Customer Review

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Mean streets, 17 Aug 2010
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This review is from: Finch (Hardcover)
"Finch" is third in a trilogy although it can be read on its own - I enjoyed it a lot even though I hadn't read either City of Saints & Madmen or Shriek: An Afterword. In form it is a hard boiled detective story. Laconic sentences. A bleak outlook. A solitary hero. However, the mean streets of Ambergris are rather - odd. The city has been occupied by alien fungoid creatures, "Gray caps" who lord it over the remaining humans, assisted by their creations the Partials, part-human, part-fungus and also by a team of detectives - Finch and his colleagues.

In the midst of a decaying, half drowned city, whose citizens are pressed into work camps to construct two enigmatic towers for the gray caps, the detectives attempt to behave as if nothing is awry, investigating calls to find missing cats or resolve domestic disputes - and murders. Which is where we come upon Finch, up to his eyes in a case with sinister political overtones, trying to do his job, satisfy his boss, the gray cap called "Heretic", avoid the gangster Stark and the rebels, and keep his friends safe. Over a single week, everything goes to pieces and we learn that Finch is keeping dangerous secrets.

This book has an audacious concept which Vandermeer carries off with amazing aplomb. The cloying, seedy atmosphere of Ambergris is conveyed perfectly and the plot twists continue to the very end. Decaying Ambergris reminded me somewhat of Viriconium and as in that cycle I think that Vandermeer has created something of a mythology - the earlier books explored different forms to describe other aspects of Ambergris and "Finch" is full of hints, loose ends and speculation: while it resolves, it isn't a neat ending and the characters - even the unspeakable alien horrors - are drawn in shades of gray. I said that Finch is a hero, but he's equally an anti hero, no saint.

I was also reminded of Fatherland, a totally different type of story, not SF at all (though alt-history) in the way that the compromised, pressured cops, albeit working for a foul, deadly regime, seek to uphold some kind of decency or at least order in a moral swamp.

Anyway, this kept me awake into the early hours, I simply couldn't put it down. Excellent.
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D. Harris
(VINE VOICE)    (TOP 500 REVIEWER)   

Location: Oxford, UK

Top Reviewer Ranking: 402