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)
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.
Really hard to compare it to anything else; detective noir, weird, fantastical, and literarily masterful.
Finch and Shriek
Who the hell can listen to 15 hrs of book in one sitting? No, that's ridiculous. I listened to it over several days..........moron.
Check this out, but read Shriek: an Afterword first, otherwise, a lot won't make sense.
Don't know what I want to be when I grow up. Trip's cool though. Use Audible to make gym-training sane... And rip my imagination.
Zzzzzzzzzzz... "What? Huh? Oh.... did I nod off listening to Finch? Sorry because I reeeeely do mean to finish... finish.... fin...". Zzzzzzzzzzz......
"Oh.... Where am I? Oh yeah, listening to Finch and ..... HOLY S&%T!!!! Slime! There's decaying, stinking slime all over my... my... m y...." Zzzzzzz...
"WHAT? Go away... Go... Um... Ooops sorry... Where was I? Oh yeah, pretension... wanted to say something about pretentious garbled... garbled.... GOOD GOD!!!! Did you smell that? That ooozing stuff that's dripping from the lanced sore in whatever the hell that ... that thing is that.... that.... seems to spell doom to the doped species who... who...I can't seem to care about and.... "
The premise of the story is unusual to put it mildly. The mixture of science fiction and mystery is good, but I find it hard to stay involved. The characters are thin and unsympathetic. The world the detective inhabit seems dark and without hope. Others authors have done this better.
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.
This isn't a review so much as it is a recommendation. Get this book. The production, the narration, the story itself, is all well worth your credit!
Hello, I enjoyed this book only after some time had passed since i finished it. This author takes on a very big story and leaves you filling in some details yourself and dragging others out with fewer answers and more questions. It took a while for the author to get to the "Aha" moment and it was hard to care at that point. The world that Jeff builds is good and I hope to see more.
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.
The best characteristic of Finch is definitely the hero-action/environment-description balance. I could also easily hate the bad guys. My least favorite part was that I could predict the final roles and closing scenes for key players, with a few exceptions. The descriptions of the boats, guns, and the tastes of the edibles in the story made my skin crawl. in both a good and bad way.
I really got into the way the various story threads ended up winding together. Some parts of the "doors" were left off the hinges. One scene with the main character and a Partial that involved a dream sequence was riveting and unpredictable, which made me want to go back and listen to previous parts to complete the picture of just what the Partials were capable of.
The slowly rumbling voices and the placement of music overlays were some of the best elements of the performance. There were moments of change in voice pitch that were not done very well when it was narrative or the main character speaking.
I could not see this story made into a movie or TV series, as the CGI budget would have to be enormous.
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