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In Finch, mysterious underground inhabitants known as the gray caps have reconquered the failed fantasy state Ambergris and put it under martial law. They have disbanded House Hoegbotton and are controlling the human inhabitants with strange addictive drugs, internment in camps, and random acts of terror. The rebel resistance is scattered, and the gray caps are using human labor to build two strange towers. Against this backdrop, John Finch, who lives alone with a cat and a lizard, must solve an impossible double murder for his gray cap masters while trying to make contact with the rebels. Nothing is as it seems as Finch and his disintegrating partner Wyte negotiate their way through a landscape of spies, rebels, and deception. Trapped by his job and the city, Finch is about to come face to face with a series of mysteries that will change him and Ambergris forever.

352 pages, Paperback

First published November 1, 2009

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About the author

Jeff VanderMeer

231 books13.2k followers
NYT bestselling writer Jeff VanderMeer has been called “the weird Thoreau” by the New Yorker for his engagement with ecological issues. His most recent novel, the national bestseller Borne, received wide-spread critical acclaim and his prior novels include the Southern Reach trilogy (Annihilation, Authority, and Acceptance). Annihilation won the Nebula and Shirley Jackson Awards, has been translated into 35 languages, and was made into a film from Paramount Pictures directed by Alex Garland. His nonfiction has appeared in New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, the Atlantic, Slate, Salon, and the Washington Post. He has coedited several iconic anthologies with his wife, the Hugo Award winning editor. Other titles include Wonderbook, the world’s first fully illustrated creative writing guide. VanderMeer served as the 2016-2017 Trias Writer in Residence at Hobart and William Smith Colleges. He has spoken at the Guggenheim, the Library of Congress, and the Arthur C. Clarke Center for the Human Imagination.

VanderMeer was born in Bellefonte, Pennsylvania, but spent much of his childhood in the Fiji Islands, where his parents worked for the Peace Corps. This experience, and the resulting trip back to the United States through Asia, Africa, and Europe, deeply influenced him.

Jeff is married to Ann VanderMeer, who is currently an acquiring editor at Tor.com and has won the Hugo Award and World Fantasy Award for her editing of magazines and anthologies. They live in Tallahassee, Florida, with two cats and thousands of books.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 383 reviews
Profile Image for Amanda.
275 reviews170 followers
August 25, 2011
If anyone tells you it's fine to read Finch if you haven't read the other 2 books set in Ambergris, don't believe them, they most likely haven't read both of the other books and don't understand how essential they are for a complete understanding of Finch
This book would have been decidedly less impressive if i hadn't read the whole Ambergis Cycle. In the back of the Finch novel it says "Although each of the Ambergris novels stands alone, together they form the complete 'Ambergris Cycle', a vast 1,700 page story involving many of the same characters and themes, with Finch answering questions first posed in City of Saints and Madmen about the gray caps and about the nature of the city itself." Without knowing Ambergris as i did i know this book would have probably just been another great story rather than one of smashingest reading experiences ever.

That being said, Ambergris is the greatest, most original, achingly brilliant city ever created in speculative fiction to date, IMO. I hate to say, (because they are both beloved favorites of mine), that i felt it surpassed Mieville's world of Bas-Lag and Harrison's Viriconium. And it was levels above Ford's Well-Built City.

The writing style was a complete surprise however, wholely different from the 1st two books of the Ambergris Cycle. Instead of the legnthy, curiously beautiful prose, it's very choppy, utilitarian- clipped phrases often lacking pronouns. It first it caught me off guard and i wasn't sure i liked it, but it turned out to fit the noir(y) detective style of Finch like nothing else could have. It ended up flowing so well that i forgot it was written that way and it was the perfect device to let the reader encounter Ambergris, through the eyes of Finch, as close to first hand as is possible in writing.

Thank-you Mr. VanderMeer for creating one of the best books i've ever read in my life!!

P.S. the first 2 books of the Ambergris Cycle are, in order, City of Saints and Madmen and Shriek An Afterword

Profile Image for Dan Schwent.
2,929 reviews10.6k followers
November 21, 2010
Detective John Finch gets assigned to an impossible murder case, one of the victims being a man thought dead for a hundred years. Finch's case takes him all over Ambergris and up against a crime lord, his Gray Cap superiors, The Partials, and makes him question everything he believes. Can Finch solve the case before he becomes another victim?

After City of Saints and Madmen, I was leaning toward passing on the rest of VanderMeer's work and dismissing him as a pretentious bastard. Shriek, the second book, changed my mind and brought me around. This one, damn! is about all I can say.

Finch is a new weird detective story set in Ambergris, VanderMeer's city of choice. After the events of Shriek, the fungal alien Gray Caps have risen up and taken over the city. Partials, humans entered into unholy pacts with the Gray Caps, serve as a spy ring, keeping the populace under control with the aid of their fungal "enhancements." Finch is a cop working under the Gray Caps. Paranoia and distrust permeates every page. Finch reminds me a lot of Dekkard from Blade Runner/Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, cynical, bitter, and just doing his job.

While Finch is a good character, I think it's the supporting characters that carry the story. Wyte, Finch's fungus-infected partner, The Partial that keeps messing with him, Heretic, Finch's Gray Cap boss, Sintra, Rathven, the list just keeps going.

