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DarkEcho Horror
deccoclock by Rick Berry
Book Review

Budayeen Nights
George Alec Effinger
Golden Gryphon / 235 pages / $24.95
ISBN: 1930846193

Cover John Clute has sneered (in his review on SciFi.com) that this "immensely sad book... fails to assert anything new to argue [Effinger's] just fame" and only begrudgingly admits "we need to remind ourselves that even painful memories are better than none." Mr. Clute needs to remind himself that even ancient baby boomers like myself may not have read everything published even in the last few decades. For those of us who have not been exposed to George Alec Effinger's future-Arabic-noir universe, Budayeen Nights is a wondrous gift.

Robert Silverberg described George Alec Effinger's 1987 novel When Gravity Fails as a "terrific story -- fast, cool, clever, beautifully written, absolutely authoritative. A kind of cyberpunk Raymond Chandler with dashes of Roger Zelazny, Ian Fleming, and Scheherazade -- but altogether original." The novel introduced Marîd Audran, a hard-boiled PI whose turf was the Budayeen, the sleazier part of some never-named 22nd century Islamic city. The novel's popularity led to two more novels and a handful of short stories. Budayeen Nights collects seven Budayeen-related short stories, the first two chapters of a projected fourth novel, and a fragment of a story. Author Barbara Hambly, Effinger's third wife, provides a foreword and story introductions.

Effinger was attracted to the darker fringes of life. The Budayeen was a fictionalized version of the New Orleans French Quarter and When Gravity Fails, Effinger said "was about Amber, a drag queen who was murdered brutally years ago. I dealt with my anger by writing a very tough book -- and it scared me a little, because it was so different from my previous material." Effinger had personal demons of drug and alcohol addiction riding him and the final decade or so of his life was a nightmare of health problems and pain, but he also had -- at least for a too-brief segment of a too-brief life -- the ability to use that darkness to create fiction that works because it is "real." So thanks to the guys at Golden Gryphon and to Barbra Hambly. This publisher may have not offered anything "new" about the author or his work, but they have preserved the work and introduced it to those of us to whom it is all new.

Note: I feel duty-bound to correct one minor point of Ms. Hambly's otherwise fine introduction: GAE was not among the "founders" of cyberpunk as she wrote. I'll quote Rick Kleffel here, so no one will get pissed off and assume this is just my personal opinion: "Veteran SF writer George Alec Effinger surprised all the young turks and old fans with 'When Gravity Fails' (1987), followed by 'A Fire in the Sun' (1989) and 'The Exile Kiss' (1991).... Though due to the timing of their release, these novels were generally lumped with the cyberpunk crop, they're really not cyberpunk, and they are not the products of the cyberpunk community....If you take the vibe of the movie version of 'Blade Runner' piped through a Middle Eastern sensibility filter, then you're getting a much better idea of what Effinger has to offer in these novels. They're a pitch-perfect combination of the Phil Dickian science fiction and Chandleresque noir." -- from "Midday in Jerusalem: Weird Serial Fiction With Middle Eastern Settings," The Agony Column for Monday, April 22, 2002

--review originally appeared in Cemetery Dance #48

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Copyright © 2003 Paula Guran. All Rights Reserved.