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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on 20 May 2004
Proving once again that Jon Courtenay Grimwood is a master of his genre, _Effendi_ is a sharp-witted, continually surprising novel. Of course, defining said genre is a little trickier. It's post-modern cyberpunk, perhaps, where the technology serves character and story rather than the other way around; it's also deeply politically-aware fiction viewing contemporary issues through a skewed future lens. The residual cyberpunk tech-fetishising feeds neatly into Grimwood's world - and particularly into his fascinating main character, the industrial-strength screw-up Ashraf Bey.
The setting is North Africa - predominantly the vibrant independent city of El Iskandryia - but it's North Africa located in an alternative-history world where the Ottoman empire made it into the 21st century. As in the trilogy's first novel, _Pashazade_, El Iskandryia is a triumph, all crumbling colonial relics, moral policing and seedy tourist nightclubs, French cafes and calls to prayer. It lives and breathes through the narrative with a personality all its own, an utterly convincing extrapolation of that region's cities today, an uneasy and volatile mixture of Western and Islamic influences and attitudes and needs.
Having set up the characters and their mysteries in the engaging near-future crime story of _Pashazade_, in _Effendi_ Grimwood takes his material to a whole new level. The dual timelines - of present-day Isk, and the brutal civil war a generation ago - are deployed with a near-perfect grasp of pace, tension-building and emotional resonance.
On the way to a climax that pulls no punches, we are also taken deeper into several of the main characters, particularly Zara and Raf - and while a few of the underlying mysteries are dealt with, what remains is more than intriguing enough to take this reader into the third (and final?) novel, _Felaheen_. Highly recommended.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on 28 August 2002
The answer to the question: "What makes a great book?"
I surely don't know... But the best c'punk books are a good mix of technology, plot and person, all melded together to make a twisty turny voyage of a story.
This certainly is true of Grimwood's work to date.
With the previous series Grimwood set Clare Fabio up against the world... (even though she seems a minor character within each separate story, she is the main character - the driver)
In this latest series he has taken a character and put him at the head of the plot, with each of the two stories backed up by a series of minor plots. Like an episode of your favourite soap, you are immersed in the lives of each of the characters, from the cook in the 'aunts' house to the General and beyond. Each story lying bound to one another by the main story of one man trying to get on, to survive.
In this second book, after what appears to be an abortive engagement to Zara, we see Ashraf Bey still trying to do the 'right thing' with regards to his niece and failing abysmally at it. (you can disagree with that point if you like).
In comparison to other authors: In the same way that Chandler's character Marlowe mosied around his cases, allowing each case to solve itself, Grimwood's character in this series seems to be a catalyst for other characters to provide the story.
This latest book is an amazing novel, well worth the read, and certainly we should be thankful to the publishers for bringing this one out in hardcover. <applause/> Genious is infrequently recognised in it's own time.
As an aside - I am seriously looking forward to the next novel: (which I hear is due out in '03) and am trying to not succumb to the urge to pick up Pashazade again.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on 23 April 2002
Having read pashazade I was pretty much convinced that I would enjoy effendi and I wasn't wrong. Grimwood's alternate present/future is a very believeable place and really draws you in. As is the mark of a good storyteller the characters feel real enough for you to care about them and want them to succeed ..or fail.
The only real fault with this book is that at times there's no real sense of danger. You know that despite the odds the hero will succeed. Now fair enough it'd be a pretty sorry state of affairs if the hero didn't win and the villain wasn't defeated, but it's still nice to have that doubt. Fortunately the times when the suspense is lacking are quite rare.
Grimwood has built on his El Iskandryia, a city at the crossroads of the major global cultures, and it seems much more alive than in Pashazade. It's very easy to imagine a city full of intigue and middle eastern style politics, a bit like a cross between Casablanca and Budapest.
There's still a lot of hi-tech gadgetry used throughout the book, but it doesn't get in the way of the story and is never too complicated or techy to understand.
Overall I though this was a brilliant book, The story is compelling, full of twists and turns and to be honest I couldn't put it down.
If you haven't read Pashazade, read it, then read this. If you've read Pashazade and enjoyed it, you won't regret buying Effendi.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on 26 November 2002
If you have any background in study of 20th Century World history, particularly of the Middle-East, then this book is a treat. Action packed cyberpunk of the best kind, not too cynical, with a wonderful alternative history's Alexandria to explore. The plot twists and turns; I was very close to the end before I got an inkling of what might really be going on and all kinds of threads from the previous novel start to come together.
You'll eventually like many of the characters despite them doing some bad things when you first meet them; as the story unfolds you start to understand the forces that made them what they are.
The parallels with current actual history and world terrorism in some scenes is very interesting. The well-developed background and settings,the fashion, dance clubs, remixes, pirate radio, vehicles, media, etc make for a very satisfying read.

When's the next one coming out? I want it!!!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 22 April 2002
Effendi takes over where Grimwood's last novel (Pashazade) left off, following Ashraf (aka ZeeZee), now chief of police, through El Iskandryia, reintroducing a number of the characters you saw before - Zara (the millionaire Hamzah's rebellious daughter, ex-fiancee to Ashraf), Hani (the nine - going on 40 - year-old girl who's only just gone out of doors for the first time), Hamzah (whose past is more interesting than you may have thought), and even the khedive, nominal ruler of the city. And, of course, Tiri, Ashraf's virtual fox. It's fast, furious, not afraid to raise some real issues, and you're just not going to want to put it down.
Just a taster, and none of these are spoilers: who's behind the brutal murder of beautiful foreign tourists? Will either Zara or Ashraf admit their attraction to each other? Who's the best hacker in the city (not who you might expect)? And what do you have to do to get service in Le Trianon cafe?
With Simon and Schuster, Grimwood seems to have found publishers who realise that they've got a hit on their hands, and it's nice to see this series getting the attention it deserves. Grimwood is one of the best sci-fi authors we've got, and this latest book holds its own against Stephenson, Gibson and the rest. Read it, and don't lend it out to your friends if you want to see it ever again.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 22 April 2002
Through each chapter of Effendi, we follow the steps of Ashraf Bey as he tries to keep control of an ever-disintegrating situation controlled partially by others who want him to fail and for the city to fall under a stranglehold by Berlin, the steps of Zara who is striving to understand the charges against her father, the steps of Hani, the talented yet odd niece of Ashraf, who is culling the city's history for clues to who may be stage-managing the downfall of her uncle's city and the steps of Hamzah Effendi who is flashing back to the days of his youth as a child-fighter in the loosely organized war-crew of Colonel Abad. Jon Courtenay Grimwood has woven them together with flair and panache that makes it one of the finest novels I've read in some time. No hand puppets here with fingers waggling. It takes talent to startle and surprise me after reading so many thousands of books. I just never could figure out what was coming next. Such a treat.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 4 May 2002
JCG has produced another excellent episode in the alternative future city of El Iskandria.
The story features a wondeful mix of murder, mystery and politics. In Ashraf Bey we have a wonderfully flawed hero, who hasn't got it all figured out and has to rely on help from anyone who's offering it (though he never admits it), even if it's his 9 year old niece.
This book, as many of his previous ones, features strong female characters; something I like alot, and think reflects the real world.
Early on I found it a bit confusing, the story comes fast and jumpy, but it soon smoothes out and flows along nicely.
A read I highly recommend and urge you to read if you have any interest in sci-fi, as this is by a master of the genre.
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1 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on 23 April 2002
I'm not a wordy person, so I won't go into too much detail. However, this is another top book from JCG... action packed, well plotted, believeable - but above all, 100% escapism.
Definitely worth reading - the so-sharp-it-hurts edge of SciFi!
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