May 4, 2009

When Gravity Fails by George Alec Effinger

When Gravity Fails

And back to our regularly scheduled dystopian meandering. Sorry, folks - I'm reading, but I'm not always writing.

After working through some fairly dense/thoughtful novels recently, I was damn happy about the chance to just sit down and enjoy a good, solid sf paperback. This one was suggested fairly recently by a blog visitor, and I'm glad. It's sort of a Muslim-world, cyberpunk who-done-it. With lots of sex changes, which I approve of in my dystopian fiction. Or real life, honestly - whatever gets you through, I say.

It didn't break any new ground for me, but I liked the ground it trod. I'm sort of a sucker for that whole "independent small timer tries to navigate the underground world by his wits without losing his ass in the process" thing, so this was right up my alley. Since that's pretty much the plot. It was a quick read. Unlike Gibson or Womack, Effinger didn't bother to get bogged down in the coolness of the tech itself or how and why it works - it does, and the plot goes on.

I'll admit, part of the enjoyment to be found in reading dystopian (or apocalyptic) fiction is a certain bloodthirstiness. A taste for brutality or horrific happenings at a safe remove from ourselves. And Effinger deals that out handily. Female assassin-whores distorted with plastic surgery, personality-changing chips employed to up the suffering during murder, mutilation and degradation, it's here in spades. And I enjoyed every minute of it.

I'll be keeping an eye out for the other two in the Marîd Audran series, without a doubt.

final thought: Is there power in staying powerless?


JRSM said...

If you have a taste for this sort of Islamified cyberpunk stuff (I enjoyed 'When Gravity Fails' a lot), you might like Jon Courtney Grimwood's 'Arabesk' trilogy. Not exactly dystopian/futuristic, in that they are set in an alternative present-day, but it's a present day where the Ottoman Empire never fell and there are a lot of undercover/technology shenanigans. A bit too much brand-name dropping for my tastes (and would Prada, Nike, and other well-known names all be so big in every possible history?), but lots of complicated fun.

Anonymous said...

And further down that path, I enjoyed Neal Stephenson's Snow Crash. It is however sometimes "bogged down in the coolness of the tech itself or how and why it works" so beware.

Oddly, I've recently looked at Arabesk and a strange work partially done by Effinger called Red Tape War or something. I didn't bite on either but I may go back to the rack and look again.

STE said...

ohh you read it :). one of my favorites, for sure. like you said, it certainly doesn't show us anything new, but it borrows old ideas and recycles them fantastically. i read this before i read neuromancer, and after reading gibson's trilogy all i could think of was how effinger made it all look so effortless

downtown guy said...

Thanks, guys. Yeah, STE, thhat was sort of how I felt about it. I'd seen all this before, but I like the way he plays with it. And that's enough for me to keep hunting down his work.