Why won't anyone listen to Rachel Morgan? She's a white witch in an alternate world where witches, vamps, pixies, fairies and various other folk haveWhy won't anyone listen to Rachel Morgan? She's a white witch in an alternate world where witches, vamps, pixies, fairies and various other folk have come out of the shadows to live uneasily with humans. Rachel is constantly demanding or pleading or begging other characters to stop what they are doing, but NO ONE listens to her. This powerlessness and passiveness extends right up to an unsatisfying ending. Perhaps in the sweep of the series arc this book is a bridge to promised better things, but since this is my first and last Harrison book, it seems to me to be a stand-alone dud, which is a shame since the world that has been set up is an interesting one. I'd be quite happy if I heard that HBO or Showtime were going to do the same magic to this series, a la True Blood.
The similar weaknesses between the Sookie Stackhouse and Rachel Morgan series is what sinks this author for me. Both use the same first person narrator technique. Putting Sookie aside, I find that Rachel's voice drops into easily into the maudlin, and the first section of WW, BC is pretty heavy going getting battered by Rachel's waves of self-pity. The trap of first person seems to be having the character saying: 'I'm very very sad', rather than showing them being sad. Despite all of Rachel's thoughts and feelings so readily on the surface, she actually comes off as a flat character, that I didn't get engaged with. There doesn't seem to be the depths there would be if she was a little more self-deceived, and had less ready pop-psychology as to her inability to love or be loved or yada, yada, yada...
So even if the plot did suck (and it did) I would have tried again if I had actually liked Rachel. I mean, hey it's got vampires, S&M, and fairies, usually you'd have to beat me away with a stick. Some characters are actually a pleasure to be around when times are tough, Rachel isn't one of them....more
Wow! Now that I've finished the final book (so claimed by Vandermeer) in the Ambergris cycle I'm looking forward to waiting a while and then going bacWow! Now that I've finished the final book (so claimed by Vandermeer) in the Ambergris cycle I'm looking forward to waiting a while and then going back and re-reading all three books at once (this one, City of Saints and Madmen, and Shriek). I'm really all over the place on Finch and have a feeling that I need to jam all three of these mind-altering shrooms into my brain at once now that I know how it ends... If 'ends' is the right word to use. Anyways here are some preliminary notes...
Finch is both a departure and a return in comparison to its two predecessors. Ambergris is an occupied city and title character John Finch is a uneasy collaborator working as a detective for the gray caps, a terrifyingly uncanny fungal race. (Though as with most myths of 'evil' natives, VanderMeer is careful to note that humans, not the gray caps, started the butchery.) While CoS&M was a collage of texts and Shriek was an argument between two writers (brother and sister), Finch is a noir detective novel who's required reading list of clues is in the first two books. (Vandermeer claims the books are independent, but interdependent portals all leading to the same cavern might be more accurate.) The book is a detective novel that by the usual conventions should aim to solve the mystery that VanderMeer has so artfully created behind the many fictional author/characters who quarrel with each other. Yet the book resists a neat resolution, which in the end both disappointed me and made me happy that the author hadn't killed the mysteries that flow through his books like life blood.
The first twenty? pages of the book's choppy noir sentences were a chore for me. I've got a bad history with sentence fragments. A local sports writer decided this was the bees-knees to dramatic reportage. It. Was not. But give VanderMeer a chance. He isn't some naive hack. My advice to anyone who doesn't like the hard-boiled sentence fragments of his prose is to persevere until Finch eats the brain-bulbs. Once you've gone down that rabbit hole, if you still don't like the trip then it might be fair to drop it. For me, the hinge scenes of the bulb visions is where I got the grin, stopped continually noticing the craft and began to imbibe the story.
Some of my disappointment about the end of the novel stem from John Finch being a passive character. This is the danger when an author has created such a vivid and deeply textured world. In the end it feels that John Finch isn't an active agent who's actions effect the plot of the story. He is ultimately just a tool of the world (and the author). At least this is my preliminary report. I re-read the last thirty or so pages of the book trying to pin down what I was feeling. It may be that the first two books in the Ambergris cycle avoided this sense of passiveness because the author-characters did do something: they 'wrote' their texts. In contrast John Finch gets swallowed by Ambergris and then is spat out at the end.
