se preocupan demasiado si un tipo desconocido aparece acuchillado y tirado en una esquina.
Tal es el ambiente en el que se ha criado Marîd Audran, un hombretón que nunca ha necesitado llevar armas y que es respetado en su independencia. Pero nadie podría haber imaginado la pesadilla en la que se convertiría su vida después de que un extraño muriera asesinado por alguien conectado a un módulo de James Bond...
Una novela vertiginosa, en la que se dan cita los logros de la informática, la novela negra y la ciencia ficción. Cuando falla la gravedad

Summary Å PDF, DOC, TXT or eBook ´ George Alec Effinger