One of the things I was looking forward to most about WFC was picking up a copy of Jeff Vandermeer‘s new novel, Finch. Like many people interested in the development of fantastical fiction over the last ten years or so I have followed the unfolding story of the creepy, decaying fabled city of Ambergris, consumed every scrap of evidence available: from the original novella, Dradin, In Love, through the multifarious, metafictional documentations that comprised City Of Saints And Madmen, the novel of estranged siblings and unappreciated genius, Shriek: An Afterword, and other various assorted ephemera, such as The Exchange. Now, with Finch, it comes to an end. And it’s not a pretty end. So, it seems appropriate that the tale is told in the style of hardboiled noir.
It’s a dark tale. An unflinchingly dark tale. It’s slickly written in bitten-off sentences, difficult to chew, but you can’t help gulp them down anyway. In an Ambergris occupied by the Risen grey caps life is hard. Especially so for our suitably noirish taciturn detective with a worn nub of tarnished nobility, John Finch. As events unfold nightmarishly around him, as his partner is consumed slowly by fungus, as the murder case he is investigating leads him deeper into a world of spies and profiteers, as what little of Ambergris that is left crumbles away and as the grey caps’ mysterious towers near completion, Finch endures the worst ride imaginable. Unlikeable as he may be you can’t help but sympathise with the poor guy.
Finch is an engrossing novel, the titular character a brilliant study of guilt and hope, selfishness and integrity, along with the supporting cast and setting make this pretty much my favourite slice of Ambergris. If it has to be the last word on the old city, there couldn’t have been a better way to say goodbye.