When Gravity Fails

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Another book I picked up due to its appearance on this io9 list of the "Top 10 Greatest Science Fiction Detective Novels Of All Time". To show you how Out Of It your blogger is, SF-wise: I had never read anything by the late author, George Alec Effinger. This is the first of a trilogy, and I'm not sure if I'll read the rest. I wasn't swept away.

It's set in the near future, when the Muslim world has bypassed the West. The hero, Marîd Audran, lives in the Budayeen, a very seedy city with extremely mean streets. Modifications to both bodies and brains are commonplace: sex changes are seemingly while-you-wait, plug in personality modules and mental enhancers are available over-the-counter. Marîd is relatively straightlaced; his only nod to the sordidness around him is a prodigious pill habit.

The setup is straight out of classic private-eye novels: a mysterious stranger hires Marîd to find a missing relative. Said stranger is immediately shot dead, of course. What's unusual is: he's shot by a guy claiming to be James Bond. Pretty soon more corpses people turn up. The MOs seem different though; are there multiple murderers, or is it just one guy switching between murderous personalities?

It's good fun, but with kind of a down ending. It's also (I thought) somewhat padded. Ceremonial courtesy dialog between Muslims can take a number of paragraphs. That's fine once or twice, but when it happens more than that, you get the feeling the author's reaching to hit his contractually-obligated word count.

Consumer note: the paperback's back cover has a pretty nasty spoilers, revealing plot points that don't crop up until well into the later part of the book.

Last Modified 2012-09-26 5:14 AM EDT