I'm trying not to give too much away but it's hard. There are so many things I want to mention, like the living fungal guns and the memory bulbs, mushrooms that grow on corpses that give the person who eats them a glimpse at the memories of the person they grow on. Finch's case is bizarre and manages to answer many of the questions posed by the previous two volumes. The paranoid feel reminds me of Blade Runner at times and the plot-oriented episodes of the X-Files in others. VanderMeer uses a noir style reminding me of Richard Stark at some points and James Ellroy in others. It's one hell of a ride.

VanderMeer hit the ball out of the park with this one. All of the plot threads and hints about the Gray Caps in the first two Ambergris books come to a head in this one, the best Ambergris book yet. If I read a better book than this one in 2010, I'll be surprised.
Profile Image for Richard Derus.
2,894 reviews1,927 followers
November 19, 2012
Pearl Ruled

Rating: 3* of five (p139)

The Book Description: In Finch, mysterious underground inhabitants known as the gray caps have reconquered the failed fantasy state Ambergris and put it under martial law. They have disbanded House Hoegbotton and are controlling the human inhabitants with strange addictive drugs, internment in camps, and random acts of terror. The rebel resistance is scattered, and the gray caps are using human labor to build two strange towers. Against this backdrop, John Finch, who lives alone with a cat and a lizard, must solve an impossible double murder for his gray cap masters while trying to make contact with the rebels. Nothing is as it seems as Finch and his disintegrating partner Wyte negotiate their way through a landscape of spies, rebels, and deception. Trapped by his job and the city, Finch is about to come face to face with a series of mysteries that will change him and Ambergris forever.

My Review: I gave up at the transcript of yet another torture session. I don't care if it's noiresque in its intentions, I can't hang with that. The fungus-laden narrative I can even go with. Torture and torture and torture? Nope. No can do.

Wildly imaginative concept, decent writing, a trippy species of alien, a police procedural of sorts following alien rules...all good. All sounding like I should batten on the book. I probably would. But when phrases like “Prolonged screaming” recur, I recuse myself.

So I guess I'm just a wuss.
Profile Image for Gabrielle.
996 reviews1,134 followers
November 27, 2020
After a couple of “meh” books, I needed something I knew I’d enjoy, and a visit to Jeff VanderMeer’s fungus-haunted city never fails to delight. I had read “Finch” many years ago, and it seemed like a good time to revisit it.

The magnificent, byzantine city of Ambergris that we step into when we crack open “Finch” is not the same one we visited with “City of Saints and Madmen” (https://www.goodreads.com/review/show... after thirty years of bitter civil war between the two mercantile empires of Hoegbotton & Sons and Frankwrithe & Lewden, the Gray Caps have taken over – an event now known as the Rising, and the citizens of Ambergris have been living like prisoners in their own occupied city ever since. In this corrupted version of the once-thriving metropolis, Finch works as a detective. It wasn’t always his job, but he’s been coerced into it by the new regime. He is assigned a strange case: a man and a Gray Cap have been found dead in an abandoned apartment. Meanwhile, a resistance movement is active in Ambergris, led by the elusive Lady in Blue. Is she a real person or merely a symbol of resistance? And what are the Gray Caps planning to do with the two strange towers they are building in Ambergris?

VanderMeer shifted his usual baroque prose style in order to make “Finch” a noir novel in the most classical style: short, almost choppy sentences that describe a city in ruins, people who are sick and/or can’t be trusted, organic technology so alien it threatens to drive everyone insane. The paranoia, deadly secrets and shifty characters of a Raymond Chandler novel are beautifully rendered on the page, while still preserving the richness of VanderMeer’s style. You can feel the stickiness, smell the squalor: it’s awesome! I’m not the first reviewer to notice a similarity between “Finch” and “Do Androids dream of Electric Sheep”, but this second read definitely made the parallels inescapable as the question of humanity, freedom, choice and morality come up as the investigation unravels. There is a certainly a commentary on surveillance state in here, with frequent references to spore spies and the introduction of the Partials, humans “corrupted” with Gray Cap characteristics; but this is VanderMeer’s stroke of genius, as mushrooms truly are connected via what is known as the “wood wide web” (see “Entangled Life”: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show...).

John Finch is a great character, perfectly tortured and navigating the complex and ever-shifting landscape of his world on tip toes: he doesn’t feel he can trust anyone, but his partner Wyte, his lover Sintra and his neighbor Rathven obviously feel the same way about him. Or are they just trying to keep him safe? The supporting characters are just as richly built as Finch himself, and you feel just as he does about them: you want to love them but you don’t know if you can.

While it is not made immediately clear, “Finch” is actually the sequel to “Shriek: An Afterword” (https://www.goodreads.com/review/show...), and it makes a stunning conclusion to VanderMeer’s Ambergris Cycle (which means don’t even try to read this if you haven’t read the other two books, you won’t understand anything). A dark and hallucinatory novel of the finest kind for brave readers: 4 and half stars, rounded up because this book makes the Ambergris Cycle one of the most unique and awe-inspiring piece of fantasy literature I have ever read.
Profile Image for Zach.
285 reviews274 followers
December 10, 2009
I had some initial hesitation when I first read about this book-a blend of fantasy and noir? I don't know about that. Then I read some of VanderMeer's comments about this being rooted in the post-9/11 post-invasion of Iraq landscape, and I just got more worried. "Great," I thought. "An urban fantasy detective novel full of heavy-handed political messages."

But still, I've loved (most of) what I've read of VanderMeer's work, especially the Ambergris stuff, and so I figured I'd give Finch a shot.

It's incredible.

