FINDERS KEEPERS by Russ Colchamiro
3 Finger Prints, 2010, 301 pages, 978-0-9794801-4-0, Trade Paperback, $13.99
For those looking to be engaged in an action-packed, non-stop science fiction story where the twists and turns keep on coming, this is probably not the best choice for you. Finders Keepers is a novel about characters, their journeys, and their moments of impact, not about crazy, thrilling adventures. However, for anyone seeking a warm, light comedy that plays with science fiction elements and features a truly compelling cast of characters, consider picking it up. You’ll be surprised how quickly Finders Keepers moves you, and how invested you become in its protagonists. Overall, reading it is bittersweet; it’s not entirely satisfying, but it is endearing.
As a comedy, the novel is enjoyable. Written in a style similar to that of Adams or Moore, the humor is never loud or blatant. Instead, it is subtle and light, created more through the nature of the characters than anything else. This is particularly true of Jason and Lex, who offer much of their comedy through internal monologue and whitty quips, respectively.
Colchamiro’s writing shines the most through his characters. With a somewhat shallow narrative, it’s this zany band of people who come together and drive the story forward. The book is about them and the crazy twists of fate that unite them. In fact, the overarching conflict of the novel seems more like a delightful plot device to set them out on their journeys while we sit back and watch. That being said, they’re so lovable that reading about them is a treat. The main protagonist in the ensemble, Jason Medley, is a not-so-confident young man caught up in the confusion of the future. With his luck constantly turning sour, it seems as though the universe itself is fighting against him. Even so, he’s determined to finally start living his life, and his underdog personality is one that you can’t help but root for. Each of the other characters, from Kiwis to drag queens to stoner marine animals, brings something entertaining to the table.
The only weak links in the cast, surprisingly enough, are Danielle and Donald, the two characters who set the story in motion. Perhaps it’s because we see them the least in the novel, or, perhaps, because their characters are less developed than others. Regardless of the reason, the book likely wouldn’t lose much without their story beyond the fact that they’re the catalysts for the action. Besides this, the killing stroke for Danielle’s character is her speech—the fact that she speaks in an ebonics style of slang. I didn’t dislike it because it came off as crude or harsh, but because it felt entirely out of place in the world of Eternity.
Rather than using Eternity as an aspect of time, Colchamiro turns it into a tangible dimension–a physical realm home to the Eternitarians, the manufacturers of the universe. It’s a place that runs in an infinite loop, circling back in on itsef, where time can go backwards, forwards, sideways, or in any other number of contortions. It’s a fresh, interesting new take for a science fiction setting, yet the cars, beautiful lakes, and apartment sky rises make it familiar.
While the characters are enjoyable to follow, and Eternity is an intriguing place to explore, there seems to be one inescapable flaw in the novel’s story—there isn’t much conflict. The situation as we know it that a CBM jar—a jar holding the cosmic material used to create the universe—has gone missing and has landed on the planet Earth. This is a serious no-no for the employees of Eternity who lost the jar, Donald and Danielle. Theo Barnes, a young New Zealander, has found the jar, and he embarks on a journey to find out just what it is. As he does, Emma and her talking dog-pal Lex, who are banished Eternitarians, are looking for the jar as a means to get back home. All the while, the entire galaxy is in danger of destruction simply because the jar is on Earth.
But while all that certainly seems like a fantastic premise, there’s no conflict. There are no opposing desires, and nothing really seems at stake. Emma is initially set up as an antagonist, yet we find that she’s anything but. Emma and Lex want the jar, Theo wants to find out what it is, Donald and Danielle need to return the jar, and somebody needs to get the damn thing off the planet. So then…why doesn’t Theo just give Emma the jar? Where is the problem? All of the characters have a unique desire, but those desires all seem to coincide with each other, so there’s never any tension. The only issue seems to be that Theo is searching for the wrong person, and if that were resolved, everyone’s problem could be easily solved.
But as I said before, this isn’t a huge problem. This novel isn’t intended as an epic space odyssey, and it isn’t about a grand cosmic confrontation. It’s about people. It’s about their stories and where their individual journeys take them. And while their resolutions aren’t exactly what we’re expecting, or even what we want, they’re entirely fitting. All in all, Finders Keepers is a fun, enjoyable read that’s definitely worth a weekend afternoon.
Thank you to Russ Colchamiro for providing a review copy of this novel.