Jeff Vandermeer — Finch [Weird Fiction/Noir]
Beware of spoilers.
In a forsaken city turned fungal, willingly infected Partials and Grey Caps reign supreme. John Finch is made a detective against his own will and has to solve a nigh impossible case.
A man and half a Gray Cap, both dead, mysteriously turn up in a shoddy apartment room. His only starting leads are a strange sign and a mysterious phrase on a crumpled paper. Soon he is trapped in an event more significant than himself.
Jeff Vandermeer has cemented his place at the top of weird fiction writers as a superb world creator and storyteller. This novel is no exception and shows again what the writer can produce. The story peels away layers like an onion, surprising the reader each time with new twists and surprises.
The start of the book shows John Finch, the hesitant amateur detective forced to solve a double murder. The story is noir to the core, thoroughly spiced with espionage, fantasy, and gritty, bleak language. If you know of the history of Ambergris, the novel will never make you forget that the apocalyptic Rising shaped the city as it is now: fungal and forsaken.
Since the ruthless overtaking and constant watchful eye of the Gray Caps, the citizens of the city will kill you as fast as they look at you. With the characteristic giant red mushrooms distributing protein-rich and hallucinatory spores to the addicted masses to the surveillance system consisting of ubiquitous mushrooms, spores, and lichen, they keep everyone at bay. The all-encompassing reach of the fungi adds another layer of paranoia and distress to Finch as he knows he is constantly being watched, trying to further the investigation without playing open cards.
John Finch is a biased, amateurish detective whose emotions, personal goals, and disregard for safety frequently bring him and others in danger. He becomes stuck in a vortex of treason, twists, and plans made by others, from the rebels trying to take back the city, the natives wanting their lands back, to the Gray Caps. He is a central axis who can make or break the plans for the city’s future or its demise.
The novel is the third book of the Ambergris trilogy. While reading the first two books is not necessary, they provide history and insight into how Ambergris met its grim end. The book hooks the reader in from page one and places them vividly into the destroyed, fungal city of Ambergris.
If this is the first book you are reading by Jeff VanderMeer, you can be sure you’ll be back for more.