Cities and suburbs, real and imaginary.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

FINCH by Jeff VanderMeer

As I am not confident about writing non-fiction reviews at a level of quality that I see in others, I am loathe to really try to write a good and proper review.

Plenty of those will be coming soon enough.

I'm just going to tell you the core of my experience, and skip reviewing the book.

The thing about Jeff VanderMeer's "Finch" coming out in October 2009, is that it is the sort of masterpiece only VaderMeer could produce. It upends urban fantasy completely because instead of a fantastickal narrator, our narrator is quite mundane. No vampires looking for love in Dallas, and no magicians dealing with a disbelieving world around them. No.

Finch, our hero - though it's not his real name - is like Hitchcock's Everyman Detective - Vertigo's Jimmy Stewart in a dapper suit and tie in my imaginary version of events, lean and intense in his contained state of paranoia ready to burst - trapped in a world rich with atmospheric fabulism, bleak and black and more noir than noir. Liberated from the stark realism, that so dominates the aptly-named "noir" genre, by VanderMeer's signature fungus tapestry, the reader is taken to an artistic experience that only speculative fiction can give.

I live in the suburbs. I can read reports of the plight of the Saharawi, or the disaffected Palestinian youth, or all the war refugees of central Africa, or all the lost children of the drug czars' puppet regimes, but I am always alien from them, inside of my head. I can empathize. I can be outraged. However, I cannot truly place myself in their world because I live in a lovely apartment in yuppie North Atlanta, and work in an office that kindly provides coffee and snack food and 2 XBoxes on every desk.

Speculative Fiction let's a master, like Jeff VanderMeer, take someone like me and plant me in the head of a figure I can latch onto when placed against the backdrop of such an unreal world. By contrasting Finch's humanity with the world of Ambergris, I am pulled deeper into Finch's head and experiences. For a little while, fungus creeps along the walls at the edge of my eyes. A tension hangs over my heart at the horrible state of affairs of the lost, beautiful city I know so well from City of Saints and Madmen and Shriek: An Afterword.

Part of me gets it better, now, by seeing an avatar of normalcy inside that broken world. Now, when I do read about the labor camps and the tent cities and the neighborhoods lost to ruin and war and anarchy, I'll be a little better at doing more than empathizing. I'll be just a little better at comprehending what it means, and what it feels like, and why I should genuinely give a damn.

FINCH, by Jeff VanderMeer, is very brilliant.

October 2009, I strongly urge you to pre-order right now.

Here's a handy-dandy link so you can place your pre-order right now before you wander off and forget:

(When it actually comes out, I will try to write a good and proper review instead of just why I really liked it unconnected to things that are really of primary interest to me and me alone like World Peace, Ending Poverty and Oppression in the world, and the craft of literature. I may even mention more than a paragraph about what the book's actually about.)

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