Finchy Interlude

Jeff VanderMeer • December 20th, 2008 @ 2:36 pm • Fiction

I’m still a little giddy after having gotten the initial reaction to Finch from my editor, Victoria Blake, earlier this week. She really really likes it–”remarkable”–and her initial notes for revision are spot-on and extremely insightful, so I feel blessed to be in great hands. There’s no better feeling than knowing you have a partner on a book–and an editor is a partner–who you can trust and who will help you make your book reach its full potential.

Here’s a brief description of the novel: A noir-thriller and visionary fantasy set in the failed state of Ambergris. The gray caps, mysterious underground inhabitants, have re-conquered the city and put the human inhabitants in camps. Remnants of the Resistance are scattered, most resigned, after six years, to a diminished, subservient life. Against this backdrop, detective John Finch and his partner Wyte must solve an impossible double murder. 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.

In celebration, find below a little teaser excerpt, out of context. It’s not the final version, as I’ll be getting Victoria’s full list of line edits and structural edits in a couple of days. It contains no real spoilers, either. But it does give you a taste.

***

Tracking down Bliss took three tries. Wyte had an address for a townhouse Bliss sometimes used for meetings, in an old Hoegbotton stronghold southeast of Albumuth. Could still see the faded chalk marks that groups of irregulars had used to communicate. Gray cap passed by here Tuesday…Food and ammo in the second house on the left…Stay clear of this intersection after dark.

Found the house on a street that had once been part of a wealthy district. Trees lined the sidewalk, but not a leaf on them. Gravel where grass had been. Silence all around. The houses to either side derelict husks. A burned corpse with no arms right on the steps. Which should’ve told them Bliss wasn’t there. Flies had settled on the torn-up face like a congregation. A slender whiteness had begun to push up through the black. Stalks of fruiting bodies. Rising. Another twenty hours, nothing would be left.

“Nothing inside,” Finch said, coming back out.

“Let’s visit Stanton,” Wyte said.

Stanton, one of Wyte’s druggie snitches, lived a few blocks down. Wyte always kept a few extra purple mushrooms in his overcoat pockets. Stanton, in a kind of makeshift robe, clung to Wyte like Wyte was the drug, or a plank of wood in an endless sea. Behind him, a tarp draped over a soot-gray alley mouth. A little bundle of Stanton’s possessions to one side. A crumbling brick he used to protect himself at night.

Before the Rising, Stanton had been a banker. Or, at least, that’s what he’d told Wyte. He’d probably been an addict then, too.

“Where’d Bliss go,” Wyte asked Stanton.

The thirty-year-old Stanton lifted his gaunt, balding head. Red-eyed, wrinkled face. Said, “Down by the abandoned train station. Four streets over. Corner of Sporn and Trillian. He was just there yesterday.”

Wyte put three purple mushrooms in Stanton’s hand. Stanton received them like they were worth more than one day’s relief. The huge red mushrooms that dispensed the drugs stuck to a strict schedule. Monday and Friday. Stanton had already gone through what he’d gathered the day before. Finch didn’t think he’d last another month.

When they left Stanton, he was trembling under his pathetic shelter. Eyes wide open and dilated. Gone someplace better. Someplace temporary.

At the train station, they didn’t find Bliss. But way in the back, under the shadowed arches, populated by pigeons and bats alike, they found a gambling pit. Almost a grotto, for all the fungus surrounding it. Fuzzy clumps of muted gold and green that hid the entrance. Cock fighting. Card games. Betting black market goods.

Not much of a conversation. Wyte stuck his gun up against the lookout’s cheek. Convinced her it would be better just to lead them in The hardened men and women they surprised—the ones lantern-lit and reaching for knives or guns—they thought better of it, too. But had a hard time restraining the roosters. One fire-red, the other a muted orange. Razor talons moving like pistons.

A heavily muscled man in his twenties who had done some piecework for Bliss gave him up. Quick. Called Bliss a slang word for foreign. Even though he looked foreign himself. Seemed to dare any of the others to argue with him about that decision. They didn’t.

Wyte and Finch receded into the gloom. Shoved the look-out inside. Barricaded the door from the outside with a couple of heavy rusted barrels. Hoped there wasn’t a second entrance. Knew there always was. Got the hell out of there before anyone could start thinking about an ambush.

“Fuck, but I hate this job!” Wyte exclaimed as their boots kicked up water pooling between rows of bolted-down chairs alongside the abandoned track.

Said he hated it, but looked happier than at the station.

18 Responses to “Finchy Interlude”

  1. James says:

    Nice excerpt–well, not nice,exactly. Seems appropriately different from your earlier books, with very effectively boiled-down prose. I can’t wait to read it.

    And not just because I have a cameo appearance, either, although that certainly doesn’t hurt. My own little slice of literary immortality–I feel like the Man from Porlock.

  2. Bill Ectric says:

    Oh, man . . . oh, man . . . I can’t wait . . .

  3. Divers Hands says:

    I have to say, 2009 is shaping up to be one hell of a year in fiction. I honestly couldn’t say which I am more excited about coming out: ‘Finch’ or Catherine Valente’s ‘Palimpsest’. Probably the latter right now, as I only have to wait two months for it to be in my greedy little claws. But hey, once its out ‘Finch’ will be on top for certain.

    Yaay for hallucination inducing literature!

  4. jeff vandermeer says:

    thanks. it is the last in my ambergris cycle. it is programmed to blow your mind.

  5. Alex says:

    Jeff, could you or your agent push the Polish publishers into the right direction because one Ambergris book is simply not enough?

  6. jeff vandermeer says:

    hey–thanks! I can certainly ask my editor about their intentions re shriek. also my wife and are hopeful of arranging a trip to poland in 2010.

  7. Colin Brush says:

    Reads like a page torn from a dead detective’s notebook. Love it.

  8. Mary C says:

    You had me at:

    “The gray caps, mysterious underground inhabitants, have re-conquered the city and put the human inhabitants in camps. Remnants of the Resistance are scattered, most resigned, after six years, to a diminished, subservient life.”

    Go Gray Caps!

  9. Alex says:

    Re: also my wife and are hopeful of arranging a trip to poland in 2010.

    That would be so great! And there’s so much to see here in Poland.

  10. Joe says:

    Really looking forward to this, mate – is it coming out in the UK from Macmillan/Tor again like Shriek?

  11. Jeff VanderMeer says:

    Joe:

    Peter Lavery, my editor at Macmillan/Tor, has retired. I believe Macmillan will get first crack at it, but I won’t know who is publishing it in the UK until probably February. I *do* know that City of Saints and Shriek are within a few hundred copies of selling out. There was some debate about whether to reprint City of Saints–I don’t know the final decision.

    Jeff

  12. Jonathan Wood says:

    Well, bugger me, that’s a lovely bit of prose. Every time you stick an extract up I have the urge to buy a fedora. Bloody awesome.

  13. Edward Duff says:

    Great blurb on Underland’s blog re Finch today. November can’t come soon enough!

  14. Will Hindmarch says:

    “The hardened men and women they surprised—the ones lantern-lit and reaching for knives or guns—they thought better of it, too. But had a hard time restraining the roosters.”

    That’s a lot of imagery and action in not a lot of words. That’s just good writing, I say.

  15. Taliesin says:

    Very nice. When exactlyis this coming out then Jeff?

  16. World News says:

    my website has the exact same concept

  17. mp3indir says:

    Its amazing article. I will send my friend with email

  18. sinema says:

    the three month period, compared with 17.1

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