When Gravity Fails was published near the beginning of what came to be called the cyberpunk movement in science fiction. This was in 1986, two years after William Gibson’s Neuromancer (1984) appeared; that book is generally credited with starting the subgenre. George Alec Effinger was already writing When Gravity Fails when Neuromancer appeared, and he was more influenced by the works of Alfred Bester and Philip K. Dick.
One of Effinger’s major contributions to cyberpunk is his concept of “moddies” and “daddies,” in which technology is used to modify human behavior and performance, as an alternative to having humans plug themselves directly into the technology. Effinger’s universe, which is often called “hard-boiled” and which owes a debt to writers such as Raymond Chandler, is also an interesting departure from the more surreal worlds of Neuromancer and other cyberpunk novels.
When Gravity Fails was written some fifteen years into Effinger’s career, after he had already published nearly twenty books. This may be why the book and its sequels, A Fire in the Sun (1989) and The Exile Kiss (1991), show such a sustained effort and consistency throughout. In each sequel Marîd evolves further away from a street hustler into a man of wealth, importance, and moral strength. The sequels also chart a steady progression in Marîd’s relationship with Friedlander...
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