Jeff VanderMeer, master of the New Weird, has done it again in his latest Ambergris novel. Noir detective story meets eldritch fantasy in Finch, with a cast of crooked cops, a femme fatale, a loyal partner, a mysterious underworld boss, two dead bodies and sentient fungal life forms.
Audie Award-winning narrator Oliver Wyman deftly carries us into the dark world of John Finch, a man who has survived The Rising, a war between humans and the gray caps, a sentient fungus. Humanity has lost authority to the gray caps. Humans are kept in internment camps, except when they're needed by the gray caps people like Finch. Finch isn't sure why they need him, but they do. They call him a detective, and so that's what he is. Whether he likes it or not.
Finch is assigned a case: two dead bodies one human, one gray cap that appear to have fallen from a great height, into a closed room. The case leads him from a dark world into an even darker underworld, in which no one is who they appear maybe not even Finch.
To hear Wyman's treatment of Finch, you would think that gritty and noir is simply what he excels at, and that he was cast for that reason until you hear his dialogue, and the way he voices Finch's love interest, or the Partials, or Finch's spore-infected and disintegrating partner as he's being slowly colonized by fungus. Wyman is a gifted voice actor with a huge range of credits to his name, and he brings VanderMeer's cast to life. Tension and dream sequences are underscored by original music from Murder By Death.
Finch was short-listed for both the Nebula and the World Fantasy Award, and with good reason. While it follows the previous Ambergris novels, it stands alone, and can be recommended as a first-time listener's portal into VanderMeer's world of Ambergris. Christie Yant
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.
Audible’s production of Finch includes original music, inspired by the book, by the band Murder by Death.
Finch has been nominated for a World Fantasy Award.
©2009 Jeff VanderMeer (P)2010 Audible, Inc.
“I can’t ever remember reading a book like Finch. Audacious in technique and extravagant in imagination, it has the rare quality of making the macabre poignant. In the midst of a disturbed and disturbing narrative landscape, Jeff VanderMeer gives us deeply sympathetic characters – especially Finch himself – who inspire us to care about their flawed and tyrannized world. I’m impressed.” (Stephen R. Donaldson)
“Fungal noir. Steampunk delirium. Paranoid spy thriller, quite literally, on ‘shrooms. There’s enough nightmare and grit in Finch to stock any urban fantasy fan’s darkest imaginings for years to come.” (Richard K. Morgan)
"Intriguing and highly original.... VanderMeer writes insightfully about those caught in the middle of war. He makes one think of Baghdad in 2005 or Kabul today.” (Victor LaValle, The Washington Post)
An interesting and engaging book. I had no idea where it would take me, which was fun for a change. It was like Blade Runner (Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep), but with fungus. Lots, and lots of fungus.
Very nicely done - fusion of noir, sci-fi and steampunk (biopunk). The story definitely hits the noir marks perfectly (identity questions, existential questions) and also does a really nice job of establishing an interesting, complex world.
This was my first Jeff VanderMeer novel. I had high hopes. It was very quickly BLAH. My complaint is primarily with the narrator. He was truly horrible. He wasn't noir-sh; I think he thought he was being noir-ish, edgy & world-weary. He was instead dreary and lugubrious, a BORE. His reading completely leached the story of any color and suspense. I've listened to other things narrated by Mr. Wyman and had no complaints. In my opinion he tried something hard-boiled and failed.
I listen to books when I'm at work or doing chores. I prefer history and fantasy. My favorite audio book is Going Postal by Terry Pratchett.
Imagine the most droning illogical murder mystery you can and throw in some old fashioned spore aliens left over from the 50's and you've got this novel. This book was never very interesting but what finally did it in all together was the unnecessary background music that started playing during the memory recall scene. They did this in "So Cold The River" too. It's like the producer was hoping that you wouldn't notice that the big foreshadowing mysterious vision scene wasn't very mysterious and hoped making sure you couldn't hear the mumbling narrator might help matters.