It's dark, and brutal (so far removed from some of the more light-hearted entries in City of Saints), and written in this choppy, percussive style that does wonders for putting the reader in Finch's hunted and tortured shoes.

And the political stuff-how could I have doubted VanderMeer, who showed such an excellent understanding of the uses of history in Shriek? Sure, there are echoes of our current situations in there, but Finch is more about the lack of easy solutions, how these events (yes, events like invasions and torture and political repression) change everyone involved and how there is no going back. There are no good guys or bad guys in Ambergris. I guess what I'm trying to say is that this stuff is topical, but at the same time general enough that the book won't be out of date in a few years.

Some time soon I'm going to reread all three of these novels back to back, because I'm sure there was tons of stuff I missed.

**********SPOILERS/RANK SPECULATION BELOW************************

Bliss was a fungal human agent sent back from the future, right? Right?
Profile Image for Jason.
1,179 reviews256 followers
March 13, 2011
5 really big stars...

First, this book would not nearly be as good to a reader if you have not first read the previous two stand alone Ambergis novels. It is quite a literary achievement that one writer, Vandermeer could sculpt three totally uniquely stylized stories(actually many more than that as City od Saints and Madmen is a collection of many stories.) and put them together in a way that works. The payout of these style changes is immense and totally satisfying. It is quite amazing how different these three books are written.

Second, this is a character novel. Chalked full of a fabulous supporting cast that give life and dimension to this detective noir narrative. Finch is a good protagonist whom I identified with, and empathized with. We get enough of his backstory to allow us to want him to be the one that pulls all the plot threads together. Of course the most important character in this novel is the city of Ambergis itself. Fungus laden streets, spores a popping in the air, mold crawling and covering just about everything, and top it all off with fruiting body fun. A truly amazing fictional city that gives life to Vandermeers creations.

Thirdly, Vandermeer is a master at descriptive weird and it makes you want to read more. One of my favorite passages: "Remembering Duncan's words " They found me and infiltrated me-I could feel their tendrils, their fleshy-dry-cold-warm pseudopods and cilia and strands slowly sliding up my skin, like a hundred any hands. They tried to make me in their image.""

Finally, Jeff Vandermeer used three very unique styles of writing to compose a 1700 page story that is about the incredible city of Ambergis. This is the "New Weird" told by a master of the genre. The countless plots are deftly brought together in this final chapter of this story arc. The difficulty of making sense of the first two novels is paid off in this marvelous masterpiece. If you are a fan of the new weird genre or like fantasy that is demanding on the reader, than be sure to not miss out on Jeff Vandermeer.
Profile Image for Gregory Duke.
606 reviews78 followers
December 16, 2022
There's basically nothing in existence like this trilogy. Unreal. And this finale is beyond unreal. I tried to summarize some major plot points to my mother, and she told me I sounded like a crazy person, which makes sense. Anything related to "mushroom people" and genocide and noir all in the same breath seems a tad asinine. But VanderMeer is actually a genius. I thought that before, but this really feels like an impossible novel to write. So filled with paranoia and action and body horror and a consideration of blurred sense of identity, both on a physical (bodily) and metaphysical (mental) level. This feels so satisfying after the insanity of the first two books while somehow ramping the nonsense up to extremes. It's postmodern. It's ridiculous. It's thrilling. It's surprising. I mean, I truly cannot comprehend this.

The Ambergris Trilogy should genuinely be essential reading. Absolutely fascinating as a consideration of collective trauma, colonialism, revenge, and a thousand other things.
Profile Image for Goatboy.
180 reviews63 followers
March 31, 2021
Read the last third in a blur. Completely satisfying captivating read. I stand by my original 5 star rating. Stars are stupid. Obviously stars compare apples to oranges to monkeys and squids. I rate based on the goals of the book and my honest enjoyment and/or appreciation of it and how well it accomplishes those goals. By that standard this easily feels like a 5 star book to me. A beautifully weird, world-building, exciting, genre-sideways, creepy, visual, intriguing wallop of a story!
Profile Image for Rick.
Author 8 books50 followers
November 4, 2009
World Fantasy Award winner Jeff VanderMeer, in the anthology New Weird , defined the 21st century’s first major literary movement.

“New Weird is a type of urban … fiction that subverts the romanticized ideas about place found in traditional fantasy, largely by choosing … complex real-world models … that may combine elements of science fiction and fantasy. [It:] has a visceral, in-the-moment quality that often uses elements of surreal or transgressive horror for its tone, style, and effects.”

As the subgenre’s standard-bearer, VanderMeer has created an intriguing vision that successfully incorporates the seemingly disparate elements of fantasy and gritty reality.

The first two volumes of The Ambergris Cycle, City of Saints and Madmen and Shriek: An Afterword , introduced a fascinating story sequence centered on the city-state Ambergris and its unusual inhabitants and happenings. Typifying the uniqueness of VanderMeer’s world, fungoid creatures of unknown origin, dubbed the gray caps, occupy the city’s extensive underworld catacombs and drive many of the stories. Finch, the third and climactic volume, returns to VanderMeer’s singular creation some 100 years after the events recounted in Shriek. The book opens with homicide detective John Finch investigating the mysterious deaths of a human and a gray cap.

No obvious bullet or stab wounds. No tattoos or other marks. Grunting with the effort, Finch turned the man over for a second. He seemed heavier than he should be. Skin warm, the flesh solid. From the position of the arms, Finch thought they might be broken. A discoloration at the edge of the man’s mouth. Dried blood? When Finch was done, the man settled back into position as if he’d been there a hundred years.

