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by Emma Bull
Finder, Emma Bull's latest novel, is set in the shared world of the Borderlands, a city where Faerie and the "real" World overlap with decidedly sordid but entertaining results. Like Steven Gould's Jumper and Crawford Kilian's Lifter (see a trend here?), Finder is about a young man with a nifty but inexplicable power. Orient, a human runaway, finds missing things.
When a local drug dealer is murdered, the police hire Orient to help them track down the murderer, who is presumably also the source of a new drug that transforms humans into twisted parodies of Elves. Apparently the police usually don't care about recreational drug use, but the humans who take this new drug invariably sicken and die. With the help of his Elven partner Tick-Tick and the tough-but-predictably- sensitive cop Sunny Rico, Orient wanders around the seedier bits of Bordertown, searching for the drug manufacturers while trying to avoid being blown to pieces.
Finder is really just a whodunnit with fantasy trappings, but Orient's finding ability is quite an entertaining plot device. The narration is clever, the dialogue is witty, and even minor characters have a sense of depth and history. (Of course, this is a shared world, and I haven't read any of the previous Borderlands stories, so many of these minor characters have probably been extensively developed elsewhere.) The first half of this book is fast and amusing.
There's a back-cover blurb from Pamela Dean that warns you that this book "will sneak up on you and break your heart." She ain't kidding. The second half of Finder is still clever, but I give it 3 Kivrins on a 4 Kivrin scale for depressing endings. The gloom isn't gratuitous, and it isn't there to build character through angst, but you won't leave this book with a warm fuzzy feeling.
Read it anyway, especially if you liked Emma Bull's previous novels. It's more coherent than War for the Oaks, and less grim than Bone Dance. There's a luscious breakfast recipe. (Do you have to be an an accomplished cook to join the PJF?) It even has a lovely cover.
"Of course," she went on, with a not-exactly-focussed-on -anything smile, "a journey of a thousand steps begins with a single mile, unless they're really small steps."
-- Christina Schulman.
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