Filtered perceptions of now – Jeff Vandermeer’s Finch

I’ve only managed to read one book this week and that is Jeff Vandermeer‘s Finch published in the UK by Corvus Books. Before you go further, this review does contain spoilers. Just a friendly warning.

Alongside New Crobuzon, Ambergris is one of those marvellously weird cities to revisit and Finch brings it to some sort of conclusion, though one that is beautifully open ended. I need to re-read all books that make up the cycle (City of Saints and Madmen and Shriek: An Afterword)

Finch is investigating the sudden appearance of two bodies in an apartment, one of whom is a gray cap and the appears to be very familiar. His investigation takes him into the broken, post Rising depths of Ambergris where he stumbles through its many layers, scraping his shins across the buried histories. Some of these are personal, some affecting wider society.

The novel is set up as a New Weird noir thriller, drawing on the best of both genres, but it seems to be partially a mediation on memory and perception. Finch has a map of the city, inherited from his father, which he has annotated and becomes a map of his childhood. Both characters re-engineer the landscape – his father physically, Finch mentally – and that seems to allow him a greater latitude to explore the world. The novel is told from Finch’s perspective, there are no other narrators, so the read is entirely reliant on his recollections and memories (some of which are impaired when he is either drugged or knocked out). The narrative is punctuated by his thoughts, giving us a unque insight that the other characters do not have.

In the final pages, Bliss turns to Finch and comments:

Did you ever stop to think that maybe Wyte represents the future of this city? That maybe you’re the past. Still living but the past nonetheless. (Finch, p330)

I’m not sure that this is entirely so since Finch finds himself watching “the end and beginning of history” (Finch, p334), neither remembering nor forgetting. Bliss does not understand Finch who is perhaps an ever lasting present. He is aware of both past and present but doesn’t appear to be able to move from one or into the other.

If Shriek was an experiment in fiction, then I wonder if Finch is an experiment in the idea of the author. The reader is purely locked into his view of the world, his questions create the new possible worlds. We see him writing his world.

I’ve read this as a stand-alone book but at some point I’ll need to read this after a re-reading of City and Shriek. It has made me begin to rethink the idea of remix and its relationship to Modernism/post-Modernism. I am however heartened by the news on his blog that that somewhat gigantic Wierd anthology is about to be handed in to Corvus. I’m really looking forward to it.

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