Finder Library Vol.2: MMORPGs, Romance, Kidnappings, and Getting Girls in Anvard
Carla Speed McNeil's "Finder" is a largely undiscovered gem, as I have said before in multiple previous reviews. Following the adventures of the mysterious wanderer Jaeger as he encounters a world full of all sorts of strange and wonderful people, creatures, and events, every storyline McNeil comes up with is radically different from all the others she has done, and all are endlessly fascinating.
This volume, the second "Finder" omnibus, contains the extremely trippy tale "Dream Sequence," the romantic and anthropological "Mystery Date," the dark and sad mystery of "The Rescuers," and the raucously funny "Five Crazy Women," which deals with the sort of ladies Jaeger finds himself involved with. All are fantastically interesting, and each one is well worth the price of admission.
"Dream Sequence" doesn't feature Jaeger very much, and is also set significantly farther into the future than any of McNeil's other stories. It deals with the visionary Magri White, who has created Elsewhere, a magnificent landscape contained within his own mind which he can allow others to wander. This has created an empire of Elsewhere-related merchandising and the like, which has greatly enriched his clan. Unfortunately, visitors to Elsewhere keep on finding themselves attacked by a mysterious entity which bears a strange resemblance to Jaeger, which does no physical damage but twists them up psychologically in ways they themselves don't even realize. It's up to Magri to figure out exactly what is going on, and see if he can actually fix what's wrong with Elsewhere, and by extension with himself.
"Mystery Date" was probably my favorite of the collection. It revolves around Vary, a young college student from an India-like culture who has come to the great dome city of Anvard (the main setting for most "Finder" stories) to study anthropology and prostitution. She quickly finds herself falling in love with two of her anthropology professors, one a grumpy old man with two prosthetic legs and a bandanna over the eyes, the other a Laeske, essentially a giant feathered lizard. The story goes in some interesting places, and serves as a great character study of Vary, who manages to mix tropes of the Hooker With a Heart of Gold, over-eager college student, and love-struck young teen, in interesting and new ways.
"The Rescuers" is the first story in this collection to feature Jaeger heavily. In this one, our hero has associated himself with a band of Ascians (McNeil's equivalent to Native Americans) who themselves are tending to the estate of Baron Manavelin, a recently enriched nobleman of a minor clan who has just recently finished creating his palatial estate on the lower levels of Anvard. Unfortunately, his son is kidnapped, and the police are stumped. Luckily, one of the policemen, Smithson, has realized that Jaeger is a Finder, a role in Ascian society devoted to discovering and finding things out. Unfortunately again, Jaeger is not a citizen, so therefore he cannot be treated as an expert witness and anything he finds cannot be used in court. This takes a tragic turn when it becomes apparent they're not dealing with a kidnapping, but instead with a death...
The final story, "Five Crazy Women," has Jaeger talking to his old friend Brom, talking about the, well, crazy women he's been getting involved with lately. It's a great character piece, and is also raucously funny, and a great way to end the collection.
McNeil creates an amazing world, and I liked how she is able to both create interesting stories and slip in lots of interesting cultures. For instance, "The Rescuers" fleshes out Ascian culture in fascinating ways, while "Mystery Date" allows us to learn lots of interesting things both about Vary's culture and the world of the Laeske. All of this worldbuilding in-story is supplemented by the extensive notes McNeil puts in the back, which aren't necessary to enjoy the stories but do enrich them in innumerable ways.
I also love McNeil's characters. Many of them are assholes, but in ways that are both fascinatingly realistic and oddly creative. Reading these stories makes many of these characters feel like people you could meet, albeit people who look like giant feathered lizards, overly energetic Pomeranian-headed people, or Wolverine with a slightly better attitude.
This collection made me confirm that Carla Speed McNeil is one of my favorite comics writers. It is a shame and a crime that she isn't as well known as she should be. If you should encounter any "Finder" comics, READ THEM, as they are most definitely worth it.