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The Audran Sequence by George Alec Effinger
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When Gravity Fails: Marid Audran walks down some seriously mean streets in this engrossing well-told novel of an Islamic post-Western future. The setting is well-developed and even more relevant than when the book first came out in 1986. For a while, I feared the noir would fall into cliche and overwhelm the science fiction. But the cliches don't materialize, and the science fictional element eventually becomes critical to the story. As in most hard-boiled fiction, murders drive the plot, but this is not about detection, even though Effinger tosses Nero Wolfe into the mix for a bit. This is about power and psychopaths, and an inevitable violent resolution that brings closure but neither justice nor a happy ending.

A Fire in the Sun: This sequel to When Gravity Fails is a case of less of the same. It's the same world and characters, and the same blend of SF and hard-boiled attitude. But in the first book the science fictional elements worked synergistically with the classic hard-boiled tropes of addiction, cynicism, violence, seediness, and criminal power struggles. In this book, these are just plot elements. Events happen just because they're needed to make the plot move along. One plot element was the subject of repeated parody in the movie Hot Shots and another was so irrational, the hero apologizes in advance for it. This goes under the "OK to read" but not "must read" category.

The exile kiss: The third book in the Audran Sequence is a step up from [A Fire in the Sun], because of a fairly extensive sequence that takes Audran and his crimelord boss, Friedlander Bey, into the desert wastelands, where they live for some time with a nomadic tribe. Without the constant treacheries and temptations of the Budayeen, there's time for Audran to focus and mature. But even here there is a murder to be solved, and that tale is one of the most striking set pieces in the book. When the story returns to the Budayeen, it becomes more by the numbers, as with [A Fire in the Sun], but on the whole this is a worthy final novel in the series. ( )
  ChrisRiesbeck | May 28, 2011 |
When Gravity Fails: I liked this noir-ish, cyberpunk-ish mystery but could not follow the tangled explanations for some of the killings, which made the mystery aspect of the book disappointing for me. I read it more for the main character, Marid Audran, who believes in better living through chemistry and who avoids being modded (overlaying another personality on his own) and daddied (adding knowledge or controlling his body functions) like most everyone else. This is a dark but interesting world.
A Fire in the Sun: Marid begins to grow into his own in the second novel of this omnibus, and we learn more about the greater world, Arab and otherwise. This novel was less dark: bad things still happen, but Marid also gets to kick some ass. The plot involves a series of unsolved murders, child slavery, and the political struggle between Freidlander Bey and another powerful lord for control not only of the Budayeen but much of the world.
The Exile Kiss: In the third and final book of the Marid Audran trilogy, Marid and Freidlander Bey are sent into the deep desert after being falsely accused of murder. Marid must solve that murder and help Bey back to the Budayeen to enact their vengeance. Half of the book takes place in the desert and half in the city, and I found it to be more rambling than "A Fire in the Sun." Cons: the plot threads in the book are resolved over-quickly in the last few pages, and this is the least cyberpunkish of the three books. Pros: this is a quick read and it fills in some more of the larger world around the Budayeen. ( )
  lithicbee | Mar 12, 2010 |
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