( 6 )


In Finch, mysterious underground inhabitants known as the gray caps have reconquered the failed fantasy state Ambergris and put it under martial law. They have disbanded House Hoegbotton and are controlling the human inhabitants with strange addictive drugs, internment in camps, and random acts of terror. The rebel resistance is scattered, and the gray caps are using human labor to build two strange towers. Against this backdrop, John Finch, who lives alone with a cat and a lizard, must solve an impossible ...
See more details below
Paperback (Original)
$13.28 price
(Save 11%)$14.95 List Price
Other sellers (Paperback)
  • All (20) from $1.99   
  • New (6) from $8.32   
  • Used (14) from $1.99   
Sending request ...


In Finch, mysterious underground inhabitants known as the gray caps have reconquered the failed fantasy state Ambergris and put it under martial law. They have disbanded House Hoegbotton and are controlling the human inhabitants with strange addictive drugs, internment in camps, and random acts of terror. The rebel resistance is scattered, and the gray caps are using human labor to build two strange towers. Against this backdrop, John Finch, who lives alone with a cat and a lizard, must solve an impossible double murder for his gray cap masters while trying to make contact with the rebels. Nothing is as it seems as Finch and his disintegrating partner Wyte negotiate their way through a landscape of spies, rebels, and deception. 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.
Read More Show Less
  • Jeff VanderMeer
    Jeff VanderMeer  

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
VanderMeer's third book set in the fungus-laden city of Ambergris is an engrossing recasting of the hard-boiled detective novel. Traditional tropes—femmes fatales, double-crossing agents, underworld crime lords—mix seamlessly with a world in which humans struggle to undermine the authority of sentient fungi a century after the events of 2006's Shriek: An Afterword. By the time titular detective Finch solves the double murder of a human and a fungus, he's been drawn into a conflict in which he's rarely sure who's manipulating him or why he's so important to their plans. VanderMeer's stark tone is brutally powerful at times, and his deft mix of genre-blurring style with a layered plot make this a joy to read. Though the book stands well on its own, fans of the earlier Ambergris novels will appreciate it even more. (Nov.)
Kirkus Reviews
The latest in World Fantasy Award-winner Vandermeer's Ambergris cycle (Shriek: An Afterword, 2008, etc.) pits a dogged detective against . . . just about everyone. An upstart species known as the gray caps has emerged as the power in the once-renowned city of Ambergris, now a crumbling place of decay and despair. Blame the vengeful gray caps for that. As the Ambergrisian underclass, they eked out a subterranean existence, manifestly in thrall to human superiority. But six years ago, the Rising placed Ambergris totally in the gray caps' tyrannical hands. Now Finch, a detective, finds himself reporting to a being who speaks to underlings in often impenetrable clicks and whistles, though no one in their bare-bones police station would risk disobeying these commands. The bizarre double murder of a gray cap and a human shakes up the status quo. Finch's boss seems intensely interested in the crime. Does it have something to do with the mysterious Lady in Blue, elusive leader of a growing counterinsurgency? Soon other intensely interested parties appear with a multiplicity of arcane agendas, to all of which Finch somehow seems key and in all of which his best interests are clearly not paramount. Only for the faithful; anyone else will find the plot opaque and largely incomprehensible.
The Barnes & Noble Review
Finch, the eponymous detective hero of Jeff Vandermeer's hallucinatory novel, has the unenviable task of investigating a double murder where only one victim is human. The other is a "gray cap," member of a race of sentient fungal beings who are the occupying forces of the city of Ambergris (also the setting for two of Vandermeer's previous books, City of Saints & Madmen and Shriek: An Afterword). "Occupying" is the mot juste here. Not only are humans second-class citizens of Ambergris; they're also susceptible to colonization by the gray caps, whose infectious spores kill or, in some cases, create human-fungal hybrids.

Escalating tensions and distrust between the the city's factions make for an interzone that's equal parts Casablanca and Carcosa. Vandermeer's acclaimed dark fantasies owe as much to 19th-century decadents as they do to Michael Moorcock; with this book, he expands his territory to encompass classic noir, albeit filtered through his unique visionary sensibility. Finch trudges through Ambergris's dank byways and criminal underground like Charles Baudelaire turned gumshoe, exposing conspiracy and treachery to the city's fungal mist. The mashup of dreamscape and hard-boiled narrative makes for a sublime reading experience, The Big Sleep as fever dream. "It took a long time and a lot of patience to kill a gray cap," Finch muses early on. Fortunately, it takes only one mostly sleepless night for a reader to make the subterranean journey to Ambergris and back -- with absinthe and magic mushrooms optional. --Elizabeth Hand

Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780980226010
  • Publisher: Resurrection House
  • Publication date: 11/1/2009
  • Edition description: Original
  • Pages: 320
  • Sales rank: 630,071
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Jeff Vandermeer
Jeffrey Scott VanderMeer is an American writer, editor and publisher. He is best known for his contributions to the New Weird and his stories about the city of Ambergris, in books like City of Saints and Madmen.
Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 6 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star


4 Star


3 Star


2 Star


1 Star


Your Rating:

Your Name: Create a Pen Name or

Barnes & Review Rules

Our reader reviews allow you to share your comments on titles you liked, or didn't, with others. By submitting an online review, you are representing to Barnes & that all information contained in your review is original and accurate in all respects, and that the submission of such content by you and the posting of such content by Barnes & does not and will not violate the rights of any third party. Please follow the rules below to help ensure that your review can be posted.

