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When Gravity Fails (Marîd Audran #1)

3.93  ·  Rating details ·  5,730 Ratings  ·  379 Reviews
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
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Paperback, 284 pages
Published September 5th 2000 by St. Martins Press-3pl (first published December 1986)
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Community Reviews

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Carol.
Feb 19, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: fans of noir sci-fi
I don't even. This book engrossed me, sucked me in, took me to the seediest bar in town, plied me with cheap booze and left without even a kiss. Set in a debaucherous, dangerous slum in a futuristic Muslim country where the tricks might be all-girl, ex-boy or something in between, with more pill popping than Charlie Sheen on a bender, you've got to be a bit open-minded to take the ride on this one.

Think hard-boiled noir, crossed with A Scanner Darkly and filled in around the edges with Richard
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Nancy
Cross posted at Outlaw Reviews and at Shelf Inflicted

In the 22nd century, the fiercely independent Marîd Audran is living in a dangerous middle-eastern city in the Budayeen. It is a rich, fascinating and diverse world where people can easily have their brains wired for “moddies”, plastic cartridges with different personality types, from fictional characters to celebrities, that are inserted directly into the skull and “daddies”, smaller add-ons that are inserted next to the moddies to enhance ce
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Bradley
Feb 22, 2015 rated it really liked it
Dirty, gritty, morally ambiguous cyberpunk with a bit of a biopunk feel, too, but more than anything, this was a solid detective fiction.

Was it satisfying to see the one man who'd never let himself get modded fall down the dark hole for the sake of either saving his girl or getting revenge or, just possibly, stopping a horrible killer? Hell yeah.

This came out back in '87 and it was nominated for the hugo for good reason. It's very detailed, full of great cultural stuff, and the concept of perso
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Megan Baxter
Apr 02, 2013 rated it liked it
When Gravity Fails was pretty good, without ever quite achieving greatness. I enjoyed it, but the pieces never entirely came together and swept me away. It was, however, part of my ongoing project to read all the Hugo nominees for novels. It's going to take a while.

Note: The rest of this review has been withdrawn due to the recent changes in Goodreads policy and enforcement. You can read why I came to this decision here.

In the meantime, you can read the entire review at Smorgasbook
Jokoloyo
Dec 22, 2013 rated it really liked it
This is a noir cyberpunk with a fresh setting, in a Muslim country at 22nd century. I found the characters could be better (in personality, to grab reader's sympathy), and the plot story could use more conflicts at early chapters.

Now the fun part. I love the world-building of this story. It is a unique approach in English science fiction (for SF published at 1988), but at the same time I feel the Muslim setting in the novel is rather familiar with my life, (unlike if I read a life of characters
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Brad
I've had this on a list of Sci-Fi books to read for quite a while, a list passed on to me by one of my favourite Profs, but it took a group read (thanks, Kim) to finally make me pick up the old, water-stained copy that's been sitting on my shelf.

I imagine I knew what to expect once upon a time, but that time was long gone and When Gravity Fails was full of fun cyberpunky surprises. I loved the easy, full acceptance of the transgendered in the contained culture of the Budayeen, especially the ac
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Penny
Brilliant story, great concept, intriguing characters. I really enjoyed this one. It's dark, edgy, and depicts a life lived hand to mouth in a rough neighbourhood where life is cheap and drugs and booze take the edge off. An unlikely hero, and a cast of characters that come and go the way you'd expect in a world of easy loyalties, you'd be surprised how much you come to care for the people living on the Street. The tech is interesting and makes you wonder what choices you'd make given the option ...more
Wanda
A strange mixture of elements that I’ve seen in earlier science fiction--When Gravity Fails reminded me A LOT of Spider Robinson’s Mindkiller. Want to speak fluent German? Clip a German module into the jack in your head, and there it is in your brain, waiting for you to use it. Want to be someone cooler that you regularly are? There are personality modules available; just pop one in and you too can be James Bond (or a psychopathic serial killer). Want to go without sleep, hunger, or thirst? This ...more
Bill
Jan 30, 2008 rated it it was amazing
MUST-READ ALERT!! A lot of times the best novels will knock down the boundaries between genres. This one combines cyberpunk with crime fiction. It's set in the Middle East in the near future. Most people who can afford it have their heads socketed to accomodate moddies or daddies. These modules are as available as video tapes are today: moddies modify your personality while daddies offer a slew of options, such as blocking pain, virtual sex, etc.
As one of the blurbs on the cover states, "This is
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David
Mar 25, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Moroccan sons of prostitutes, wired Arabs, transgendered Muslim cyberpunks
There really is a noir-ish sameness to most cyberpunk novels. 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
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Erik
Jun 25, 2017 rated it it was ok
As King of this Text-Box, my first action is to proclaim this review's title to be When the Back Cover of When Gravity Fails Fails.

