Anyone who has been to an Ikea knows that it is a lawless place that violates physics and exists in a purely liminal space between realities. One minute you’re in a perfect model apartment, organized into two hundred flawlessly neat square feet, and the next you’re buying cutlery with a Swedish name that makes the less mature among us giggle. Nino Cipro’s new novella, graciously given to me by Tor.com publishing, takes this concept on a literal level, to contain a twisty work that contains both fun and fear into a slim volume packed with good old fashioned anti-capitalism.
Ava and Jules are recent exes, still awkwardly working together at the same Swedish big-box store that is definitely NOT Ikea. Stuck in a dead-end job, they spend the day trying to awkwardly avoid each other, each caught in the things they said and did wrong, when one day an old lady goes missing at the store. As the two most junior employees, Ava and Jules are assigned to go look for her, discovering a corporate wormhole that literally brings them across universes.
As might be easily guessed by the description, Finna is an extremely funny book, a dark look at corporate culture and just how much we buy into the whole capitalism thing. It also is painfully true, as a millenial; I know so many friends who have taken shitty, dead-end jobs and then ended up stuck there, unable to see a way out. You quit and you can’t afford your rent. You stay at your job and you don’t have the energy to apply for anything new. What else are you supposed to do?
Though Ava and Jules float through only a few worlds in their quest to find the missing old lady, the creativity presented is boundless. There’s something of the furniture store in each one, but how that might show is different, from fly trap chairs to a submarine operating on a barter system. There are glimpses of the familiar; just enough to make everything utterly, delightfully stranger.
Perhaps my favorite part of Finna was the relationship between Ava and Jules. It felt raw and real, that longing when you still love someone but know that you make an absolutely horrible couple and you have to find a way to live without the person in your life. That they’re co-workers is a good layer of complication; it’s one thing to break up and then never see each other again, but another when you potentially have to see each other every day. Even as they travel through worlds, they’re trying to figure each other out, see if they can forge a future as just friends. No spoilers, but it’s heart-breaking and wonderful and all too real.
For all the wormholes traveled and all the alternate humanities presented, Finna is a very human, very real story. It can be read in one sitting, but takes longer to digest. It’s a must read for the upcoming months, so go ahead, curl up in a chair and prepare to be unable to put it down.