Reviews by Our Customers Under the Age of 13

We highly value and respect everyone's opinion concerning the titles we offer. However, we cannot allow persons under the age of 13 to have accounts at or to post customer reviews. Please see our Terms of Use for more details.

What to exclude from your review:

Please do not write about reviews, commentary, or information posted on the product page. If you see any errors in the information on the product page, please send us an email.

Reviews should not contain any of the following:

  • - HTML tags, profanity, obscenities, vulgarities, or comments that defame anyone
  • - Time-sensitive information such as tour dates, signings, lectures, etc.
  • - Single-word reviews. Other people will read your review to discover why you liked or didn't like the title. Be descriptive.
  • - Comments focusing on the author or that may ruin the ending for others
  • - Phone numbers, addresses, URLs
  • - Pricing and availability information or alternative ordering information
  • - Advertisements or commercial solicitation


  • - By submitting a review, you grant to Barnes & and its sublicensees the royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable right and license to use the review in accordance with the Barnes & Terms of Use.
  • - Barnes & reserves the right not to post any review -- particularly those that do not follow the terms and conditions of these Rules. Barnes & also reserves the right to remove any review at any time without notice.
  • - See Terms of Use for other conditions and disclaimers.
Search for Products You'd Like to Recommend

Recommend other products that relate to your review. Just search for them below and share!

Create a Pen Name

Your Pen Name is your unique identity on It will appear on the reviews you write and other website activities. Your Pen Name cannot be edited, changed or deleted once submitted.

Your Pen Name can be any combination of alphanumeric characters (plus - and _), and must be at least two characters long.

Continue Anonymously
Sort by: Showing all of 6 Customer Reviews
  • Posted October 25, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    The Hierophant of the New Weird strikes again

    NB: I received an ARC of this book via the Amazon Vine Program

    Jeff Vandermeer is the Hierophant of the the "New Weird", an avant-garde branch of modern fantasy that uses phantasmagorical imagery and horror in an often urban secondary fantasy world. China Mieville's Perdido Street Station may be the most commercially successful of this branch of fantasy, but Vandermeer has done more than any author (and editor) in forming the New Weird style of fantasy.

    He started it in earnest with (deliberately confusing) two versions of City of Saints and Madmen, a collection of stories (and in the second iteration, stories and other miscellany) set in his secondary world of Ambergris. Next came Shriek, an Afterword, another book set in Ambergris, a more proper novel although with bizarre stylistic conventions.

    And now there is Finch. Ambergris has changed from the time of Saints and Shriek. The Gray caps have risen, taking advantage of the civil war between two Houses to take the city for themselves, changing it in their fungal ways, and building some sort of secret project. Rebels scheme in and on the outskirts the ruined city. Ordinary people try to just survive an increasingly bizarre landscape. And just *what* are the Gray Caps going to do now??

    Enter into this Finch. That's not his real name, and in a sense not his real identity, but that's the one he uses as a detective in employ of the Gray Caps and the Partials (the fungally transformed humans) who serve them. He claims he is not a detective, but it is what he does in this new order. What starts out as an investigation of a murder turns into a conspiracy and a tangled web of secrets and revelations that unwind not only Finch, but Ambergris itself.

    While this is a more proper novel than many of his previous efforts (even more so than Shriek), the sensibilities and ideas explored in previous works are in full force here. Ambergris has fallen from its previous heights, a fuzzy, spore laden shell of its former self. The already weird Ambergris of previous novels is radically transformed in this novel. And as much as Finch, his fellow detectives, contacts, and lover, the city is a character.

    Noir, horror, New Weird, phantasmagorical fantasy. Ambergris is one of the most vividly realized cities in modern fantasy. Its a place you wouldn't want to live, but its definitely a place that you will want to visit. While reading the previous volumes aren't strictly necessary, I think that a reader would be very much lost at sea if they haven't done so. But for those readers ready for a dose of the New Weird, laced with noir, and a detective mystery, Ambergris awaits you.It'll get under your skin, and transform you. In a good way. Promise.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted May 13, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    A complex, immersive look at a frayed, occupied city, through the eyes of a weary detective caught up in a far-reaching, game-changing case.

    A creative, strange, unusual mix of genres (sci-fi, horror, war, detective noir, near-apocalyptic). The characters were well fleshed out and complex, making reasonable choices in unreasonable circumstances. I am not a fan of the hard-boiled detective genre, or the obligatory testosterone-fueled beat-downs that seem to come with it, but the violence has a reasonable role in this difficult-to-predict plot.

    The clipped writing style, even though apparently meticulously constructed, takes some getting used to, and is at times distracting.

    Throughout is a good mix of the immediate concerns of Finch, the force of the spectrum of history (from the recent to the distant past) of this alternative-earth city, and the bigger picture of the vulnerable occupation of Ambergris by the gray caps.

    While this the third book dealing with Ambergris, a reader can start here without having read the others.

    Fascinating, involved and compelling.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 25, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted April 6, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted September 13, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted February 20, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

Sort by: Showing all of 6 Customer Reviews

If you find inappropriate content, please report it to Barnes & Noble
Why is this product inappropriate?
Comments (optional)