|Well I finally finished Alec Effinger’s series about Marid Audran. Moving onto Spook Country but not before I give you all a quick review and my recommendations. I will try not to include any spoilers. First of all the series consists of 3 books. Make sure to read them in order: When Gravity Fails, A Fire in the Sun and The Exile Kiss. A new book of Marid Audran Short Stories was just released called “Budayeen Nights”. It is important to note that Effinger passed away in 2002 so unless someone discovers more short stories or decides to takes up the mantle of writing about Marid Audran this most excellent “Shaykh” will reveal no more of his story.
The setting is all important here. Sometime in the future in an Islamic ruled city somewhere in North Africa in a quarter of the city called the Budayeen. The world’s countries have fractured into smaller nation states. Islam has a much larger hold on the world’s population.
|Characters: The main character is Madrid Audran. Madrid is your basic Sam Spade type character. Somewhat a loner, medicates himself (alcohol and pills), has some kind of honor code that puts him above those surrounding him and is also unmodified in a world where sex changes, extended life spans and brain “moddies” and “daddies” (cyberware) are common. Marid is considered a gun for hire (but he carries no gun) and is your troubled hero type of character. He is surrounded by misfortune and has learned to live with it.Another character whose prominence develops through out the series is Overlord “Papa” Friedlander Bey. Papa’s seems peripheral at first but becomes a pivotal part of Marid’s future.The Whole Story:
Rather than give you a synopsis of the series I am going to talk more about Effinger’s writing style. The trilogy feels like a group of short stories that are melded into a cohesive whole. Chapters feel like complete stories in themselves and Effinger start many of them as if he wrote them separately and as if they were meant to stand on their own. I find this an interesting way to write and makes the book easy to digest in small doses. Basically you can read a chapter and put the book down and walk away feeling like your reached some point of resolution. This does not make necessarily for a compelling “I got to get to the end” of this book type of read, but nonetheless reading the series itself was a well worth it . One of the most fascinating parts of the book for me was how well the books was integrated into the Muslim culture and religion. I found myself saying muslim quotes out loud and actually learning something from this series. Effinger does an excellent job showing both the beauty and the horrors of the religion and Marid himself goes through a religious transformation as the story progresses.
Effinger’s characters breathe with real air and you will find them diverse and enjoyable. That being said this series is not a tough read and overall the series feels light and easily digestible.
Read this series. The storyline is excellent and you the use of “cyberpunk” is complimentary without being overwhelming.