Synopsis: A noir murder-mystery set in a city occupied by a totalitarian alien race.
Brief Book Review: I’m torn on this one. It does some things extremely well. The city is half-flooded and overrun with mold and fungus, and that’s portrayed excellently – I constantly felt damp while reading it. VanderMeer also does creepy brilliantly, there’s a constant level of dread and ickiness, especially whenever the alien Grey Caps are around. They feel downright Lovecraftian. Perhaps most notable is the portrayal of living under the heel of a totalitarian government. The menace is ever-present and inescapable. You are always under threat from forces you cannot fight. Not just you personally, but the things you value and the people you love. Any perceived disobedience will cause your loved ones to be hurt. It’s very effective, and makes for a character who has been believably broken, struggling merely to get from day to day without drawing the attention of the authorities. On the other hand, the villains are flat and only have the one trick (threat) – they quickly blur together. The protagonist is fairly passive and occasionally incoherent in his actions. The stakes aren’t made clear until far too late, and after about the halfway point of the book (at which point you still aren’t sure why any of this matters) the story really starts to drag. It’s a slow, plodding read. This is primarily due to the writing style used. Short, chopped sentences. Staccato. Obviously intentional. Effective in short bursts. Writing an entire book that way? Tiresome. Exhausting.
Right on the edge, but ultimately – Not Recommended.
Book Club Review: In theory this wouldn’t be a bad book for a book club. It does portray totalitarianism well, which can keep people talking for quite a while. There’s a lot to like in the book, and quite a few things to complain about, which all together would make for a full evening. But only if the members of the book club actually finish the book. This was one of the least-attended meetings we’ve had in a while. Of course it isn’t fair to lay the blame for this just on Finch, several people had life events, and the weather was bad. But even of those who attended, fully half of them didn’t bother finishing the book. It was simply too much of a slog to get through it. There isn’t enough to keep people interested, especially when the writing style slows your reading speed to a crawl. Since it’s hard to have a book club meeting about a book people don’t read, I’ll have to give this one a Not Recommended.