Finch: Recommended Reading

I’ve just finished Jeff Vandermeer’s Finch. Wow. What a truly amazing book; there really is nothing else like it out there. I’m a big fan of the Ambergris cycle, and the Gray Caps are absolutely my favourite aliens, mostly because they actually are completely alien. Everything about them is unfathomable, and I am so glad that the mystique surrounding them remains in this book, despite us also finding out a lot more about them. This novel is gloriously claustrophobic, and the relentless plot is reflected in the clipped language. The story can kind of be summed up in one line that appears towards the end of the book:

“You’re a man who did the best he could in impossible circumstances.”

I particularly liked the character of Wyte, and Finch’s relationship with him, and I think my favourite point in the book comes when Wyte attacks a group of Partials – the Gray Caps’ human servants, who have been transformed into fungal mutants.

The bullets. Wyte kept taking them like gifts. They tore through limbs, lodged in his torso. Leaving holes, Leaving daylight. That closed up. And running in the shadow of that magnificence…he felt as if he were following some sort of god, his own gun like a toy…

The theme of colonisation is at the heart of the novel. Ambergris, and the land on which it stands, is a land that has been repeatedly invaded and occupied, first by the Gray Caps, then by human settlers, and then again by the Gray Caps in the Rising. But an indigenous populations remains, and the idea of colonisation being not just to do with the land but to do with how people are transformed by invasion and occupation, is explored beautifully. Wyte secretly wants to join the rebels, but he has been infected by a Gray Cap fungus. Finch says, when referring to his infections, “…you’ve been colonized . And it’s gone too far. And they’ll never take you.” The land and its people are changing and transforming and there is no going back.

Highly recommended.

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