Sometime in the 22nd century, after western civilization has given up the ghost, middle eastern countries have risen in importance to fill the gap left by the now-broken super powers, the United States and the Soviet Union. In the Budayeen, the ghettoized red-light district of an unnamed city in one of these middle eastern counties, residents pay lip service to their Islamic faith while indulging in drink, drugs, gambling, prostitution, and violence. It is a world where surgery allows you to be anyone you like, of any gender. Personalities are fluid too. Simply plug a “moddy” cartridge into your skull to “become” another person, real or fictional.
Despite refusing a brain upgrade, Marîd Audran fits in perfectly in the Budayeen. He’s a low level hustler and sometime-detective, doing what it takes to fund his ever-growing drug addiction. His issues are man but he’s known as an honest man, friends with all the district’s barkeeps And he always pays his debts.
When a prospective client is killed by an assassin plugged in with a James Bond moddy, and residents of the Budayeen begin to turn up massacred by a vicious serial killer, Marîd is coerced by the district’s crime boss to investigate the crimes and reestablish the status quo.
Originally written in 1987, When Gravity Fails, while referencing the hard-boiled fiction of crime writers Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett, also predicted the growing prominence of Islam and the increasing awareness of gender fluidity. It’s a page-turner of a sci-fi thriller just waiting for a resurgence.