Hi again. Another Wednesday, another review. This time we’re talking about Hugo Award finalist Finna by Nino Cipri. I’ve reviewed quite a bit of Hugo finalists already, so if you’re interested in checking out any of those, please do.
Also, it’s #SciFiMonth, which is always a great time. The two posts I’ve done for it so far are a review of Andy Weir’s Project Hail Mary and Five (non-American) Authors I Want to Read. I’m hoping to do more as the month goes on so I’ll be storing them in the Sci Fi Month tag if you’re interested in the latest.
Anyway, onward with the review!
In general, I really enjoyed this story. I think nearly everyone has shared the experience of getting so totally and completely bassackwardly lost in a big-box store like this (specifically IKEA) that it isn’t hard to imagine you’ve accidently stepped off the path of your own reality and entered into some kind of labyrinthian alternative composed entirely of the latest trending cabinetry.
(Or at the very least had an experience like SCP-3008)
It felt almost cathartic to have it confirmed, and to find out that the corporation who designed such a place, knows about it and attempted to smooth over the problem in the only way they know how: some faux hip instructional bullshit.
Everything mentioned above is enough for an incredible story, but the fact that this is merely the platform on which to explore romance, marginalization(s), trauma, and the path toward healing, to my mind, is what makes this story stand out. It’s also pretty funny at times.
The last element of Finna which I felt interesting to note was it’s use of the multiverse (trope?) theory. In late 2021, we are seeing multiverses EVERYWHERE in fiction. The obvious ones right now are Marvel’s What If, Loki, Into the Spiderverse and the upcoming Spiderman No Way Home, but I feel we’ve seen a lot of multiverse fiction even within the Hugo finalists from 2020 (which means we’ve been in this moment for a while).
The Space Between Worlds by Micaiah Johnson made expert use of the multiverse to heighten the tension and moral questions of the story. Michael Zapata’s The Lost Book of Adana Moreau was another 2020 award winner which relied heavily on the multiverse (kicking myself for not reviewing it here. sooo goood!). I’m unsure whether portal fantasy counts as a multiverse story, but that would add The Wayward Children series by Seanan McGuire, and Naomi Kritzer’s Little Free Library to the trend as well.
All of these stories use the multiverse to express a variety of different questions and themes. What do you do when you (literally/physically) are confronted with a better version of yourself? With one that’s worse? What would have happened if you had done that one thing differently? If your entire world/circumstances were different, who would you be then? There’s a kind of nature vs nurture argument happening in these stories, but also a kind of fatalism.
While I’ve enjoyed many multiverse stories, I’ve started to feel the message has shifted (I would say unintentionally), and I’ve asked myself why do our hero’s actions matter if there are infinite realities in which those actions didn’t take place?
What I enjoyed about Finna was that it seemed to posit that this was a source of freedom rather than despair. There is a universe in which you are a coward and there is a universe in which you are brave, and there are universes in which you do not exist at all. So do whatever you want. You’re not beholden to any other version of yourself.
Perhaps I’ve read too much into what was on the page, but to my mind, this take was quite refreshing and also a relief.
So . . . Hugo Award?
No. Despite all the good and heavy things packed inside of Finna, I’m still thinking that Tochi Onyebuchi’s Riot Baby is the choice. I mentioned in my review that Riot Baby was almost a mood instead of a book. Plus as a writer I could just feel that there was a lot to study and emulate within that story. I did not get the same vibes from Finna.
But know this. Finna will definitely be a hard 2nd place to dethrone, and though it isn’t my choice this time, I would still like to encourage everyone to read this story and see what you take away from it. Also, there are an infinite amount of universes in which Finna was my 1st choice so think on that!
Sounds like an intriguing story. I can only think of one multiverse story I’ve read myself (Sal & Gabi Break the Universe) and that wasn’t too over the top… but generally multiverse stuff sounds like a lot for my brain to manage, haha. One world is plenty enough for me, I imagine 😛
I hadn’t heard of Sal & Gabi yet! It looks good. I’m intrigued the wikipedia article says “science fiction that is also about Cuban Mythology”. I don’t think I’ve come across this combo before and am so interested to even find out what makes up Cuban mythology. Thanks for the rec!
And yea . . . Though Finna was a refreshing take, we might be reaching peak saturation on multiverses. One world is definitely enough haha
You’re welcome! I try to keep up with middle grade so you might get a lot of recs for younger readers from me haha. Sal & Gabi is part of Riordan Presents, which publishes adventure stories in the style of Percy Jackson but by different authors and with different mythologies as their base.