Monday, 25 May 2015

A Fire in the Sun by George Effinger

I remember thinking that the first book in the series was interesting, but never quite entirely satisfying. Apparently either the second book is a lot better, or I was really cranky when I read the first volume. That's certainly possible. At any rate, I quite enjoyed this second venture into Marid Audran's world.

Life has certainly not gotten any easier for Marid - now on Papa Friedlander Bey's payroll and living in his house, liaison to the police for Bey, and regarded with deep suspicion from those who haven't escaped the Budayeen.  A strange woman has moved in as well, claiming to be Bey's daughter and her son his grandson and heir. Bey gives Marid the job of disposing of them, but Marid hesitates to take drastic action.

Then he gets assigned to look into a rival crime boss/power broker, on an actual police case, which ends up with tragic results. And as in all good noir, when someone kills your partner, you have to do something about it. And Marid does, using his new equipment and some specialized moddies (troubling specialized moddies in a few cases) to do so.

Moddies seem a bit different in this book, more of an overlay of a personality on top of your own that a replacement one that you watch from a distance inside your skull. I think that's actually more interesting.

But where this book really gets interesting is how it's about Marid's fall into power, as much as he tries to resist it, how subtly it occurs, how unfortunately pleasurable it is. Bey is sneaky in how he brings Marid further into his organization, starting with buying Chiriga's bar from her against her will, and giving it to Marid, thus further alienating him from everyone in the Budayeen.

In the meantime, Marid has to figure out the secrets of the Phoenix File, which may have caused the death of his partner. And figure out what the other power broker is really up to.

The troubling moddies that pop up are worth mentioning - one is a whole subset of people who were taped in immense pain or anguish, to sell on the black market. The other is the same thing, only involuntarily made. Makes the whole moddy market much scarier, all of a sudden.

In a web of deceit, the flux of power, and the slow diminishment of personal integrity, Marid flounders, without even seeing that he's doing so. This is pretty much the book of a fall from grace, which makes me very interested to read the third book, to see if that's permanent, or if he can rediscover a sense of personal honour. At the moment, I don't even think he knows he's lost it.

In other words, the second book drew me in in ways the first one didn't. I'm now fully on board heading into the third. I am a sucker for noir, and this is pushing those buttons. But it's Marid's personal journey that's really grabbing me at the moment.


I read this book as part of an attempt to read all the Hugo Nominees

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