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Finch | [Jeff VanderMeer]

Finch

Mysterious underground inhabitants known as the gray caps have reconquered the failed fantasy state Ambergris and put it under martial law. They 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. John Finch must solve an impossible double murder for his gray cap masters while trying to make contact with the rebels.
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Audible Editor Reviews

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

Publisher's Summary

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.

What the Critics Say

“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)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

3.5 (193 )
5 star
 (45)
4 star
 (62)
3 star
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2 star
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1 star
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3.8 (80 )
5 star
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3 star
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2 star
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1 star
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Story
4.1 (80 )
5 star
 (32)
4 star
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3 star
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2 star
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1 star
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Performance
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  •  
    Pie Saint Petersburg, FL, United States 09-20-10
    Pie Saint Petersburg, FL, United States 09-20-10 Listener Since 2007
    HELPFUL VOTES
    215
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    79
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    Overall
    "Awesome."

    The first time this book went by, I passed. It didn't really sound all that interesting. Grey caps?? Ok. Pass. But then, I found it again while looking through reader's reviews. (I like to see what kind of books the peeps doing the reviewing like....so I can have some perspective on their reviews of a book, etc. etc.) I found this title with a GREAT recommendation from what sounded like someone of a similiar mind set (re:books). I took a chance. Wow. This baby delivers EXACTLY as promised. Classic sci-fi, fantasy, noir, etc. etc. combined surprisingly pleasantly with a very beautiful style. Succinct yet descriptive in an entirely imaginative way. I would (actually) rate this as one of my top books read, this year, to date. I hope Audible gets some more of this author :) :) :)

    15 of 15 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Samuel Montgomery-Blinn Durham, NC USA 11-18-10
    Samuel Montgomery-Blinn Durham, NC USA 11-18-10 Member Since 2001

    I'm a voracious audiobibliophile, mainly interested in speculative fiction, with the occasional mimetic fiction or non-fiction title sneaking in.

    HELPFUL VOTES
    361
    ratings
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    46
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    73
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    Story
    ""I am not a detective.""

    Oliver Wyman's narration brings Jeff VanderMeer's eponymous Finch to gritty light in certainly one of the best books of 2009, and one of my picks for top 10 speculative fiction novels of the first decade of the 21st century along with (for taste comparison purposes) American Gods, Perdido Street Station, The Windup Girl, The Magicians, The Darkness That Comes Before, Building Harlequin's Moon, Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell, The Shadow of the Wind, and Anathem.

    Finch's refrain here is "I am not a detective." A survivor both of the gray cap (roughly: mushroom people; "like leaves sewn together over meat") uprising and the preceding years of civil war which split the ancient city of Ambergris. The setting is deep (very deep) as VanderMeer has had two previous books which built it, but Finch stands alone, both as a book and, in the book, as a character. Though he has a wonderful (and often dark) cast of characters to lean on, friend and foe, Finch has his own secret past from which he must hide. Meanwhile, he's pressed into serving the gray caps as a detective.

    {"Two dead bodies," Heretic said.}

    Thus begins the facts of the case. Finch has love (but to name it so risks too much, as too much can be so easily lost in Ambergris), friendship, and loss, and throughout he clings to survival. Is there hope there? Unsure. The Lady in Blue is the remote voice on the radio of the resistance; other factions from nearby city-states have their agents in the city, looking to profit from the turmoil; human "Partials" voluntarily become infected with gray cap spores to both gain and lose something; strange things happen.

    {Never lost.}

    The novel remains in Finch's very tight third person throughout, the pace perfect, the dialogue sharp. Wyman's Heretic is amazing, his Finch troubled and authentic. The book is urgent and real, cover to cover, with a memorable closing scene which is thoroughly satisfying.

    12 of 12 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Mary Sedro Woolley, WA United States 09-14-10
    Mary Sedro Woolley, WA United States 09-14-10 Member Since 2003
    HELPFUL VOTES
    7
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    "Gross and Great"

    Noir-ish. Dark. Disturbing. Different take on an alternative world. A fascinating, gritty place with addicts and decay. Gruesome (Not for the easily-grossed-out). Good Listen. But seriously, it's gory.

