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Publisher's Summary

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.
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Critic Reviews

"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)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

By David on 07-28-13

Neuromancer in the Middle East

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.

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24 of 25 people found this review helpful

By Cliff on 09-10-13

A must have series!

Would you consider the audio edition of When Gravity Fails to be better than the print version?

Both are top notch. I couldn't say one was better than the other.

What did you like best about this story?

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.

What about Jonathan Davis’s performance did you like?

He has great range. Each character was distinct and unique. he also really caught the feeling and emotional content of the book.

Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

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.

Any additional comments?

This is a must have as I said in the header.

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11 of 11 people found this review helpful

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

By Jeremy on 03-21-11


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.

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1 of 1 people found this review helpful

By Simon on 06-02-15

Something New

Where does When Gravity Fails rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

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.

What other book might you compare When Gravity Fails to, and why?

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.

Which character – as performed by Jonathan Davis – was your favourite?

Marid Audran. Totally bought into the emotion and the balance between his old life and the pressure to reform.

Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

Hard to say, I was particularly struck by the fact that many people think the worst of the hero no matter how well intentioned.

Any additional comments?

Thoroughly enjoyed this and the sequel for the performance, the storytelling and the sense of a credible new world.

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