Monday, July 18, 2011

Finder: Voice

by Carla Speed McNeil

I've always felt that footnotes and endnotes carry a certain allure.  I'm always delighted to read writers who can make good use of them to help inform or expand upon their ideas, and they help stave off any reader-ADD, as I find myself constantly flipping back and forth from the main text to the addenda.  I think that's why I've always enjoyed writers like William T. Vollmann and David Foster Wallace; those gentlemen can rock the add on.

Why am I talking about this in a review of Carla Speed McNeil's latest addition to her Finder series, Voice?  Because she can match anyone when it comes to a good selection of endnotes.  And this was a very good thing, as aside from the shorts that have been in the resurrected Dark Horse Presents, I don't know the first thing about Finder, aside from the fact that there is some dozen years of comic book history and world building I don't know anything about.  Without the detailed, and frequently entertaining notes McNeil supplied, I'd have been completely lost throughout this book.  Now, there are some who would argue that, were McNeil really crafting her stories for a variety of readers, this information would have all been made clearer in the comic itself.  I agree that in many instances, what is explained in the notes could have been made perfectly understandable in the comic, but it's all good, because Voice is pretty interesting.

Basically, the Finder world is about as complex (and well-realized) as Tolkien's Middle-Earth, or Herbert's Dune series.  It feels like McNeil has worked out everything there is to know about every character, including minor ones, and has crafted a very detailed history for her world.  In this story, a young woman named Rachel is competing to be given full membership in her clan, the Llaveracs.  With this position comes social acceptance, and the ability to protect her family, among other perks.  The problem is that, one night during the competition, Rachel is mugged, and the ring which provides her with the right to compete is stolen.

From here, the story gets a little strange, as Rachel begins to hunt for a man named Jaeger, who she thinks can help her retrieve the ring.  Her journey takes her through some of the darker regions of her city (both literally and figuratively), and she has a few encounters with some Ascians, who are sort of like modern-day Roma who practice voodoo.  Things get kind of trippy at the end, but this is a very solid story about social climbing and peoples' actual and perceived obligations to their own kind.

I really found myself wrapped up in this book, and the number of surprises it held (you'll note I'm not saying anything about the gender ambiguity of the Llaveracs, which is kind of fascinating).  I'm glad that Dark Horse is publishing new editions of all of McNeil's work, because I really want to read it all now.  Especially the notes...

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