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Jeff VanderMeer: Finch

After finishing Shriek: An Afterword, I dove right into VanderMeer’s third Ambergris book, Finch. This is in yet another style — it’s a hard-boiled detective novel set in a dystopian future a hundred years after the events of the last book. It’s pretty cool how willing he is to play around with many different styles in the same world.

Despite my appreciation for it, it wasn’t totally successful for me, for reasons that are not really the author’s fault. For one thing, it’s a very grim book, and it turns out I wasn’t really in the mood for grim at the time I read it. Also, it resolves a bunch of mysteries from the first two books, but as you can guess from the word “dystopian” above, not in a very happy way. It made me sad that some of the open questions about Ambergris and the underground gray caps from City of Saints and Madmen that at the time were a neat mixture of charming and menacing turned out to be just menacing in retrospect. I’d almost rather imagine this book as one possible future history of Ambergris than as the one true author-approved one.

Anyway, as a book it was quite good despite my negative reactions above. The plot took a little while to get started and had just one or two too many components for my taste but was interesting and held together, and there were a few great “whoa” moments, as you would hope for in a fantastic (in genre) book. I’m not sure how much sense it would make if you hadn’t read the earlier books, but the first one (City of Saints and Madmen) is the one I would recommend for newcomers to Ambergris and VanderMeer anyway.

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