Thursday, December 09, 2004

Book: Budayeen Nights, by George Alec Effinger (2003)

If any science fiction author deserves a renaissance, it’s Effinger. He died in 2002, after an interesting and often difficult life in which he suffered from chronic pain and illness, which contributed to his drug and alcohol abuse. In spite of that, he wrote some short stories that I count among the funniest I’ve ever read. Comedy is always difficult, but cut with SF it’s damn near impossible. Effinger pulled it off regularly.

His greatest accomplishment is the Budayeen series, a hard-boiled cyberpunk trilogy that considers the impact of technology on the Muslim world. The hero of the books is Marîd Audran, whom I can best describe as an Islamic Jim Rockford. Each of the three titles – WHEN GRAVITY FAILS (1987), A FIRE IN THE SUN (1989) and THE EXILE KISS (1991) – is structured as a mystery, but at heart is an exploration and appreciation of Eastern culture. They are singular books, all worth tracking down, and I can’t believe some enterprising publisher hasn’t reissued them. They have even more currency now.

I was thrilled to find this new collection of short fiction at the library. It even includes a fragment of a story that Effinger began a few days before his death. Barbara Hambly provides a foreword and introductions to each piece. It was good to spend time in Effinger’s company and in the world of the Budayeen again.