So here’s what’s on the back cover:
In a decadent world of cheap pleasures and easy death, Marid Audran 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 sad
...more
Tfitoby
Mar 02, 2013 rated it really liked it
When Gravity Fails is cyberpunk at its influential best written in a way that makes it accessible to everyone but like pretty much everything that came before Snow Crash is not as powerful as it once might have been.

This is the story of Marîd Audran, citizen of Budayeen, a dangerous enclave in a futuristic Middle Eastern city (think of Ankh Morpork's The Shades for example) filled with crooks and hustlers modified both physically and electronically thanks to advances in technology. Mod chips can
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Stephen
4.5 to 5.0 stars. A fantastic novel. Smart, original and very well-written. A gritty, "noir" science fiction detective story that kept me interested all the way through. Highly recommended!!

Nominee: Hugo Award for Best Science Fiction Novel (1988)
Nominee: Nebula Award for Best Science Fiction Novel (1988)
Nominee: Locus Award for Best Science Fiction Novel (1988)

Harold Ogle
Mar 02, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sf, cyberpunk
More than anything, I've always loved the IDEA of this book: imagining a cyberpunk, dystopian North Africa of the future. It's much the same reason I enjoyed the idea of The Ear, the Eye, and the Arm: it's refreshing to see takes on science fiction through the lens of other cultures.

That said, I enjoyed this much more when I read it the first time as a teen, when my exposure to other cultures was more limited and I took the trappings of Islam and north African locations as really deep. On re-re
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YouKneeK
This book was different, in both good and bad ways. It’s a science fiction book in terms of its setting, but the story was really more of a murder mystery than anything else. It’s set in the Middle East, during the year 2172, and most of the story takes place in a ghetto area. Most of the characters at least pretend to follow the Islam religion, so there were a lot of references to that and it played a role in how the characters interacted with each other. I don’t know if this was portrayed real ...more
Michael
Nov 21, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Michael by: Kim
It’s been awhile since I’ve been so amerced into a science fiction world like this; I think the last time was with China Mieville’s The City and The City. The city of Budayeen something I’ve not experienced before, the blend of Middle Eastern culture and religion really bring this to life in a unique way. Marîd Audrian makes for a great protagonist; he is hard boiled, reminds me a lot of the private detectives in the pulp genres.

When Gravity Fails is a brilliant example of Tech Noir (so Science
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Monica
Enjoyed it...surprisingly!! I listened to this book on Audible. This is a twisted tale of the future where personalities can be uploaded and changed at will. Emotions can be enhanced or dampened depending on the circumstance and gender is just something chosen on a whim. It's a very strange world made stranger by it's worldbuilding and backdrop of Muslim culture. I'm quite impressed. Effinger was very much ahead of his time. Nothing about this novel written in 1987 seemed the least bit dated. It ...more
Kim
Reading through this book again I was surprised at how much I had forgotten about it. But this was a good thing at once again I delighted in the story and the people. A dark, dingy world full of sex, drugs, and murder. One man who has always held himself separate from the rest finds he has to become one of the many to find the killer.

This book, far ahead of it's time with regards to sexuality, is great from start to finish. Normally I don't like rereading books but this one is definitely an exce
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Mike
There is a lot of subtext here, and a lot of metaphor, and a lot that says that George Alec Effinger is a clever, savvy, modern science fiction writer. And I grabbed this book when I was not in the mood for subtext, and clever, and metaphor.

But that's okay; there's a lot of good story here on top of the sub stuff. Marîd Audran is big, tough, and lives by his wits without selling more of himself than he chooses in the Budayeen, a future decadent Arabic ghetto where pleasure is cheap and independe
...more
♥Xeni♥
Feb 01, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to ♥Xeni♥ by: Kim
As far as detective mysteries go, they mostly bore me, since I tend to figure out whodunit way beforehand. In this book it wasn't so bad. I was kept amused and in thrall by the world and cultures the author had created and by the time I actively tried to figure out whodunit because I was pretty bored, the main character, Marîd was already on his way to get him.

