‘When Gravity Fails’ – Marîd Audran #1 by George Alec Effinger – abandoned at 33%

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 Marîd 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.

“When Gravity Fails’ is an excellent book but it’s not for me.

When it came out in 1985, this deeply Noirish tale of murder amongst the demimonde of a Twenty-third Century Arab State where gender modification surgery, and plug-and-play brain implants offering anything from language skills to a new personality, are as common amongst the hustlers, pimps and sex-workers as drink and drugs, must have been well ahead of its time.

The storytelling style makes Chandler seem like a Disney version of Noir and yet it offers a surprisingly compassionate rendering of the inhabitants of the Budayeen, a walled district that is part French Quarter New Orleans and part Casablancan quartiers réservés. The people and the society are beautifully and patiently drawn. The plot is subordinate to its setting. The main focus is on how Marîd Audran sees the Budayeen and his role in it.

At the start of the novel, Audran sees himself as a man whose reputation as an ‘honest hustler’ has earned him enough respect in the community to keep its violence at bay. Although he thinks of himself as a loner who values independence above love and friendship, it seemed to me that he entertained a fundamentally romantic view of the Budayeen and that it is this view of the place that the rest of the novel assaults as Audran’s friends and associates are murdered.

‘When Gravity Fails’ pulled me fully into Audran’s world and made it real. This was, in the end, why I abandoned the novel a third of the way through: I just can’t abide the Marîd Audran or the world he loves. He leads a hedonistic, aimless, drug-using, thrill-seeking life. He’s a wannabe lone wolf with a need to be loved that he lies to himself about and a view of the world that borders on the delusional. I believed in him completely, I just didn’t want to spend any more time with him.

“When Gravity Fails’ is the W in my ABC TBR Challenge.


George Alec Effinger (1947-2002) was an American Science Fiction writer best known for his three Budayeen novel  When Gravity Fails (1987), A Fire in the Sun (1989), and The Exile Kiss (1991).

His novelette “Schrödinger’s Kitten” (1988) received both the Hugo and the Nebula Award, as well as the Japanese Seiun Award

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