Mar 8, 2013

Don't Nobody Get Nothing for Free: My Impression of George Alec Effinger's "When Gravity Fails"

I finished George Alec Effinger's novel "When Gravity Fails." This is one of my favorite entertainment novels, and I've read it in Japanese translation so many times, but it was first time reading it in English.

When I was a university student, I was fascinated with William Gibson's novel "Neuromancer", and I was absorbed in the Sprawl trilogy.

Looking back, it is hard to explain why I was fascinated with "Neuromancer" at that time, because the future, which is described in this novel, has already become a reality. "Neuromancer" was published in 1984. Do you remember how the world was at that time? Let's read the entry "I could survive in the Stone Age." There were no Internet and no cell phones! Please imagine how you will feel, when you read a science fiction novel about computer hackers in the cyberspace in the "Stone Age".

Later on, I got crazy about "Cyberpunk novels."

One of the good points of "Cyberpunk novels" is their vision of the future. But as I wrote, the future in "Cyberpunk novels" has become a reality, so if their vision of the future is their only good point, they have already lost their appeal. In fact, most "Cyberpunk novels" have lost their appeal, but I think that it is worth reading William Gibson's Sprawl trilogy and Alec Effinger's Budayeen trilogy nowadays, because they have the other good points.

In the "Stone Age," I enjoyed reading not only science fiction novels but also hard-boiled novels, from Dashiell Hammett to Elmore Leonard. In hard-boiled novels, the central characters are usually "picaresques." I love "Picaresque novels," because everybody in the real world is more or less imperfect and "Picaresque novels" express the imperfection of human beings. One of the significant features of "Cyberpunk novels" is that they are also "Picaresque novels."

In "When Gravity Fails," the central character, Marid Audran, wasn't a superman but just a thug living in Budayeen, which was a squalid city somewhere in Middle East. He was a Muslim, who wasn't so religious. Exoticism is one of the appeals of this novel.

Like most hard-boiled novels, Marid got in trouble and got hurt physically and mentally, because he was an imperfect human being. At the end of this novel, one of his close friends, Chiri, says to him, "Don't nobody get nothing for free." That was the main theme of this novel.

The author of this novel, George Alec Effinger, wrote two more novels about Marid and Budayeen, "A Fire in the Sun" and "The Exile Kiss," and he died in 2002 when he completed only the first two chapters of a fourth Budayeen novel, "Word of Night."

He had been suffering from a variety of health problems. He was really good at describing pain. "Don't nobody get nothing for free." R.I.P. Alec.

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