    7 of 7 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Ellen Woodbridge, CT, United States 08-21-13
    Ellen Woodbridge, CT, United States 08-21-13
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    Story
    "I (for one) Welcome Our New Fungal Overlords!"
    Would you consider the audio edition of Finch to be better than the print version?

    I don't have the print version, YET. You bet I'll get it now.


    What other book might you compare Finch to and why?

    Perdido Street Station. Because it is weird and wonderful and disturbing and haunting.


    Have you listened to any of Oliver Wyman’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

    Have not had the pleasure.


    Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

    Oh holy fuck no. It took me weeks. I had to go back and listen to chapters a couple of times. I will listen to this again and read it too. I don't usually do that. I'm an impatient person. But this book got under my skin. Ambergris is hardly a place you'd want to visit, but it kept pulling me there.


    Any additional comments?

    Last fall I took up mushroom collecting. I joined a mushroom club. I'd been wandering through the woods for ages, but now I was doing it with a purpose. I had "Finch" loaded on my iPod in July when I went on a club (Connecticut Valley Mycological Society. Amazing group. Amazing people.) foray, a group mushroom hunt.After the foray, I headed up to RI for a family reunion (happily not thermonuclear). On the way, I stopped at a spot I'd seen vast numbers of chanterelles in Exeter. Sadly, it was dry dry dry with only a couple of dubious Russulas, so i headed on to Jamestown and a relaxed dinner with the family. Slept fitfully on a lumpy couch that can only have come from some proto IKEA. It was in a high-ceilinged room with open windows on all sides and there was a delicious sea breeze.

    I fell asleep listening to "Finch". On the one hand, the book is detective noir, on the other, it's fantasy of the "new weird" stripe. I think. I'm a bit vague on what counts as new weird. The thing is, China Mieville can only write so many books and my jones for more like "Perdido Street Station" has led me in all kinds of directions, many of them in various science fiction and fantasy subgenres. (Biopunk ahoy!) I'd ignored such things since the 70's when I glutted myself on New Wave (before that meant music made by guys with shoulder pads and eyeliner.) Some fun stuff has been written in the last thirty years. So yeah, genre fiction. Dunno if I should thank Mieville or blame him.

    So I was dozing on the lumpy couch, the air is cool, heavy and soothing. There's a fog horn moaning in the distance. (When the wind is right, you can hear a bell buoy, but just now it's not.) I'm exhausted, but too creaky to sleep well on the lumpy couch. I put in the earbuds and start listening to "Finch".I drift in and out of sleep. I am tired but the couch is lumpy. The story is fascinating, but my body is weary. I listen and I dream and my dreams weave with the narrative because it is all mycological.

    Finch lives in a city controlled by sentient and malevolent fungi. The story is full of fruiting bodies and spores. The mushroom masters grow buildings and cities, they speak in moist tones with mouths full of gills. They infect humans and have an extensive organic underground monitoring system, a spy network secret police made pf mycelium.

    I'm thinking that Vandermeer watched the sh*t out of a bunch of Paul Stamets vids. It would be cool to go foraging with him, to do mushrooms with him. Because in the book he's kind of focusing on the creepy aspect of fungi and there's so much more. If there is a holy trinity for macro biota, it's animals + plants + fungi. You can't pull any of those out of the equation.

    Finch would creep me out more if I was mycophobic. It's hard to fear the gray cap overlords when your dreams have you cutting them off at the ankles to pop them in your basket so you can bring them home to ID to see if they might be tasty.