No point checking the gray cap. Their skin didn’t retain marks or burns or stab wounds. Anything like that sealed over. Besides, the cause of the gray cap’s death was obvious. Wasn’t it? Still, he didn’t want to assume murder. Yet.

Out of the four “murders” in his sector over the past year, two had been suicides and one had been natural causes. The fourth solved in a day.

Disappearances were another subject altogether.

The gray caps now rule Ambergris. They oversee all aspects of city life, though they delegate daytime duties to humans. Once a bright and hopeful place, occupied Ambergris has transformed into a diseased, totalitarian nightmare.

Harsh blue sprawl of the bay, bled from the River Moth. Carved from nothing. The first thing the gray caps did when they rose, flooding Ambergris and killing thousands. Now the city, riddled through with canals, is like a body that was once drowned. Parts bleached, parts bloated. Metal and stone for flesh. Places that stick out and places that barely touch the surface.

In the foreground of the bay stands the scaffolding for the two tall towers still being built by the gray caps. A rough pontoon bridge reaches out to them, an artificial island surrounding the base. The scaffolding rises twenty feet above the highest tower. Hard to know if they are almost complete or will take a hundred years more. Great masses of green fungus cling to the tops. It makes the towers look shaggy, almost as if they had fur, were flesh and blood. A smell like oil and sawdust and frying meat. At dusk each day the gray caps lead a work force from the camps south of the city. All night, the sounds of hammering and construction. Emerald lights moving like slow stars. Screams of injury or punishment. To what purpose? No one knows. While along the lip of the bay, monstrous fungal cathedrals rise under cover of darkness, replacing the old, familiar architecture. Skyline like a jagged wound.

Finch’s weeklong investigation unveils a seedy underworld littered with revolutionaries, hustlers, femme fatales, and characters from his own questionable past. Cataloging this novel’s strata, twists, and feints will occupy fans and critics for years. All aspects of the story interact with elements of the prior Ambergris adventures, though Finch stands entirely on its own merits; the three books of the cycle can be enjoyed in any order.

Yet in Finch, VanderMeer departs from the style and tone of previous Ambergris books. For his previous tale, Shriek, VanderMeer relied on long, elegant sentences while telling the decades-spanning story of Ambergris’s most notorious historian and gray-cap apologist. In Finch, he employs a short, choppy manner reminiscent of noir fiction.

In another shift from his previous novels, VanderMeer amps up the violence, especially during interrogation scenes. While arguably necessary for the story, his graphic descriptions could lead to reader desensitization and eventually dampen the impact of other events. VanderMeer begins each book section, save the last, with dialogue between Finch and an interrogator.

Interrogator: What did you see then?

Finch: Nothing. I couldn’t see anything.

I: Wrong answer.

[howls and screams and sobbing:]

I: Had you ever met the Lady in Blue

F: No, but I’d heard her before.

I: Heard her where?

F: On the fucking radio station, that’s where.

[garbled comment, not picked up:]

F: It’s her voice. Coming up from the underground. People say.

I: So what did you see, Finch?

F: Just the stars. Stars. It was night.

I: I can ask you this same question for hours, Finch.

F: You wanted me to say I saw her. I said I saw her! I said it, damn you.

I: There is no Lady in Blue. She’s just a propaganda myth from the rebels.

F: I saw her. On the hill. Under the stars.

I: What did this apparition say to you, Finch? What did this vision say?

The violence is but a minor distraction in this excellent book. As with all of VanderMeer’s works, this layered tale ultimately satisfies as it barrels to a momentous conclusion. If Finch is indeed the final Ambergris story, and I have my doubts that it is, VanderMeer left his creation with an extraordinary novel — one of the finest of his young career — and completed a cycle that encapsulates the very best of the New Weird.

This review originally appeared in the San Antonio Current, October 4, 2009.
Profile Image for Brad.
Author 2 books1,691 followers
June 16, 2016
It took me nearly three years to get through Finch.

I picked it up the first time, got started and found myself stopping for what, at the time, was an inexplicable reason. I had already read and loved both City of Saints and Madmen & Shriek: An Afterword. The former for its insane originality and the latter for the way it appealed to my post-modern academic self. But I couldn't break ground in Finch, so I put it down and thought I'd take another crack later.

I don't know how much later I started my next crack, but I always have a book to read in the shower while I am letting the hot water work on my beard before a shave. Somewhere along the line I made Finch my shower book. I started again. Got a chapter or two beyond my first attempt, then moved away from my home for a year and a half, and left it sitting there in the bathroom awaiting my return. I hadn't been taken with it enough to take it with me, though, and I was starting to feel like Jeff VanderMeer had finally taken a misstep. I went to Anguilla and forgot all about Finch.

When I came home, there Finch was sitting in the bathroom, waterstained, slightly mouldy, a little bit daunting. I left it for a good while, just languishing on the bathroom shelf. I ignored it for magazines that talked about baseball and Star Wars and naughty sex, but then those all ran out, and I happened (as I always do) to be teaching excerpts from VanderMeer's City of Saints and Madmen again, and I grudgingly picked up Finch for what turned out to be the last time.

