When Gravity Fails
George Alec Effinger
I read this book because it was recommended to me by someone who said “Hey, this book is really cool. It treats the idea of gender and transgender in a really cool way.”
If you don’t know, I am very active in the local LGBT community and so this piqued my interest.
And yes, the book does indeed treat gender in a way vastly different than is typically done in society and fiction: it makes it totally moot.
In this futuristic world, one can change one’s gender easily (for a price to be sure) and there is very very little stigma attached. Of course, this world also features personality cartridges that one clips in and out of one’s head. The idea of interchangeable personality traits, whole personalities, and also gender is so commonplace that it is just background noise to the “free lance PI investigates a series of murders and gets in over his head” story line.
That story, by the way, is engaging and full of nuance. It is classic hard boiled but it has a dash of color and flair not found in classic noir stories. The main character, Marid, is both totally believable and easy to root for. The twists are good twists, the fem fatal is done extremely well, and the mystery unravels as a good and steady pace.
Set in an Arabic ghetto, some readers might have trouble with the names and local language, but I found the fact that this wasn’t a New York based detective story a nice change of pace. I loved the way that Effinger handled world building… both with broad strokes and with little details that helped one get more than a sense of things, you really felt that this was a real place full of complex and dynamic real people. The quirks and futuristic flourishes didn’t feel forced or there for shock or shtick value.
I won’t go too far into the plot because I would love for each and every one of you who read this blog to go out and read this book. Suffice it to say, I highly recommend it… and not just because of its treatment of gender politics, but for the story it tells and the phenomenal way in which it tells it.