Finna by Nino Cipri
Finding an elderly grandmother who’s lost in a furniture store should be easy, right? Well, maybe not if the furniture is actually alive and capitalism itself is out to get you. Nino Cipri’s Finna is a punchy, romantically adventurous, queer novella designed to poke fun at the boredoms of everyday life. This 2020 work wastes no time pushing the reader, quite literally, into another dimension, as this science fiction-fantasy work never pauses for a break. Ripe with the tender emotions of heartbreak and youth, Cipri left me wanting more of this world, tacky furniture included.
This novel’s core lies in the dark heart of LitenVärld, a clone of our ever-popular Ikea stores. It’s in this labyrinth of boxed tables and matching dining room sets that we meet our two employees and eventual part-time time travelers, Ava and Jules. Coming right off a bad break-up with one another, these characters are introduced to us at their lowest points. Ava, our narrator, is guarded, bitter from the winter cold and loneliness of being newly single. Whereas Jules seems more concerned with avoiding customers who misgender them than dealing with their emotions. This tension is only made more confusing by their LitenVärld suddenly becoming home to an inter-dimensional rift. Of course, our scorned lovers find themselves thrust into the rift, and forced to embark on a quest. Cipri sets the couple up against unsurmountable odds, as they navigate through dimensions with nothing other than an image of a missing old lady and a piece of clunky tech from the 1980s, called a Finna machine, to guide them.
As the duo follow the Finna’s lead, they find themselves on quite the journey. Cipri takes us along to dimensions filled with animalistic furniture hybrids, clone-like LitenVärld workers, and steam-punk ocean markets. These adventures are marked with wonderfully vivid language, such as our introduction to deadly furniture: “They were bright green wingbacks with purple-red accents, and their fuzzy fabric looked plush and inviting. As Ava got closer, she realized that the chair was covered in gossamer-thin hairs that stood on end, as if at attention.”
Every location is more exciting, and weirder, than its predecessor. It’s in these wonderful places that Ava and Jules find each other as people again. These locations also harken back to a more traditional sense of science fiction, leaving avid fans feeling satisfied. The character arc of these two starts within a common trope of being heartbroken while young, but it ends in a refreshing development. Dependent fully on each other in the multiverse, they learn to play to the other’s strengths rather than doubt their weaknesses. Cipri writes, “Could [Ava], just this once, trust Jules to know what they were capable of?” Even though they began the day as minimum wage employees, Ava and Jules conquer the odds in battle and escape near death a handful of times. This draws the pair closer, as even in moments of distress, trust proves to be the solution to their perils and relationship.
No quest would be complete without a villain, and Cipri’s fictional LitenVärld is a wonderful one. From the sociopathic manager Tricia to the outdated training video on VHS entitled “Wormholes and You,” LitenVärld is a monolith for any big-box retail store. At the heart of this story is Cipri’s cry for action against capitalistic mistreatment of employees. As cogs in the LitenVärld machine, Ava and Jules are faced with the choice between a near-death task and losing their job.
This short work is delightfully fun. Cipri’s writing feels honest, almost simplistic, at times, which draws us in and leaves us wanting more from these characters. In queering the science fiction narrative standard, they take control of the concept that there is any one form of body suitable for adventure. Cipri, identifying as queer and non-binary themselves, does a seamless job of integrating modern social realities into a timeless world of possibility.
SIERRA BIGGS is a second-year M.A. student in Florida State University's Literature, Media, and Culture program. Her work focuses on the History of Text Technology and Children’s Literature. She completed her B.A. in Literature at FSU. She enjoys teaching and chatting about books outside of the classroom.