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When Gravity Fails

(Marîd Audran #1)

3.91  ·  Rating details ·  6,824 ratings  ·  493 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
Paperback, 284 pages
Published November 1st 2005 by St. Martins Press-3PL (first published December 1986)
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John I did a little research. The explanation according to Wikipedia: The title is taken from "Just Like Tom Thumb's Blues," a song by Bob Dylan: "When you…moreI did a little research. The explanation according to Wikipedia: The title is taken from "Just Like Tom Thumb's Blues," a song by Bob Dylan: "When your gravity fails and negativity don't pull you through."(less)

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Average rating 3.91  · 
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 ·  6,824 ratings  ·  493 reviews

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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
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
Oct 06, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Okay, I read this because it was a cyberpunk book and I needed it to complete my Pop Sugar 2018 Reading Challenge. I left this category towards the end because I hate this genre; however this was tremendously good. It is set in a future Moslem city in which everyone is Moslem, although not all are practising. In the Budayeen area of the city, criminals prowl the streets and drugs, prostitution and murder are rampant. Our hero is a minor thug and druggie who unlike the majority of the city's deni ...more
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
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
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
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
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
Richard Derus
Dec 22, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: kindled
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.

That is a very trenchant sentence. That is exactly what you're signing up for when you get this book. A rarity now, in the 1980s this book was a unicorn for dealing with Muslim culture in any way, and using near-future SF to highlight the way whites are colonizing the world was still cutting-edge stuff. Digging deeper into them
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
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
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
Dawn C
Cyberpunk is not usually a subgenre I read much of, because often they make the mistake of trying to describe how it visually looks, instead of the feel of a dirty, trashy society alongside high tech. This book, however, never once described a glass building or a rain wet back alley, but conveyed perfectly the seediness from crime noir mixed with futuristic technology.

In this imagined, future Muslim city, people can upgrade themselves with add-ons, or daddies, to gain skills, and they can even b
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
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)

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
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
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
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
Sep 23, 2018 rated it liked it
An early cyberpunk near-future 'who-dunnit' novel nominated for a Nebula and Hugo in 1987 and 1988, respectively. Conjuring up images of BLADERUNNER, a pill-poppin detective investigates a series of savage murders thru the seedy streets of an uber kinky red light district. The scenes of drug induced madness reminded me of Hunter S. Thompson's FEAR AND LOATHING IN LAS VEGAS...but in Cairo? ...more
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
Oleksandr Zholud
This is a (bio-)cyberpunk detective noir novel set not in the US/Japan but the Middle East. It was nominated for both Hugo and Nebula after its publication in 1986. I read is as a part of monthly reading for May 2020 at Hugo & Nebula Awards: Best Novels group.

The protagonist is Marid Audrian, a man from Maghrib (Muslim Northern Africa) who works as a part-time sleuth in Budayeen and spends his life in alcohol and drugs. The initial scene sets the universe: two female tourists from the fragmented
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
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
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
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
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
Actually more 3.5 stars, rounded down, cause the ending was somehow lackluster.

I'm no fan of crime noir stories and the respective MCs and I've just read another novel in this SF subgenre that I didn't like at all. So I went into this book with low expectations. Yet it turned out to be much more interesting and enjoyable than I would have thought. I liked the Arabian setting, the Muslim background and the clear prose.
The cyberpunk elements worked well together with the narration, I especially en
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
Jan 29, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science-fiction
22nd century cyberpunk set in an ascendant middle east.
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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.” 9 likes
“It was a good thing I wasn’t afraid, because I was scared stiff.” 7 likes
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