The Exile Kiss by George Alec Effinger
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Truly fascinating. While I can't quite place the entire trilogy in the category of must-read, I can honestly say it has been an interesting and subtle ride when it comes to character arc.
Things start in the way of a true tragedy in this book, with all things looking up, and then, all of a sudden, comes the great fall. It doesn't kill him or Friedlander Bey, his grandfather, the one who has staged Audran's new life, but it does eventually land them in exile in the desert and then among the Beduin, and this is some of the most interesting passages in the any of the three books.
Audran learns valuable lessons and it pushes him even further from his humble beginnings, happening to groom him even farther along the path of becoming the *godfather* to replace Friedlander. Most interestingly he'd progressed from humble independent enthusiast of freedom, to an enforcer and con man, to someone who no longer sweats the small stuff at all, taking success and setback with equal poise.
As I said, extremely interesting as a series of character development novels.
His return and rise shares quite a bit of the first novel's noir beginnings, making him a detective again, but this time the stakes are much higher and it has everything to do with how he is being set up to be the murder victim, too. His balanced poise was the polar opposite from the first book, and while the second presented so many options of how to behave, it was the third where it was always his choice, his desire, his agency that led him to the end.
These books are still very much the Muslim Cyberpunk, although it works equally well on all the other levels, too. I think I can easily recommend it for anyone who'd love to see this kind of character challenge pulled off in such a unique setting and not be limited by noir preconceptions. :)
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