|3 out of 5 stars|
For a new kind of killer roams the streets of the decadent Arabic ghetto, a madman whose bootlegged personality cartridges range from a sinister James Bond to a sadistic disemboweler named Khan. And Marîd Audran has been made an offer he can't refuse.
The 200 year old "godfather" of crime in the Budayeen has enlisted Marîd as his instrument of vengeance. But first Marîd must undergo the most sophisticated of surgical implants before he dares to stop a killer with the powers of every psychopath since the beginning of time...
Wry, savage and unforgettable, When Gravity Fails is a major new work of dark genius by one of the most celebrated talents in science fiction today - a cutting-edge, heart-stopping tour-de-force detective story about an insane future world not so far removed from our own.
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 too can be arranged, though you’ll pay for it later.
Marid Audran, the main character, is also a charismatic criminal, harking back to the days of the Gray Mouser (Lieber) or Slippery Jim diGriz (Harrison). But he has the drug habits that you’ll find in Philip K. Dick’s fiction. Plus, he’s a non-observant Muslim, making observations on his society reminiscent of Frank Herbert’s Dune series, but in a world that blends Dune and Neuromancer.
Surprisingly, there are an awful lot of transgender people in WGF. Lots of women who used to be men (although why they would make that change in a society where it seems that women can only hustle in bars or be prostitutes, I’m not sure). Even those who maintain their genetic gender go in for body modifications, changing their appearances drastically.
Add to this odd community a killer who is eliminating friends and associates of Marid, and we also have a murder mystery element. There’s a lot going on in this novel and it was engaging to read, but I just didn’t connect with the ending.
Book 220 in my Science Fiction & Fantasy reading project.