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.
book is cyberpunk, with a strong dash of noir. (Not that that's
surprising - a lot of cyberpunk seems to revolve around noir
storytelling.) It is less sterile than Neuromancer, much
messier and more lively. So, if it's cyberpunk, what are the
modifications that have been made to bodies that bring whether or not
someone is still human into question?
In this case, moddys and
daddys. Moddys are other personalities that you can plug into your brain
and act as they would act. They're used for sex, a lot. And also so you
can be James Bond. Given the fear the main character has of these types
of modifications, and how he describes plugging in Nero Wolfe (and I
did totally love that it was Nero Wolfe), outside of the sex, I'm not
sure why people would want to. It might be helpful, I suppose, but it
seems like you're a passive observer while another personality takes
over your brain. That's interesting. I'm just not sure why it's so
enticing that Marid, the main character, is known as the one man who
doesn't have plugs in his head.
Daddys, though, they do seem more
interesting. A little like a babelfish, but more limited in scope.
They're add-ons, languages, skills, hunger suppressants, reflex
sharpeners, whatever you could want to give yourself an edge.
world, though, is not the corporate one we see in a lot of other
cyberpunk. It's set in the Budayeen, a crime-ridden district in a city
in the Middle East that I don't think is ever named. We get flashes
about the rest of the world - Russia, the States, and most of Europe
have fractured into tiny states. The context for this book is Islamic,
and that was definitely interesting and unexpected.
major modification is that sex changes seem to be relatively easy
(although I don't think they're cheap, which raises the question of how
people from this very, very poor district are all affording them). I'd
be hard-pressed to go back in the book and find a woman who was born a
woman. Although there are plenty of men who were born men. This
perspective on the fluidity of gender could be interesting, but it's not
handled as well as, say, Varley does it. Once "changed," women who were
born men fall into the most stereotypical of gendered behaviours.
That's a bit of an issue.
Marid, the lead character, is
approached in a bar about finding man's son. But that man is shot to
death right in front of him, by James Bond. Marid tries to walk away,
but one of his friends comes and approaches him for help, and then
disappears. Shortly thereafter, other people start turning up dead, some
tidy assassinations, others horrific and bloody. And Marid is caught in
the middle, and employed by the local crime lord (who he swore he'd
never work for) to look into it.
Marid is a reluctant hero, and a lot of the book is him lounging in bed not looking into things when he really should be.
the mystery is suitably twisty, and the world very interesting. The
characters were a little weak, but this is worth checking out if you're
looking for a different kind of cyberpunk.
I read this book as part of an attempt to read all the Hugo Nominees