It was a slog, a tough read, it was dribs and drabs under the hot water. A page or two every couple of days at first, adding damp to the pages so the mould could take hold. I almost quit a couple of times. I started to piece together why I was having so much trouble with the book. I felt all at sea with the story, like there was too huge a gap between the tome that was City of Saints and Madmen, the meta-brilliance of Shriek, and I couldn't place it in the time or space of its predecessors. But worse, Finch was a first-person narrative of constant fragmentation that wasn't a first person narrative at all. It was a third-person limited narrator, limited to Finch's POV, but written as though first person. It was strangest, most prolonged bit of literary torture I have experienced. It was work. It was VanderMeer telling us to work. It was Finch slipping in and out of consciousness in the big scene with the Partial actually taking shape for a reader oneself.

I hadn't been willing to work before, but now, somehow, I was, and as the story unfolded, and the mould began to colonize the pages I had left behind and water continued to stain the pages I was reading, preparing them for the fungus that would conquer them, I began to see the genius of what VanderMeer was doing, had done.

Finch is a glorious completion to his Ambergris cycle. A bizarre, frustrating, oddly delicate, gynecologic, spore of a book that colonizes the reader the way Wyte is colonized by the Grey Caps. It is emotional; it is powerful; it is sinister; it is violent; it is fiercly imaginative; it is genius.

But it's not easy. Take your time. Give it a chance. VanderMeer deserves your loyalty.
Profile Image for Toby.
832 reviews329 followers
February 9, 2012
Finch is a detective. Finch has a secret in his past. Finch isn't really a detective. Finch isn't even his real name. Finch by Jeff VanderMeer is a book. It promised so much. It delivered so little. Much like the irritating and unnecessary form that his sentences took.

There are so many problems with this novel, but the biggest one is a question of likability. At no point did I find myself caring about this 5th rate Marlowe (and not to spoil the surprise but the name Marlowe is actually used in this tired cliche of the detective genre) or any of the 'hardy, plucky souls' who inhabit this city occupied by an enemy force. He goes to great lengths telling us that he isn't really a detective as if it's some excuse for challenging for the accolade of the worst detective ever written. This man is actually stupid, never asking the right questions, always too self absorbed to pay attention to what's actually happening and expecting the reader to believe in his ability because he adopts a hard-boiled approach towards narration.

And I'm not one of these readers who needs his characters to be nice or good natured or warm hearted, I regularly root for the bastard and enjoy reading about the adventures of not very nice people, it's just that in this case he was such a nonentity and bland voice that the novel could have been based in a vibrant, exciting world and still been terribly yawnworthy.

The motif of decadence and decay was over accentuated by the constant references to moldy, lichen, mildew etc that I suspect the author spent more time researching synonyms for this than he did writing the rest of the book. In doing this he recalls, to obvious effect, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? another dystopian detective novel of sorts but one that it could never hope to emulate in terms of quality and style.

I don't generally read through an entire book hating it, I usually just give up, but I seemed to be punishing myself for buying it in the first place, for believing in the awesome artwork and the hyperbolic quotes and so without any shadow of a doubt this is the worst book I have finished in a long time.
Profile Image for Lukasz.
1,310 reviews212 followers
June 1, 2018
Actual rating: 3.5/5

Time for a confession: I haven't read first two books of Ambergris series (City of Saints & Madmen and Shriek: An Afterword). As a result, some of the story's nuances are lost on me. On the other hand, each of the books in the series is supposed to work as a standalone.

Meet John Finch, a reluctant detective working for the Gray Caps, a humanoid-fungal lifeform which rules Ambergris - a crumbling place of decay and despair. John likes whiskey and women. He doesn't like Gray Caps. He keeps his secrets.

When we meet him, he works on a nasty murder case - a dead man and a dead Gray Cap were found lying side by side in an abandoned apartment building. Clues are in short supply - basically, he has nothing more than a scrap of paper found on the human. It says "Never Lost. Bellum omnium contra omnes" and it has a drawing of an arcane symbol.

The investigation will lead Finch on a surreal and deadly serious quest. The answers he'll find may change the future of Ambergris, so the stakes are high.

The story can be read as a new-weird version of hard-boiled detective novels. There's a mysterious woman who brings trouble. A murder mystery that leads to dangerous answers. A plot full of twists and turns. Two cops trying to trust each other while one of them is slowly transforming into a mushroom. Ok, maybe the last one isn't that common in crime novels. Did Chandler have one?

Naturally, the story takes some unexpected turns and twists and includes plenty of elements from fantasy and horror genres.
The setting is fascinating - Ambergris is flooded, rotting ruin of a spectacular place it used to be years ago. I'm tempted to read the first book to learn more about it.

The gray caps are terrifying. No one knows where they came from. Why they came remains a mystery. They're deadly efficient thanks to enhanced perception. Their spores infest the city, transforming buildings and people into fungal lifeforms. Ultimately, though, they bring death. Mushrooms and mold cover most surfaces. Once you try to visualize decaying city, infested with lethal spores and ruled by superior beings, you'll appreciate what VanderMeer has accomplished. Ambergris is one of the most terrifying places pictured in literature.

Finch has good pacing, a reasonable amount of action and a wide array of varied characters - human, inhuman, and somewhere in between.
The writing is beyond hard-boiled. The sentences are short. Fragmented. Fractured. While it fits the convention, it's a bit irritating and tiring at times.

In the end, I'm impressed with VanderMeer's imagination. Finch can be read as both unique hard-boiled crime story with villains that are, basically, mushrooms and as an allegory of life under occupation.

Did I like it? Yes and no. I'm more impressed with the imagination and unique world than with the plot and weak characterization.

