We’re into that space of time between which review copies go out for Finch, my new novel, and the actual publication of same on November 1st. There will definitely be a big book release party at World Fantasy in San Jose, which will kick off my six-week, two-coast tour (also behind Booklife).
Into this space enters the inevitable outliers, as those who have glimpsed an advance copy for various reasons blog about it.
– J.M. McDermott notes the layering in of the details of a failed state.
– Jeffrey Thomas points to how the novel effectively answers questions raised by the first two books in the Ambergris cycle, notices that, although multi-layered, Finch is fast-paced–as well as the multi-faceted nature of the characters.
But my favorite quote is from another writer who emailed me and said, “Fucking awesome, man. Laughter like dogs being strangled (Yeah, thanks–I can actually hear that sound in my head now), the skery (very witty, that), the grey cap guns (should he have been feeding it?)… I think it’s safe to say you’ve stocked my nightmare image cupboard for about the next seven years. But there are some lovely moments of quiet emotional acuity as well.”
Also, more blurbs, including this one from Stephen R. Donaldson: “I can’t remember ever reading a book like Finch. Audacious in technique, and extravagent in imagination, it has the rare quality of making the macabre poignant. In the midst of a disturbed and disturbing narrative landscape, Jeff VanderMeer gives us deeply sympathetic characters–especially Finch himself–who inspire us to care about their flawed and tyrannized world. I’m impressed.”
And now, since you’ve sat through all of that, here’s another short excerpt. Buy early. Buy often. Buy while there’s still money. And electricity.
Woke to a weight on the bed next to him. Went rigid. Sucked in his breath. Reached for his gun. Then relaxed. Recognized the smell of her sweat, some subtle perfume behind it. Sintra Caraval. The woman who had been part of his life for the last two years. She smelled good.
He could feel her staring at the back of his head. Her breath on his back. He smiled. Didnâ€™t open his eyes. She kissed his neck.
She was naked. Smooth, soft feel of her breasts against his shoulders. He was instantly hard. Opened his eyes. Turned over on his back. Sintra turned with him so she was nestled under his left arm. A surge of happiness startled him. Through the window: dim light creating shadows out of the darkness. Her brown skin somehow luminous against it. Sheâ€™d told him she was half nimblytod, half dogghe. Tribes that had lived in Ambergris since before settlement. Before the gray caps.
Even in the darkness, Finch knew her face. Thick, expressive eyebrows. Green eyes. Full lips. A thin scar across the left cheek heâ€™d never gotten her to talk about. A nose a little too long for her face, which gave her a questioning look.
A lilt to the ends of her sentences as she whispered in his ear: â€œI let myself in. I wasnâ€™t trying to startle you.â€
He started to get up, to lock the door. She pushed him back down.
â€œI locked the door behind me. No one else can get in.â€
Finch stopped resisting her. The key was the greatest act of trust between them. Was that good or bad?
â€œSintra,â€ he said sleepily, bringing his right arm around to cup one breast. â€œI could get used to you. I really could.â€ Not really listening to what he was saying. Still waking up. Reduced to the kind of meaningless words heâ€™d mouthed at fifteen. Having sex in his room with the neighborâ€™s daughter while his father was out.
â€œYou could get used to me?â€ she said.
When mock-angry with him, she raised her eyebrows in a way he loved.
â€œA bad joke,â€ he said. Hugged her closer. â€œIâ€™m already used to you.â€ Kissed the top of her head. Relaxed against her, the shudder that had been building up overtaking him. Then gone.
Then, more awake: â€œLetâ€™s escape. Tonight.â€
Heâ€™d worked it out in his head hundreds of times. Along the shore of the HFZ at dusk. A rowboat. Not a motorboat. To the end of the bay. Then either west to the Kalifâ€™s empire or south to Stockton. West because it was easier to get through the security zones in the desert. He knew places there. Places his father had shown him on maps.
Imagined she was grimacing, there, in the dark. The way she always did when he mentioned it.
â€œBad night?â€ she asked.
â€œConfusing night.â€ He’d had to eat not one but two memory bulbs, experience the lives of the dead.
â€œTell me later.â€
Then she was kissing him and he was kissing her. Tongue curled against tongue. The salt of her in his mouth. A hunger. A need. His hand between her muscular thighs. His cock in her hand. A pulse. A current that made him want to touch, to kiss, every part of her. Warmth and softness at his fingertips. Burning in her hand. An intake of breath. A little sighing cry. He turned and turned until he was above her, his elbows brushing her shoulders. Moaned as he slid into her and kept kissing her. Dissolving his poisoned thoughts. Not thinking at all. Becoming someone else.
She felt so good that he had to stop for a moment. Locked his elbows to hold himself up over her, looked into her eyes, her hands on his chest.
â€œI love your neck,â€ he said, and kissed it. â€œAnd your eyes.â€ Kissed her eyelids. He could see her better now, light colonizing shadows.
She wasnâ€™t smiling back. Wasnâ€™t responding.
â€œJohn,â€ she said, looking worried. â€œJohn, youâ€™re crying blood.â€
She wiped a too-dark tear away with her finger.
â€œAm I?â€ he said, trying to smile, and came with a long shuddering groan before the thought could hit him.