Finder: Voice, by Carla Speed McNeil

by Sigrid

The blurb on Voice’s back cover says that “Finder is, bar none, the best SF comics being published today.” I completely agree.

Carla Speed McNeil has been writing Finder for a number of years now. There are now nine volumes collected in print, but you can read the current story, “Torch,” on the Lightspeed Press website. You can start, if you like, by going to the Dark Horse Comics webpage for Finder. It will give you a tour of the places, people, and stories of the city of Anvard. You can go read the wiki, if you like. But that won’t explain the power of Finder’s stories. My favorite without question is Talisman, the story of Marcie Grosvenor as she tells it. It’s the story of growing up liminal in a society that values firm definition above all things. But it is also the story of the power of storytelling — a liminal act in and of itself.

This is the kind of thing that makes Finder nearly impossible to describe or explain. I am reminded of all the people who tried to get me to watch Firefly when it was on the air. “It’s a western, in space,” they would say and I would wrinkle my nose in disgust. If someone had said Firefly is the redemption arc of a failed soldier and his found family, in a world where developed communities are marginalizing honor, I would have watched it in a heartbeat. But nobody did.

So here I am, trying to find the right thing to say to get you, dear reader, to read Finder: Voice.

Voice is about finding your place. Your place in the world, your place in a family. It’s about that first major act of a young adult, the frightening act where, after this, you won’t be your parents’ responsibility anymore. You’ll be your own. That act varies from person to person. College, graduate school, joining the military, getting an important job, getting married. In Voice Rachel Grosvenor-Lockhart is attempting to be accepted by her mother’s clan. If she makes it she will have the power and money and prestige to provide for her siblings — power enough to mitigate the selfish mistake their parents made by marrying across clan lines. If you want a story about burgeoning adulthood, this is a story for you.

In the early moments of the story Rachel loses something of value to her quest for clan acceptance. Recovering it leads her on a search for Jaeger, the outcast man who has been drifting in and out of her family’s life for forever. This takes Rachel through parts of the city of Anvard which are not hers, takes to to places and people she never knew existed. If you like fish out of water stories, or unsettling quest stories in which the protagonist is confronted with strange tribes and oracles, then this is a story for you.

Throughout Rachel’s quest she moves through and in the rich, mad, complex city and peoples of Anvard. If you like your sf worlds complicated, fully realized, and explained through context and immersion, this is a story for you.

Over and over Rachel must confront the Llaverac clan leaders. Her half-breed origin is an obvious handicap, but it may also prove to be a hidden strength. if you like stories about class differences, about Jane-Austen-esque conversations about money and place and affiliation, this is a story for you.

Voice is about so many things. That is McNeil’s constant, amazing strength. If you read the end notes — and, oh my goodness, you really should read the end notes — you will see that there is even more happening on every page than you realized. There are throw-aways on every page which have entire stories about them, somewhere, still inside McNeil’s head. Stories which will come out someday, maybe. It all rather fills me with the urge to bring a digital recorder and a supply of tea, booze, and chocolate (I don’t know which, if any, she likes) to some convention and sit down at her table and beg/bribe/pay her to start talking. To tell me the stories, dangitall. Please.

The collected graphic novel of Voice was at my local comics retailer yesterday, so I picked it up. You can order the Finder books from Lightspeed Press, from Dark Horse, from Amazon, from a lot of places. You can read them in order, I suppose. I didn’t. It didn’t seem to matter. Each book is its own story in the world McNeil has created. Events happen, and sometimes they are more explained in one book than in another. But each story is an act of voyeurism onto another world — you will have to work a bit to keep up, no matter which volume is your first. Try Sin-Eater if you like battered roguish anti-heroes. Or Talisman if books saved your life. Or pick up The Rescuers if you like police procedurals. There is something in Finder for any reader willing to accept a science fictional universe.

There is nothing in comics like this. Nothing as imaginatively and fully realized, nothing as complex and layered. As a cartoonist Carla Speed McNeil is one of the best; as a storyteller she is one of the very best.

Email: sigrid @ fantasticfangirls.org
Twitter: sigridellis

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  • http://fantasticfangirls.org Caroline

    Great review. You do an EXCELLENT job of describing stories in a way that talks about why they’re really interesting. . .

    I know I have a couple of volumes of FINDER in my house somewhere. I do!

  • erinreads

    I _sooo_ want to read this now!

    Unfortunately, your link to the Dark Horse website appears not to work :(

  • http://fantasticfangirls.org Caroline

    Erin, the link is working for me. . .could it be your browser?

  • Monica

    I started reading ‘Torch’ on the website, and I really enjoy McNeil’s art and characters. Luckily, my library has Finder: Voice, so I’ll get to read that very soon. Thanks for bringing this story to my attention!

  • Sigrid

    @Monica I’m so glad you’re reading McNeil’s work! I haven’t been following Torch, but I look forward to it –