Definitely worth trying and it's probable I would enjoy it much more if only I had read previous books in the series.
Profile Image for Corey.
Author 11 books153 followers
November 7, 2017
Not since Philip K. Dick's novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, with its oppressive depiction of a world overrun by decay and kipple, have I felt the walls of a fictional world close about and suffocate me so effectively. It's perverse, but Ambergris is a a beautifully ugly city, and Vandermeer is a loving tour guide who does not shy away from the seedy back alleyways.

Despite its fantastical trappings, Finch is hard-boiled noir through to its infected heart. John Finch is the prototypical loner cop, hiding from his past and simply trying to survive (think Bogart's Rick Blaine mixed with his Marlowe). There are code words, and femme fatales, and dastardly criminals, and red herrings, and goons, and betrayals. There are also numerous blows to the head; John Finch may hold the record for most times knocked unconscious within seventy-two hours.

Read the rest of the review here.
Profile Image for Jerry Jenkins.
81 reviews6 followers
March 17, 2023
TL;DR A spectacular end to a wild trilogy. I'm very impressed.

Going into this book, I had absolutely no clue how Vandermeer would wrap up the trilogy. The first book was a collection of short stories, travel guides, letters, and pamphlets. The second book was an annotated recounting of the lives of the Shriek siblings. This book is a detective story focusing on a character we haven't even met yet. How was he going to tie this all together? I was suspicious, but after reading I was very impressed.

Like I said, the book is a steampunk noir story focused around a detective named Finch as he tries to solve a puzzling double homicide. Shenanigans ensue, and our enigmatic cop is caught up in a much bigger (and much more confusing) conflict than anyone could've imagined. The stakes are high; the fate of the entirety of Ambergris sits on the success of the characters.Finch is much less dense with a more linear narrative than the previous two installments in the series. The plot was suspenseful with a lot of unexpected twists, and the characterizations were subtle yet powerful. There was a myriad of difficult, gut-wrenching choices and events throughout the book that swept the reader into the story. Vandermeer chooses a grittier writing style for this novel that fits perfectly for the tone. The best part of the story, as it has always been, is the setting of Ambergris. The focal point of the book has been his exotic, fungus-ridden city, and the city feels like a character itself. I love Ambergris, and can easily say it is one of the most well-developed settings I have ever read.

I was very impressed with this book. It was a sufficiently weird fungal fiction piece that was surprising and beautiful. I do indeed recommend.
Profile Image for Andrea McDowell.
569 reviews314 followers
February 10, 2021
I've been a fan of VanderMeer since the Area X series, and was disappointed for years that his first series, Ambergris, was out or print. When a single-volume bound edition was released last fall (and such a pretty one too--I love the cover) I was super happy to get a copy for Christmas.

VanderMeer writes in the New Weird genre, and these books are plenty weird. I was surprised to see how many themes present in his most recent work were there in Ambergris as well: tunnel/towers infested with strange writing and odd creatures and fungi, alien invasions, involuntary transformations between human/Other, stylistic and formal switches. The first book, for example, is more properly a collection of five novellas, all set in Ambergris, and some more interesting than others. You have to commit to reading the entire series to see how the threads first introduced in City of Saints and Madmen even have relevance to the story, let alone how they all contribute to the conclusion in Finch. Formally, the structures range from travel guides to noir/detective fiction.

That said, these stories are more straightforward in narrative terms than his more recent work, and if you loved Area X but find that subsequent books are too weird for you, you might enjoy Ambergris. (I like the weird, but I know it's not to everyone's taste.)

One difference I was surprised by was the relatively lower profile of women characters in his earlier books; I appreciate VanderMeer in part because, in my opinion, he really 'gets' gender equity and approaches women characters in a way I find compelling and real. This was less the case in Ambergris. I suppose it's not strange that this is a characteristic that would develop over time, and the women in Ambergris weren't bad by any stretch--certainly there are a lot of writers releasing novels in 2021 with women characters far worse--but they are more sidelined.

Overall I recommend the trilogy, particularly to fantasy readers who like New Weird that is still formally and stylistically relatively conventional.
Profile Image for Tomislav.
976 reviews69 followers
January 4, 2021
21 March 2010 - ****. Book checked out according to local library catalog. Hold placed. Patience required. But dw visited library and through consequences of interlibrary loan unexpectedly the book is in my hands. New book; 10 day checkout. However, through consequences of interlibrary loan I only get 7 days. Must be read immediately. No earlier Ambergris to read. No earlier Ambergris exists at the library anyway. Must be read immediately. Shortage of verbs. Verbs for sale! Verbs for sale!

So this is steampunk? It says so right on the cover. Well, the "punk" part is right; this is a gritty story that operates above and below the law, or what passes for it in Ambergris. But the "steam" part is wrong. My understanding is the name implies a setting with a steam-powered level of technology. That would mean no radios, no motorized vehicles, and Victorian era culture. This book, I would classify as New Weird. Finch is lot more along the lines of the definitively New Weird Perdido Street Station than it is The Difference Engine. On the other hand, it's possible that the definition of steampunk is now drifting and enlarging; as a category name it's better marketing than New Weird.

As I mentioned, I did not have the opportunity to read the earlier two Ambergris books. Finch does stand on its own, except for about 50 pages in which the book Shriek: An Afterword is an actual artifact in this story. That's ok for this book, except that it probably does spoil those earlier books that I have not read.

