In "The City On The Sand" (1973), poet Ernst Weinraub sits in a café, staring "at the smudged handwriting on a scrap of paper: an ehauche of his trilogy of novels. . . 'This was the trilogy that was going to make my reputation,' thought Ernst sadly" (209). The scene fits the author, George Alec Effinger, and the anthology Budayeen Nights, nearly perfectly. For the trilogy that made Effinger's reputation and functions as the springboard for all the stories collected here went far beyond a napkin outline.
When Gravity Fails (1986), A Fire In The Sun (1990), and The Exile Kiss (1991) featured the misadventures and mixed victories of would-be club owner Marid Audran in the down and dirty streets, alleys, and bars of the Budayeen. Effinger wrote Audran in a compelling first person voice and brought a cyberpunk world of personality modules (moddies), corymbic implants, and data decks to vivid life. All the more impressive (and unsurpassed to date) was his detailed yet matter-of-fact depiction of a Muslim society. The attention the trilogy brought to Effinger (Hugo nominations for Gravity and Fire) may have surprised no one more than him. Barbara Hambly . . . describes in her Foreword that as a result of the trilogy, the self-described fantasy writer "reinvented himself as one of the founding fathers of Cyberpunk" (ix). Her introductions to each story are just as insightful.
Hambly's candid perspective as Effinger's ex-wife and longtime companion provides invaluable details about how each piece fits into the trilogy. Indeed, the Budayeen series was intended to be five novels! The previously unpublished start of the unfinished fourth book, Word Of Night, is represented here as "Marid Throws A Party." Although the segment ends just as it gets interesting, it is clear that Effinger had lost no momentum in his character and setting, especially given the surgery Marid is about to have. Hambly also explains how "The World As We Know It" (1992) is the aftermath of the unwritten fifth book. Even the earliest piece included, the stifling (literally) yet elegant "The City On The Sand," expanded to the novel Relatives (1973).
While all of this connecting of the plots was quite entertaining and informative to a fan of the original trilogy, herein lies the only flaw of Budayeen Nights — familiarity with the source of all eight stories (not including the reprint of the first part of A Fire In The Sun) is a necessity. Unless there was endless time in a semester, this book would not be ideal in the classroom without the three novels that it sprouts from. However, a couple of selections not set in the Budayeen would make great additions to a science fiction syllabus. "Slow, Slow Burn" (1988) presents a sexy take on the toll of creating erotic moddies. And with its depiction of a lone technologically enhanced soldier slaughtering rebels at will atop a mountain pass, "King Of The Cyber Rifles" (1987) resonates all too truly with our current wars.
— Jeff Prickman, SFRA Review #267, Jan/Feb/Mar 2004