Epeolatry Book Review: Finch by Jeff VanderMeer


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Title: Finch
Author: Jeff VanderMeer
Genre: Weird/Fungal Noir
Publisher: Underland Press
Release Date: 3rd November, 2009


In Finch, mysterious underground inhabitants known as the gray caps have reconquered the failed fantasy state Ambergris and put it under martial law. They have disbanded House Hoegbotton and are controlling the human inhabitants with strange addictive drugs, internment in camps, and random acts of terror. The rebel resistance is scattered, and the gray caps are using human labor to build two strange towers. Against this backdrop, John Finch, who lives alone with a cat and a lizard, must solve an impossible double murder for his gray cap masters while trying to make contact with the rebels. Nothing is as it seems as Finch and his disintegrating partner Wyte negotiate their way through a landscape of spies, rebels, and deception. Trapped by his job and the city, Finch is about to come face to face with a series of mysteries that will change him and Ambergris forever.

Before Finch, I’ve only read Vandermeer’s Area X trilogy, of which Annihilation is a must read for modern imaginative fiction. I did try and read Dead Astronauts, but that one wasn’t for me. I only made it a handful of pages in before throwing it in the DNF pile.

Awhile back, a friend of mine recommended Finch to me. But, due to my experience with Dead Astronauts I was reluctant to give it a try. I’m glad I eventually got over my doubt and picked it up. And now I regret taking so long to read it. It was amazing!

Finch is a noir mystery firmly rooted in the New Weird genre alongside authors like China Mieville, Laird Barron, and Nathan Ballingrud. Though this qualifies as horror, it leans more toward the fantastic, becoming the first book I’ve read that could be described as Fungal Noir.

In the story, Finch, a detective for the city of Ambergris, must solve a double murder case. A man and a greycap (a sort of mushroom person) are found dead in an apartment. Half of the greycap’s body is missing. The more Finch digs for clues in this city under the control of the mushroom people, the more trouble he stirs up for himself and his friends.

Finch is filled with insane and unapologetic worldbuilding. I haven’t seen something this imaginative since reading Perdido Street Station by China Mieville.

I give this fungal fantasy 5 out of 5 stars.

Available from Amazon and Bookshop.

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