Oh, there’s always been something a bit sus about that certain Swedish furniture store, hasn’t there? Just a little? About how once you go in, there’s no telling how long it’ll take you to get back out again. Whether or not it’s a new throw rug or some nice meatballs, there’s always something that keeps on trying to draw you away from the exit
It’s this feeling that made me pick Finna first out of all the Hugo-nominated novellas to read, as the premise of this story runs in that kind of vein: huge maze-like retail stores are very easy to get lost in—perhaps by design—when you are dealing with the normal parameters of space-time. But much like the university library in Discworld, there’s a certain sense that places like this could warp the world around them, leaving the normal parameters of space-time behind. No doubt this would cause issues with shoppers, which in turn is going to cause drama with management
In Finna, it turns out management and corporate are well aware, even if the casual floor staff are not. The moment her grandaughter’s back is turned, a little old lady goes for a bit of a wander in a LitenVärld store and simply vanishes in thin air. The first store person the granddaughter turns to is Ava, who really didn’t want to be on the job that day at all. Recovering from a recent break-up with a co-worker, Ava would have much prefered to spend her day moping on the couch rather than chasing up errant little old Nanas. But thanks to stupid Derek, this little old lady becomes her problem to deal with.
Things take a turn for the bizarre when her manager, Tricia, shuffles most of the floor staff together for an emergency meeting. Turns out, LitenVärld has been dealing with “maskhåls,” or wormholes for quite some time now, and even have training videos prepared should such phenomena reach a particular store. They also have a FINNA – a device that allows you to track missing persons through these wormholes if the need arises. The very first person assigned to the FINNA is Jules—Ava’s recently minted ex. And wouldn’t luck have it, Ava is assigned to team up with them to track down their missing customer.
The premise of the story is very entertaining and was obviously written by someone with a strong dislike of working in retail. Sure, LitenVärld’s parent company has the FINNA, which should be capable of recovering missing persons; pity they laid-off the specialised staff that knew how to use the device. Store management then proceeds to tell the staff about the wormholes only after one of them has caused problems, and not any time before. And when they do have a crisis on their hands, they assign the most junior staff members to deal with the problem.
What I feel was less well served though was the different worlds found beyond the wormholes and Ava and Jules relationship. The novella is very much on the short side, and I think this does constrain the story somewhat. The former was particularly frustrating for me, as this kind of thing is right down my ally, and I would have killed for more detail. Personally, the new worlds are what make portal fantasies fun! And as for Ava and Jules relationship, I understood how they got frustrated with each other and broke it off, but I was still not 100% sold on why they were attracted to each other in the first place.
There is a sequel apparently, and I’ll be looking to pick it up, as I’m hoping that some things will be expanded on there. But as for Finna itself, I think the length of the novella doesn’t give it sufficient room to breathe.
But it’s still a cool premise though, and Nico Cipri puts a lot of humour behind it. And after dwelling on it for a bit, I’ve been trying to think of other stores and how they could shape reality in odd and interesting ways.
What kind of worlds could you find yourself in if you tripped in a Bunnings, for example?
For bingo, Finna is going under They/She/He. Both the author and Jules are Trans/nonbinary.