    I'm obsessing on mushrooms now, even so this is one scary book!I wrote that back in July. It took me a couple of weeks to finish Finch. Goddamn, I loved it. Jonesing for more real bad. DAMN YOU AUDIBLE, WHY DON'T YOU HAVE THE OTHER AMBERGRIS BOOKS‽‽‽‽If I have any beef with "Finch", it's that I want MORE. It's the first in the series that I've "read". I'll go and get myself copies of "Shriek: An Afterward" and "City of Saints and Madmen". I would like them as audiobooks, would like them read by the same reader, Oliver Wyman, but you don't get what you want. Such is life.

    I was thinking I would not want to live in Ambergris, but it might just be a world less dangerous than our own. If you are the kind of person who reads books simply to be comforted, give "Finch" a pass. But if you demand more from a novel, let the spores infect you. Feel the mycelium that is Finch growing through you like a Cordyceps, paralyzing you, exploding into your mind.

    Dig it.

    4 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    murry graceville, Australia 09-08-10
    murry graceville, Australia 09-08-10
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "A darkly wonderful tale"

    I just finished listening to this book, and i would have to say that i highly enjoyed it.

    The narration is very good quality with the narrator managing to get a feeling of each of the separate characters across strongly with his accents.

    The book itself is a strange mix of sci-fi and noir, and something strange like this is exactly what i look for so needless to say this hit the spot very nicely.

    Give it a shot, you might like it.

    14 of 16 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Competition Rider Va USA 09-19-10
    Competition Rider Va USA 09-19-10 Member Since 2002
    HELPFUL VOTES
    24
    ratings
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    10
    6
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    "Kept me listening"

    You knew where the plot was going from the beginning because basically this is a reversioning of Red Harvest. That doesn't mean it wasn't an enjoyable listen. I assume by the ending that it's a series. I'll give the second a listen.
    The characterization of the humans (particularly the secondary characters) was very good.
    Made me want to go back and re-read Red Harvest.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Trace Portland, OR, United States 09-11-10
    Trace Portland, OR, United States 09-11-10 Member Since 2009
    HELPFUL VOTES
    6
    ratings
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    56
    1
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    "An audiobook homerun"

    An amazingly fortunate combination of text and reader. Intriguing -- mesmerizing -- excellent in all respects.

    6 of 7 people found this review helpful
  •  
    ARR Miskatonic U 10-17-12
    ARR Miskatonic U 10-17-12 Member Since 2009
    HELPFUL VOTES
    7
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    19
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    "Worth It."

    I found the beginning of this book to be a little slow, but by the end I was really glad I stuck with it.

    My favorite thing about this book is the slow, creeping misery, and the lowly protagonist fighting the odds to oppose utter fungal domination. (Really.)

    Long after I finished this audiobook, I still think it has the creepiest, most skin-crawling villains, some of whom are largely inanimate objects. (Really!)

    The narrator does a great job with squishy fungal parasite speak. (No,seriously!)

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Valerie Lowell, MA, United States 01-03-11
    Valerie Lowell, MA, United States 01-03-11 Member Since 2006
    HELPFUL VOTES
    2
    ratings
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    "A haunting story that stuck with me"

    This may not be for everyone, but I thought it was interesting story-telling. The pacing is not speedy, but the tale haunting and the world that VanderMeer creates was compelling to me. I'm glad I bought it and will look for other works by the author.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Robert des plaines, IL, United States 10-22-13
    Robert des plaines, IL, United States 10-22-13 Member Since 2010
    HELPFUL VOTES
    32
    ratings
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    38
    34
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    0
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    "Interesting, though hard to define"

    An inventive world has been created. The characters are deep and shallow at the same time. The conflict is slow in developing but does come to an interesting conclusion. The mysterious city and relationships are more interesting than the story for most of the time, though it is brought together.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
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  • Jennifer
    Ambleside, Cumbria, United Kingdom
    11/3/10
    Overall
    "Little bit disappointing"

    Thought I'd write a review in the style of the author. Drops his pronouns. Quite annoying. Narrator does his best to minimise the impact of the author's prose; top marks to him. Plot quite good. Reminds me of 1984 at first with the claustrophobic atmosphere. Nearly gave it three stars. Too disappointed, though.

    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
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