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The Exile Kiss by George Alec Effinger

Vertigo

Mad Mountain Man
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Jun 29, 2010
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The Exile Kiss is the third and final book in Effinger’s Marid Audran series (there is a later book of short stories – Budayeen Nights). Audran is now Friedlander Bey’s undisputed right hand man and now also married by his command. Leaving a formal dinner, both of them are kidnapped by Bey’s arch-rival and abandoned to die in the desert. Surviving with a help of a tribe of Bedouin they return to the city for their revenge.

It’s interesting how the emphasis in these books has changed. The first book was distinctly cyberpunk with implants, almost universal excessive drug use and life in the lowest echelons of society. Wrapped around that was a noir detective story which was really the focus; the cyberpunk elements providing the backdrop. As the series has progressed the implants and drugs are still there but each book puts less emphasis on them and more on the dominant theme of the Arabic noir detective thriller. It is still science fiction but much less emphatically so; it would not have been difficult to remove all the science fiction elements and just leave it as a detective thriller. That is not a criticism however, Effinger has written good strong, atmospheric detective yarns.

He has also created some strong and believable characters with the main protagonist, Audran, in particular, a believably flawed man of the streets picked up by crime lord and power broker Bey and reluctantly pushed by him into the world of the big time players. But better than this is the setting in which Effinger immerses the reader; this time giving us two different and contrasting worlds. First is the nomadic life of the Bedouin in which all live for the day, justice is simple, fast and honest and revenge an almost religious imperative. This is justaposed with the morally ambiguous underworld of the North African Arabic city filled with sleazy nightclubs and even sleazier denizens. Effinger brings both worlds to vivid, gripping life.

Sadly, looking back at my reviews of both the previous books, it seems to me that Effinger is not good at finishing. Both of those earlier books reached rather inconclusive and downbeat endings and this one does much the same. It feels like there should be another book to clear up the various loose threads that were simply left hanging but, twenty-seven years on, that now seems rather unlikely. It is possible that the book of short stories might do that job but that also seems somewhat unlikely, however I shall probably pick that up sometime as I do enjoy the world Effinger has created.

4/5 stars
 
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