As I work on reviews of new material, you get old stuff.
In this case, it’s the second book in George Alec Effinger’s Budayeen series.
In my usual desultory way, I never have gotten around to reading the third and last book in the series.
This is definitely a Raw Feed. I can see several thematic elements I would be less kindly disposed to these days. But I’m too tired right now to argue with my younger self.
Raw Feed (1989): A Fire in the Sun, George Alec Effinger, 1989.
I liked this book.
It had a black, grim humor about it that glimmered on and off like a knife blade in an alley.
I liked having Mârid Audran back as a policeman. He moves from the uncompromising, somewhat romantic and naïve, character of When Gravity Fails, a character of fierce independence, to an owned creature: property of Friedlander Bey and his conscience. In the process, he finds, refreshingly, a reaffirmation of his Islamic faith, some of his past, and a tentative relationship with his mother.
I liked Audran establishing his friendships again with the characters who abandoned him in When Gravity Fails. Yasmin, Audran’s sex-change lover, was back as was the stupid (comically so — some of the scenes with him serve no function but humor) Fuad Il-Manhous; the ferocious, emotional bartender Chiriga; the perverse, but blackly funny homosexual (and lover of young boys) Saied the Half-Hajiz, the sinister and possibly mad and oddly devout Friedlander Bey (Audran’s patron).
There were new, interesting characters Shaknahyi the policeman and his oddly devout, stripper wife Indihar (who is so conservative she enjoyed being circumcised), the humorous, devoted, intelligent Slava Kumuzu, and the monstrous, perverted Abu Adil and his naively ambitious, sex-toy and personal assistant Umar Abdul-Qawy. (One of the delightful things about this novel is Effinger’s further exploration of his mind-programming moddies showing everything from religious counseling moddies, moddies to do drudge work.)
Abu Adil has a truly sick propensity for moddies recorded off terminally ill people, and mind-rape — moddies recorded off tortured people.) The sleaze is here — slavery, child prostitution, torture — as is references to the Balkanized world of the future as well as Abu Adil and Friedlander Bey’s roles as power brokers.
I, as in the first book, liked the Arab culture and its idiosyncrasies. It is there, however, the book falls down.
The novel is a tale of corruption, double-dealing, and power-broking. However, Effinger never really sets up the cultural, legal, and political rules of his world and that definitely dulls the edge on a tale of corruption and mystery.
Is Audran being corrupt in being on the police payroll as well as Freidlander Bey’s? He is very open about it and gets little by way of social and legal sanctions. Just how much influence do Adil and Bey have? Can they buy their way out of anything? If so why does Adil fear the potential sanction of Islamic clergy? Is there something in Arabic culture that keeps Bey and Adil safe despite their lax security? Is there something in Arabic culture which stops Audran from killing Adil at novel’s end?
Nevertheless, I liked the novel a lot and look forward to what Effinger is going to do in the future with Mârid Audran’s character.