by George Alec Effinger



290pp/July 1989

A Fire in the Sun

Reviewed by Steven H Silver

Set several months after the events of When Gravity Fails, A Fire in the Sun sees Marid Audran getting acclimatized to life in Friedlander Bey’s home. No longer a Sam Spade figure, Audran is trying to find his way in the syndicate Bey runs.

Placed in these alien surroundings and abandoned by nearly all his friends, Audran sets about trying to discover more about his roots with a trip to visit his mother in Algiers. Although the trip provides less information than Audran had hoped, it serves as the beginning of a discovery theme which runs throughout the book. Even as Audran tries to discover himself on a personal level, his knowledge of himself on a spiritual level also increases throughout A Fire in the Sun.

As happened in When Gravity Fails, Audran does not become fully immersed in investigating the events in the Budayeen until they turn personal. Lieutenant Harraj, the corrupt official who has replaced Okking from the first novel, pairs Audran with Shaknahyi, one of the regular police officers, with instructions to investigate Abu Adil, one of Friedlander Bey’s rivals. Shaknahyi is no more happy with having Audran as his partner than Audran is with the turn of events. Whenever the two men make any attempts in that direction, however, Harraj is standing in their way and telling them to look into another case. Eventually, Shaknahyi is killed in the line of duty which provides the catalyst for Audran’s investigation.

A Fire in the Sun is a direct sequel to When Gravity Fails. As such, several of the characters and events mentioned in the first book are referenced in the second. Despite this, A Fire in the Sun can be read without prior knowledge of the world of the Budayeen., although the effect may not be as deep.

As mentioned, many of Audran’s friends have deserted him, with the exceptions of Saied, the Half Hajj and Chiriga, the bar owner. The various dancers and prostitutes he used to keep company with avoid him whenever they see him. In an attempt to further distance Audran from the life he once led, Friedlander Bey purchases Chiriga’s bar and give it to Audran as a gift. Bey is successful and Audran finds himself lacking another friend. To replace Chiriga, however, Audran is given another gift by Bey, a Christian slave named Kmuzu.

Although Audran is not thrilled with having a slave, he does not question the propriety of slavery as such. Effinger could have used Kmuzu’s slavery to counterpoint the slave trader who Audran eventually faces in a subplot of the novel. Similarly more could have been made of the religious differences between the Christian Kmuzu, the Muslim Audran and other Muslims of varying piety. These are not issues which Effinger has elected to raise in this novel, however.

The tone of this book is not as dark as the earlier novel, in a large part due to the improvement in Audran’s situation. He may not be happy with the cards which have been dealt to him, but even at his most contrary Audran realizes that having a steady diet and roof over his head beats the hand-to-mouth existance which he had been living in the Budayeen.

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