I don't mind interstitial music between chapters or parts or at the beginning and end but my policy from here on out is to give any audio book that has music playing over the actual narration an automatic two stars; sound effects will warrant an immediate demotion to one.
I have to admit first that I did not finish Finch. It is written in such a way that you feel like you should know thing that were not brought forward. I gave up after 4 chapters. It is written in a very strange way. Almost just thoughts and not really telling me a story. I can't say a lot about the reader, Oliver Wyman, because I don't think he had a lot to work with. It left me wishing I had a way to get my money back.
Finch's true character is slowly revealed as the story progresses. This added a very subtle layer of mystery on top of the murder that Finch is trying to solve. It makes his character much richer and more complex and has the same impact on the story overall.
Finch is the focus of the story and everything happens from his perspective. As the story progresses, you see that Finch is in a desperate situation and it seems like he has no way out. This situation brings out all his strengths and flaws as he tries to survive and carry on.
The narrator was able to create separate and individual characters. They not only had different voices but these voices conveyed different personalities no matter what race the character belonged to. He also conveyed emotion and physical situations very well.
The gray caps spores and spies are everywhere! Can John Finch survive long enough to solve the mysterious murder and save his city, Ambergris?
I guess this is "weird sci fi" and that will put some people off. But I found the world that Vandermeer created to be very complete and intriguing. He gave out information on this world in small bits so it was easy to take that information in and at the same time be pulled along by the very strange murder case that is almost at the heart of this story.
Many details of an underworld full of vivid unreal descriptions. It lures you in deeper and deeper into the protagonist's mysterious world that slowly unfolds. Definitely worth your time. I will never look at a mushroom the same way again.
Hire different talent and re-record.
Not sure yet - I'm abandoning the audiobook for the printed version before this awful performance makes me hate the story.
Yes, to purchase the printed version.
VanderMeer is a fascinating writer. Unfortunately, this book has been tainted by a very hackneyed read. Instead of trying unsuccessfully to "do noir-esque voices," Wyman really should have just gone with a neutral tone, and maybe given it a little energy.His dry, quiet, sedate impression of what an actor in a film noir does is awful. Just awful.
A more cohesive approach would have improved this book immensely. The jagged, half-formed way of writing has been done to great effect many times, and certainly sometimes in this book, but it spills into being overdone here. Almost all of the narrative is done in fragments, which disconnects the listener from the characters and the story.
Also, the overlay of music while the narrator is still speaking is an awful stylistic choice.
I think what was most disappointing is the feeling of uneven pacing. Other reviews have mentioned that once a listener gets to the last 50% of this book, it comes together and the world is truly described and opened up to the reader. The problem with this is that by the time I'd made it to the halfway mark, I was apathetic to the characters. I didn't care about Finch, the war that preceded this story, Wyte (I think that's how his name is spelled, forgive me if I'm mistaken) or the city. I would mentally check out during entire passages, come back and realize that I'd missed out on a few minutes of the reading, and my reaction was to shrug and contemplate speeding up the narration speed. Normally, I'll hit that reqind button to catch up on what I missed.
Oliver Wyman is a fantastic narrator. I think he did the best he could with what he had to work with.
Sentra (again, sorry if misspelled). I think that of all the characters I didn't connect to, she is the one who was the least likable or interesting. Her mysteriousness was forced, Finch's attachment to her was unrealistic, and her motivations weren't interesting enough to hold my attention.
This book did indeed try to kill me. I listen to audiobooks during my lengthy commute to and from work, and this book did its best to put me to sleep. I thought it was just me being tired, but in the middle of this book I dropped it, switched to another one I had in my list, and the encroaching sleep wore off.
This book failed to engage my attention enough to finish it. It may be different for others, but the style of writing, the characters, and the setting itself did not hold my attention.
Report Inappropriate Content
If you find this review inappropriate and think it should be removed from our site, let us know. This report will be reviewed by Audible and we will take appropriate action.