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I hope all of you out there were able to buy, find, check out, pick up, take a copy of Effinger’s When Gravity Fails. Today, we begin. Feel free to discuss any of the topics I’ve listed or introduce something that interested you in the reading.

This book was first printed in 1987. I was ten. The only computers I knew about at that point were Commodore 64s. I played outside most of the time. Plus, I was a nerd born into a family of muggles, I mean non-nerds. Thinking of Effinger writing about moddies and daddies while I was just bursting from my egocentric shell is strange to me. Ooo…I used a big word there.

I broke the discussion down by chapter this time because we only had three in our line-up. The next set of discussions will encompass all of the chapters in a given reading.  A little note: things I want us to discuss are in crimson. Roll Tide!

Chapter One

This first thing that hit me about the novel was how very film noir the first chapter is in essence. The grit, the danger of the Budayeen is brought forth from Marid’s thoughts. Here’s a snippet from the first paragraph: “Chiriga’s nightclub was right in the middle of the Budayeen, eight blocks from the eastern gate, eight blocks from the cemetery. It was handy to have the graveyard so close-at-hand. The Budayeen was a dangerous place and everyone knew it. That’s why there was a wall around three sides” (Effinger 11). I can hear Philip Marlowe saying something just like this.

One of the things I love about this chapter is Marid’s speech about weapons. You can find this on the bottom of page 16. For those that have not read it, I will reserve my observations on the irony here for the comments section. Did you find this selection ironic? Why? And is there a teeny bit of foreshadowing here?

My chapter one big question is:

How would our society handle a criminal like Mr. Bond? Would we excuse his actions because he had a moddy popped in? Would we consider it his fault because he became responsible the moment he chipped in? How would the law handle this in our society?

We need not answer it for Marid’s. There is really no written law in the Budayeen. Marid touches on the unwritten law. “He’d [Bond] have to be satisfied with that, because if he ever showed his face around the Street again, he’d get jammed up so bad he’d have to be modified to hell and back just to pass as a human being again” (Effinger 19).

I would also like to touch on something I’d like to ponder more. How is Effinger’s Street different from Stephenson’s? Of course one is real and one is virtual, but how are they similar and how are they different? {Don’t answer me yet! We’ll discuss later!}

Chapter Two

In this chapter, we meet Marid’s love interest…Yasmin. “Yasmin was fully modified, inside and out, body and mind. She had one of those perfect bodies, on of the ones you order out of a catalog. You sit down with the guy in the clinic and he shows you the book” (Effinger 24). You can find more about Yasmin on page 24.

When I first read this book, I was surprised by Yasmin. I’d never read a book with transsexuals; I really had never read a book where a transsexual was the love interest.


“He didn’t just have connections; Papa was connections” (Effinger 29).

“He [Papa] once told me that he used to be that way, but after a hundred and fifty or sixty years, you stop wanting. That was about the saddest thing anyone ever said to me” (Effinger 29). This quote sparked my own thought process. Is it sad to stop wanting? I think it is. Wanting is what drives us as human beings. We eat; we breathe; we live because of this driving want. Without want, what would be the purpose of life? It drives us to produce and excel.

Chapter Two Questions

1) How do you feel about Yasmin? about her relationship with Marid?

2) Why do nefarious acts happen at night? Do we hide or is it simply because people are off work at night?
“No one else was about; the Budayeen hides from the light” (25).

Chapter Three

In chapter three the story picks up, Marid has to help Nikki. Nikki, another transsexual past girlfriend of Marid, wants to stop working for her boss. To do this, there has to be a meeting with him and a guy named Hassan. Hassan is an arm of Papa. I found this meeting interesting. The Muslim setting made the meeting surreal. It was almost a throw back to older times in the midst of this futuristic world. I love that Hassan has to chose a word to describe the type of woman Nikki is. We get the hint of the problems with transsexuals in the Muslim community. Is she a man or a woman or neither? This chapter and the negotiation set up what is to come in the rest of the novel.


“She looked like the avenging specter of a murdered Kabuki character” (Effinger 32).

The sisters are just plain, old cool. I love them. I can picture their huge, boobies sticking out before them in a marquee of prostitution. The quote above really gives us a vivid image of Tami. White face, black lips and hair–scary, very scary. Tami’s enhanced poison tooth is one of the coolest assassination devices I’ve read of, but it is surprisingly subtle when contrasted against the appearance and attitude of its owner.

Chapter Three Questions

When we look at people like the deadly, kabuki sisters and ultra-angry Nikki, does Marid seem reserved and straight-laced?

How do you feel about Marid’s drug use and alcohol abuse? Is Marid intelligent? Do the drugs get in the way of his intellect?