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New Releases: Finch by Jeff VanderMeer

Finch  Finch is the first Ambergris book I've read - in fact, the first time I've ever experienced Jeff VanderMeer's writing. And 'experienced' is the right verb. VanderMeer's book is more than a traditional read - Finch is so well-described, so thoroughly painted, that it achieves something much more immersive than words on the page. 

VanderMeer is also using his powers for evil - in Finch, we're treated to a world conquered by fungus. Literally. With ever page, we're taken through squishy, damp corridors. Leaks, mold, spores, horrible damp, moistness, awful shudder-inducing sensations abound. VanderMeer has mastered the art of evocative horror - again, literally: this book is truly horrible. 

The plot is convoluted, as one might expect. Finch is a policeman in a city that is ruled by evil mushroom people (not actually joking). He's assigned a nearly unsolvable murder - so added to his mixed feelings that's he's a traitor to his people & his city, his 'job' and (possibly) his life are now on the line. Still, Finch's case gives VanderMeer an excuse to explore all aspects of the squishy city of Ambergris. The flooded docks, the rebel hide-outs, the moldy slums...

 VanderMeer actually manages to channel the best of H.P. Lovecraft in Finch. Not the Cthulhloid fanboy silliness that always seems so popular, but the tone & the style that made Lovecraft a timeless great. (Wearing my heart on my sleeve there). Finch is permeated with an atmosphere of fear - VanderMeer's skilled use of language contributes to this immensely. Ambergris isn't just a good idea, it is expressed deftly and emotively.

Also in a Lovecraftian vein, VanderMeer eschews the conventional 'good and evil' dichotomy in favor of an enemy (the Grey Caps) that just don't care. They're completely self-interested and humanity is utterly meaningless to them. VanderMeer (like Lovecraft) proves that disinterest is actually more terrifying than conventional evil. There's nothing as scary as learning that we're not the center of the universe. 

I found Finch as horrible and absorbing as the mushrooms it describes. It made me shudder, but it was captivating, memorable, new and exciting. I'd recommend it whole-heartedly. Unless you have a mold allergy. In which case, stay away.