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Topic: Finch, by Jeff VanderMeer

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Subject: Finch, by Jeff VanderMeer
Date Posted: 3/21/2010 10:10 PM ET
Member Since: 3/25/2006
Posts: 723
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I've started this thread because the book has been placed on the final ballot for 2009 Nebula Best Novel award, and it looks like several of us will be reading it over the next few weeks.  If you've previously posted about it, feel free to re-post your comments here.

We should avoid posting an ending spoiler, but detail spoilers are inevitable.  If you are planning to read it soon, and do not want to see detail spoilers, I recommend you not read this thread yet.

Subject: TomHl's review
Date Posted: 3/21/2010 10:14 PM ET
Member Since: 3/25/2006
Posts: 723
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Book checked out according to local library catalog.  Hold placed.  Patience required.  But dw visited library and through consequences of interlibrary loan unexpectedly the book is in my hands.  New book; 10 day checkout.  However, through consequences of interlibrary loan I only get 7 days.  Must be read immediately.  No earlier Ambergris to read.  No earlier Ambergris exists at the library anyway.  Must be read immediately.   Shortage of verbs.  Verbs for sale! Verbs for sale!

So this is steampunk?  It says so right on the cover.  Well, the "punk" part is right; this is a gritty story that operates above and below the law, or what passes for it in Ambergris.  But the "steam" part is wrong.  My understanding is the name implies a setting with a steam-powered level of technology.  That would mean no radios, no motorized vehicles, and Victorian era culture.  This book, I would classify as New Weird.   Finch is lot more along the lines of the definitively New Weird Perdido Street Station than it is The Difference Engine.  On the other hand, it's possible that the definition of steampunk is now drifting and enlarging; as a category name it's better marketing than New Weird.  I guess I'm going to count it as steampunk in the sf challenge anyway.

As I mentioned, I did not have the opportunity to read the earlier two Ambergris books.  Finch does stand on its own, except for about 50 pages in which the book Shriek; An Afterword is an actual artifact in this story.  That's ok for this book, except that it probably does spoil those earlier books that I have not read.

The book begins as a murder investigation by detective John Finch, a murder investigation in a world that is itself nightmarish with fungal infections, and alien overlord Gray Caps.  The gripping plot unveils layer after layer of reality and character motivation, leading to mysteries of an ever-widening scope.  Even John Finch is not who he at first appears.  I enjoyed this book almost as much as Perdido Street Station, and for much the same reasons, but due to the spoilers I've now seen, will probably not seek out the earlier Ambergris books.

Last Edited on: 8/16/10 10:48 PM ET - Total times edited: 6
Matt C. (mattc) - ,
Date Posted: 3/23/2010 2:52 PM ET
Member Since: 8/13/2008
Posts: 3,849
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Well put...I have nothing much to add.  The writing style (verb shortage!) composed of so many sentence fragments was weid.  I can't see that it added anything to the story, and I thought it made the book much more difficult to read than it needed to be.