Ah, but John Finch is an author! As a detective he writes reports for the grey caps -- a viable text in VanderMeer's collage. But what happens to Finch's final report? (Flip-flip.) He writes an evasive report, not giving away anything to his gray cap overlords, puts that aside, then writes, in part: "YOU'LL ALL GO DOWN WONDERING HOW IT HAPPENED. I'LL NEVER UNDERSTAND YOU, BUT YOU'LL NEVER UNDERSTAND US, EITHER." Then everything is ripped up and shoved down the ghastly sphincter that the gray caps use for communiques, along with whatever broken shards of refuse Finch can smash and shove down the protesting hole. The more I write about it the more I love that VanderMeer insists on the mutual incomprehensibility of human and gray caps. That feels far more real than the anthropomorphic characters that usual populate our safe and self-satisfied comfort food fantasies. The universe is weird and unknowable. Each one of us is unknowable. These odd marks on paper (and computer screens) are our only clues.
Oh and let me quickly note the amazing grossness of Finch's gun. The drippiest phallic symbol ever inflicted on a noir novel. And that Philip K. Dick moment early on in the novel when I wondered just who the hell John Finch was, and did he even know who he was. It is a tribute to VanderMeer's craft that he could have such a discombobulated POV character and still manage to evoke the complex world of Ambergris.
So despite the difficulties and initial dissatisfactions, it is because of the high level of writing and scope and ambition that I feel compelled to take Finch so seriously and to think about this book far longer than any other book I've read in a while. If you take your fantasy/sf serious, if you want to be challenged and step over the bounds of the mundane, this is a book for you....more
A reasonably entertaining book. Nothing original. I listened to it on audio and James Marsters gave an appropriately atmospheric reading. Reminded meA reasonably entertaining book. Nothing original. I listened to it on audio and James Marsters gave an appropriately atmospheric reading. Reminded me of the old time detective shows from the 40s and 50s. It is about the level of an enjoyable episode with a private dick and all those dames who just can't get enough of him for some reason, maybe it is the sweat pants(helps that it is Spike doing the 1st person narration.) I have mixed feelings about the sexism in the book. Sort of wonder how much of the attitudes are Harry's, how much Butchers. Well, the noir genre, regardless of how much supernatural is mixed with it, can be pretty problematic on the sexual politics side so I sort of give it a bit of a pass. Let's just say the book doesn't go completely overboard into offensive for me, though I can see it pushing the wrong buttons for others. Thank goodness it was audio and I didn't have to be constantly confronted with Harry in a duster coat striding around the city. That is cowboy gear and anyone else wearing it seems pretty funny to me....more
I'm kinda guilty that I enjoyed this book enough to give it three stars, but that's okay, it features a hero who is pretty guilty himself and continuaI'm kinda guilty that I enjoyed this book enough to give it three stars, but that's okay, it features a hero who is pretty guilty himself and continually does dumb things (but it is only cause he is so darn heroic that he repeatedly does stupid stuff.) I wish that Harry would be more of a coward and play it smart more often, just to make his heroic stupidity actually mean something.
Wow, I hear guys dissing paranormal romance or urban fantasy written by women, but this is totally guy fantasy romance noir. Harry Dresden is a traditional guy, a self-described chauvanist, who is always protecting the women in his life, sheilding them from the powers of darkness - this is really tough because his main love interest is a tough-as-nails female cop who is always getting angry at him for lying to her and infantilizing her - unreasonable huh? I suspect she might even be described as a feminist by some if she wasn't in a Jim Butcher novel. I mean, sure there is plenty of hedging - Dresden LETS her appear to be the hero by the end of the book, but that is only cause he is so darn modest.
The real low point in female characterization has to be a woman FBI agent (named Ben) who is a combination 'drug addict'/psycho/nymphomaniac - that big dollop of uncontrolled sex fiend really rings the alarm bells that someone might not be altogether comfortable with females in positions of authority - she felt like a big dirty sterotype as she rampaged around topless. How she is dealt with is extremely ugly. Butcher positions Dresden as the weakest, most beatup, lowest man on the totem pole - all a part of the noir tradition - but to put it in S&M terms Harry is topping from the bottom.
Yet despite all this, I have to say I've enjoyed listening to James Marsters sensuous reading of Butcher's second Dresden novel. I do giggle when Harry gets his wand tip all white hot, but the mix of supernatural and noir make for a diverting psycho-sexual/gender-politics stew. I don't think it is admirable, but it is entertaining. On to book three......more