There are a few key elements about this novel which I really enjoyed. First and foremost was that this portrayal of the future was like
...more
Mollie
Nov 06, 2011 rated it it was ok
Great concept, a cyber punk set in a world where the middle east has risen to top dog while previously powerful Europe and America have fallen apart. The part that actually makes it cyberpunk, the "moddies" and "daddies" were very interesting as well.

However, aside from that it was a somewhat boringly by-the-book detective noir. The main character Marid had almost no personality aside from his independent streak and disdain for some of the currently popular high technology. But even that was nev
...more
David Katzman
Jun 24, 2017 rated it it was ok
When Gravity Fails failed to impress me. The press for this book acclaims it as one of the first sci fi "noir" stories, but to my mind it paled in comparison to the works of Jack Womack who wrote several compelling noir sci fi novels, including my favorite Ambient. As an attempt to tell a noir mystery, it was weak.

The only original aspect of this story was setting it in a futurist Arabic Muslim ghetto with transgender prostitution, drug-running and casual murder. Transgender is a subject of the
...more
HBalikov
Dec 18, 2015 rated it really liked it
William Gibson is often given credit for being the first cyberpunk author (but check out John Brunner). He says he was influenced by the movie, Blade Runner, in the early 1980’s. Effinger was right with him at the start, but going in a somewhat different direction.

Marîd Audran is a fixer, an independent contractor, a private investigator in a dicey Arabic city where he lives and works in its medina quarter known as the Budayeen. The time is several centuries in the future, but a lot of urban li
...more
Tomislav
Jan 29, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science-fiction
22nd century cyberpunk set in an ascendant middle east.
James
Feb 17, 2012 rated it really liked it
In the 1980's a new sub genre of Science Fiction called "Cyberpunk" emerged. The name is derived from melding the words Cybernetics and punk, and it focuses on the effects on society and individuals of advanced computer technology, artificial intelligence, and bionic implants in an increasingly global culture, especially as seen in the struggles of streetwise, disaffected characters. George Alec Effinger produced one of the best novels of this type with When Gravity Fails. In it he combined elem ...more
Fey
When Gravity Fails is set in the 22nd century, in a very bad part of town called the budayeen, (in what city I never really worked out). The culture is predominantly arab and muslim, although don't expect purity and devoutness! Almost the entire population have implants that enable personality modification (moddies), and data addons such as languages and skills (daddies).

Marid Audran is a rarity in that he doesn't have any implants. He prefers to get his kicks the oldfashioned pills and booze w
...more
Ed [Redacted]
May 19, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2012
Goodreads ate my review again and I am once again very angry so I shall make the following comments in lieu of ranting:

I liked this book quite a bit and I dearly hope the other two in the series are close to as good.

This book makes me think more SF should be set in Muslim cultural areas because I found it to be refreshing.

George Effinger wrote another book that I have got to read based on the title alone Maureen Birnbaum: Barbarian Swordsperson.

I have found very little use for cabbage in my life
...more
Kirsten
Apr 01, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Part Casablanca. Part Blade Runner. Part Raymond Chandler. All good!

Now, I normally don't like cyber punk or techno thrillers, but this book made that subgenre so much more. By concentrating on the plot and the characters and the setting, the techno speak and situations are played down as just a facet in a complex story.

One of my complaints with some science fiction authors is that they are so enamored with the technology and the physics that the actual story and characters suffer as a result. M
...more
Maggie K
May 22, 2011 rated it really liked it
I so enjoyed this book! A little bit of a noir-detective/cyberpunk/muslim dystopia that somehow all works...I was sucked in and entertained the whole time.
Thought provoking gender-bender stuff going on as well, especially in a muslim setting was a very different experience!
Richard
Jan 29, 2012 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Richard by: SciFi & Fantasy Group 2012-02 Fantasy Selection
Wow, very close to being a five-star book. Actually, I'm not even quite sure what is holding me back.

Fleshed out characters, mostly showing a great deal of psychological depth, a wondrously convoluted plot... this was nominated for both the Hugo and the Nebula Award. The winners of those, back in 1988, were Brin's The Uplift War and Murphy's The Falling Woman, respectively. I've never heard of the latter, and although I enjoyed the former, I think Effinger wrote a better book.

In many ways this b
...more
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“I looked at myself in the mirror. I looked awful, but I always look awful in the mirror. I keep myself going with the firm belief that my real face is much better looking.” 7 likes
“if I examine myself closely enough, I find hints of every objectionable quality known to man.” 3 likes
More quotes…