The book begins as a murder investigation by detective John Finch, a murder investigation in a world that is itself nightmarish with fungal infections, and alien overlord Gray Caps. The gripping plot unveils layer after layer of reality and character motivation, leading to mysteries of an ever-widening scope. Even John Finch is not who he at first appears. I enjoyed this book almost as much as Perdido Street Station, and for much the same reasons, but due to the spoilers I've now seen, will probably not seek out the earlier Ambergris books.
Profile Image for Gio Clairval.
Author 22 books53 followers
August 23, 2009
Arcimboldo painted portraits of human heads made up of vegetables, fruit, sea creatures and tree roots. In the third novel set in the universe of Ambergris, Jeff VanderMeer depicts characters infected with fungal alterations that make them hybrids between humans and gray caps, a race that holds the dying city, erecting mushroom buildings and wiping out all resistance. Ambergris has her collaborators, the Partials, halfway in their metamorphosis. The citizens worship a hero, the Lady in Blue, but she's been silent for too long. In the middle of this, John Finch, a reluctant detective, must solve a case no one wants to see solved in the traditional way.

FINCH goes beyond the fascination of a unique setting. This story is more than a journey in weird fantasy. The novel explores the theme of life and death, using the mycelium as the metaphor of life sprouting from decay. Like Finch's partner, already dead, forever alive.

A book that will stick in my mind. A great read.
Profile Image for Eric Orchard.
Author 14 books86 followers
March 6, 2010
Less then halfway through this book it easily became one of my favorite books and definitely my favorite Jeff VanderMeer book. Ambergris comes alive here in a totally new way, revealing hidden depths and strange new Burroughs. It has the sense of richness of the previous Ambergris books but with an added sense of immediacy and truancy as it's a detective novel. A very hard boiled detective novel that reads more authentic and original then many contemporary "straight" noirish detective books. For me, something really clicked having Ambergris as a Victorian, steampunk, fungal, occupied city (Finch takes place one hundred years after Shriek.)

While you still have a sense of dislocation of an urban, New Weird story this story draws you in in an emotional level; unlike any other New Weird story I've read. The characterization is more compelling and more real. The city is broken in a way that that seems real and elicits sympathy.

An amazing ending.
Profile Image for Vít.
639 reviews50 followers
July 19, 2020
Jaké můžete Finchovi dát hodnocení, když máte rádi Vandermeera a jeho styl a navíc jste ještě houbaři? To bylo předem daných pět hvězd a taky tam padly :)
Svět města Ambry je jako oživlá noční můra, se všemi těmi houbami, plísněmi a nakaženými lidmi, a do téhle atmosféry se ta linka noir detektivky prostě hodí. Město, které je už tak zdecimované předchozími klanovými válkami, okupuje mimozemská rasa šedáků a ovládá ho právě pomocí všudypřítomných hub a jejich výtrusů. Je to tvrdý a brutální svět a jeho obyvatelé nejsou o nic lepší, nějakého klaďase byste tu hledali marně. Nelze tu samozřejmě čekat ani žádné šťastné konce a detektiva Finche ani celou Ambru zřejmě přes všechno čím prošli žádné klidné a spokojené zítřky nečekají.

Zato nám by šťastné zítřky zajistilo vydání dvou předchozích dílů, předem děkuji nakladatelství Argo :)
Profile Image for Drew.
1,569 reviews506 followers
July 2, 2020
5+ out of 5.
I don't know why I only gave this four stars the first time I read it. It is a tremendous novel, a fitting capstone to the Ambergris trilogy -- although, just like I did ten years ago, I long for more. FINCH is a demented noir, a shakey-cam first-person look at the city that we've so far only seen from various distances. I felt the same flutter in my chest as I did when I first visited Ambergris, the same sorrow to leave it as I did too.
This one's terrific, particularly if you've read the other two. Not sure it works as a standalone, particularly because of all the ANSWERS that we get. Even as we get more questions, ever more questions. And man, what an ending.
Profile Image for Gary.
337 reviews5 followers
August 5, 2011
I found this to be a curious book. Interesting and undoubtably imaginative and definitely more readable than his first Ambergris book, which while commendable for being experimental and pushing the boundaries of fiction and writing styles, was too 'bitty' for me and hard work to be honest. Maybe I'm a lazy reader but it took me a lot of concerted effort to finish his first book, but Finch was much more readable and enjoyable. A mix of SF and Noir that had a lead character who engaged me and made me want know what would happen to him. definitely worth a read.
Profile Image for Thomas Edmund.
911 reviews56 followers
October 3, 2014
Finch exists in a world where fungus rules, (or at least fights to) a typical subversive investigator, the main character must choose what side he is on in the battle between relatively unintelligible forces.

The story was OK, my main problem being unsure how seriously to take it. The fungus setting was equal parts sinister then grossly humorous.

The prose was mostly easy to read, although jumping through tenses tended to pull one out of the story.

In the end I wouldn't rate Finch the highest, but its hardly the worst.
Profile Image for Chris Merola.
196 reviews1 follower
July 18, 2021
Considers reviewing this mess of frags. Ponders. Stews. Decides against it. Realizes Southern Reach Trilogy is the full-bodied exploration of Vandermeer's artistic concerns. Determines Finch is lacking. Protean. Sophomoric.

