When Gravity Fails : Marid Audran

  • by George Alec Effinger
  • Narrated by Jonathan Davis
  • Series: Marid Audran
  • 11 hrs and 54 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

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.

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What the Critics Say

"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

Brings Marid & the Budayeen to life, lots of fun

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.
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- Robert

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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- David "Indiscriminate Reader"

Book Details

  • Release Date: 03-03-2011
  • Publisher: Audible Studios