When Gravity Fails

When Gravity Fails by George Alec Effinger Copyright 1988 Bantam Spectra                 Cover art copyright Jim Burns

George Alec Effinger's When Gravity Fails is right on up there as one of my top cyberpunk novels.

What really sets it apart is the setting.  A nameless city somewhere in the Middle East.  In this particular future two technologies are widely available.  Brain alteration and gender reassignment.

The brain alteration takes the form of having a chip reader installed that can be used to learn skills you don't have or even complete personality overrides.  Kind of like a really extreme form of cosplay.

Gender reassignment is just what you think it is but it is incredibly common.  Many of the characters are trans-women.  Yes, they are pretty much all strippers and hustlers and that is problematic.  Consider, however, that this book was written in the '80s and that even this level of trans representation was basically non-existent.  Additionally, it wasn't that long ago that I had sold this book to a customer and he came back telling me that the brain chipping was cool but the all the sex changes freaked him out.

Religion, specifically Islam, is also huge factor in the book.  Whether a character is religious or not has a lot to do with their social standing and attitudes toward the technologies available.  It's always nice to see a setting other than the usual euro or American -centric ones we get.