If you thought that was annoying to read, then I don't recommend this book.
Profile Image for Dávid Novotný.
409 reviews11 followers
August 9, 2020
Very strange but also catchy story. Although it reminded other books from the author, it's still pretty unique. Finch is not hero, he is just some guy truing to get by, getting beaten on each end every step. Setting is very intriguing, world occupied by some strange race, slavering citizens, using mushrooms and spores to recreate and control the whole city. Although last piece in trilogy, works as self standing book. Some things you wont understand from the start, some you won't understand at all, you get some glimpses into the history of the city now and then, but many will be unexplained. But it works, it helps to create uneasy, dark atmosphere, and you will walk the streets of Ambergris with Finch, expecting unexpected witch each step. Author's style is harsh, and sometimes hard to catch, mostly from the start, but once you are tuned to it it will be rewarding. For me it was fresh mix of noir, fantasy and little piece of lovecraftian horror with kind of happy ending. Weird, but pretty good.
Profile Image for Tasha.
547 reviews4 followers
October 19, 2020
Using up my Australian Amazon gift cards I treated myself to this new book.

This was a dark and brutal murder mystery set it a brilliant world of dominant species fighting for supremacy. I didn't realise at the time this was part of a trilogy however it stands alone nicely as I didn't feel like I was missing much from not having the read the other two. The writing is blunt and how I imagine old detective movies would have seemed written down, it did take a little while to get into the swing of reading like that though.
Profile Image for Sunyi Dean.
Author 10 books946 followers
March 9, 2021
This was excellent.

After feeling slightly disconnected from Hummingbird Salamander I was so pleased to return to Ambergris and dig into this world again. Stunning and imaginative and claustrophobically under your skin.
Profile Image for Timothy Moore.
29 reviews21 followers
March 15, 2017
A perfect blend of science fiction and mystery - a real joy to read! I hope that this book gets republished so I can sell it at the bookstore!
Profile Image for Alan.
1,103 reviews109 followers
May 16, 2010
Curt. Clipped. Laconic. Short phrases, clenched jaw delivery. Sentence fragments, building up a mosaic, stone by stone. Beyond hard-boiled. Crusted over, and shot through with mold. That's Finch.

If this style bothers you, beware of Finch--the entire book is that way, by intent. But the staccato delivery suits the subject, and I did find myself liking this novel more than I thought I would.

VanderMeer's musty, bedraggled city of Ambergris seems perpetually to be in twilight, literally or metaphorically. Alex Proyas could do its cinematography; there are bits (like the "memory holes") that are purely David Cronenberg. Ambergris is a conquered city, its fungal overlords (underlords, really) the "gray caps" having Risen from beneath to divide the city's great Houses (Hoegbotton, and Frankwrithe & Lewden) and enslave its inhabitants. There is a rebel faction, of course, led by the Lady in Blue, but no one's heard much from her lately. And the towers that the gray caps' slave labor are building out in the bay seem to be getting closer to completion.

John Finch himself is a man of Ambergris. He's a detective in the city's police force, more or less, and while he's much better off than the laborers in the camps, he's still very much in thrall to his supervisor, the gray cap that Finch calls "Heretic." Finch is tasked with solving a double murder; two bodies, one human and one a gray cap (they're "fanaarcensitii" to themselves, by the way) who have been found in an empty apartment with no obvious way to have acquired the injuries that killed them. It's a mystery, and while Finch doesn't really, or doesn't always, consider himself much of a detective, he does try to solve the case.

Of course, that leads Finch to places no one wants him to go... not Finch, nor his lover Sintra. Not Heretic, nor the Partials (turncoat humans who have willingly taken on some of the fungal characteristics of their masters). Not Finch's basement-dwelling librarian and bantering partner Rathven, nor his casually brutal nemesis Stark. Not even the mysterious Ethan Bliss.

I found myself thinking, about two-thirds of the way through the book, what is it exactly that keeps so many of us looking desperately, savagely, continually for something it's okay to kill? Is it our predator genes? A mandate from on high? Sheer obnoxious perversity? Just why are we human beings so bloody-minded?

Finch does not answer that question; bloody-mindedness is simply the default condition for the denizens of Ambergris. It does answer many other questions, eventually and satisfyingly; this is not the kind of book that leaves you hanging at the end. But the destination is not obvious, and the journey there is as dark and twisted as any you might hope for.
Profile Image for Simon.
561 reviews228 followers
June 25, 2012
Quite different from the other Ambergrisian novel I read (Shriek: An Afterword) in that this is some kind of fusion of dark urban fantasy with hard boiled detective genres although the underlying themes examined are the same. Consequently, while the story stands on its own, much will be lost on the reader unfamiliar with the either of the previous two books written in strange city.

Detective Finch, whilst investigating a peculiar murder, unwittingly finds himself at the focal point of a much larger mystery and is torn between a variety of political and criminal forces whose interests all seem to intersect around his case. The fragile, precarious stability of Ambergris is rapidly upset and poised to take a radical new direction in which Finch's involvement is somehow pivotal.

There is something about Vandermeer's fungal vision of Ambergris that makes the skin crawl, a city awash with multi infectious moulds and penetrating spores that might transform you in unexpected and horrific ways. The Grey Caps themselves, the mysterious beings who have come to govern the city of Ambergris, paint quite a horrifying vision with mysterious motives, sharp pointed teeth teeth and exceedingly difficult to kill no matter if they're plied with bullets or diced with a knife.

Although I enjoyed this book, I can't help finding infuriating the kind of hapless hero that Finch represents, who seems to stumble from one scene to the next with only ever the barest grasp of what is happening. Still, well worth reading and I would definitely read more of Vandermeer's work.
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