Named one of the best books of 2017 by The Los Angeles Times, The Boston Globe, PopSugar, Financial Times, Chicago Review of Books, Huffington Post, San Francisco Chronicle, Thrillist, Book Riot, National Post (Canada), Kirkus and Publishers Weekly
From the author of the Southern Reach Trilogy comes Jeff VanderMeer's Borne, a story about two humans and two creatures.
“Am I a person?” Borne asked me.
“Yes, you are a person,” I told him. “But like a person, you can be a weapon, too.”
In Borne, a young woman named Rachel survives as a scavenger in a ruined city half destroyed by drought and conflict. The city is dangerous, littered with discarded experiments from the Company—a biotech firm now derelict—and punished by the unpredictable predations of a giant bear. Rachel ekes out an existence in the shelter of a run-down sanctuary she shares with her partner, Wick, who deals his own homegrown psychoactive biotech.
One day, Rachel finds Borne during a scavenging mission and takes him home. Borne as salvage is little more than a green lump—plant or animal?—but exudes a strange charisma. Borne reminds Rachel of the marine life from the island nation of her birth, now lost to rising seas. There is an attachment she resents: in this world any weakness can kill you. Yet, against her instincts—and definitely against Wick’s wishes—Rachel keeps Borne. She cannot help herself. Borne, learning to speak, learning about the world, is fun to be with, and in a world so broken that innocence is a precious thing. For Borne makes Rachel see beauty in the desolation around her. She begins to feel a protectiveness she can ill afford.
“He was born, but I had borne him.”
But as Borne grows, he begins to threaten the balance of power in the city and to put the security of her sanctuary with Wick at risk. For the Company, it seems, may not be truly dead, and new enemies are creeping in. What Borne will lay bare to Rachel as he changes is how precarious her existence has been, and how dependent on subterfuge and secrets. In the aftermath, nothing may ever be the same.
APPLE BOOKS REVIEW
In a blasted future of bio-engineered monsters and rabid human violence, a scavenger named Rachel meets a blob-like creature who can transform from a giant inverted squid to a pancake-like security blanket and everything in between. It will come as no surprise to his fans that Jeff VanderMeer’s novel is deliriously weird, playful, and unsettling. Borne keeps alive the notion that the best sidekicks—hi, Chewbacca—may not be human, but they remind us that we're decidedly so.
VanderMeer, author of the acclaimed Southern Reach trilogy, has made a career out of eluding genre classifications, and with Borne he essentially invents a new one. In a future strewn with the cast-off experiments of an industrial laboratory known only as the Company, a scavenger named Rachel survives alongside her lover, Wick, a dealer of memory-altering beetles, with whom she takes shelter from the periodic ravages of a giant mutant bear named Mord. One day, caught in Mord's fur, Rachel finds the bizarre, shape-shifting creature "like a hybrid of sea anemone and squid" she calls Borne. Rachel adopts Borne and takes on its education over Wick's objections. But Borne proves a precocious student, experiencing more and more complex transformations, testing Rachel's loyalty as it undertakes a personal mission that threatens Rachel and Wick's fragile existence even as it brings painful truths to the surface truths like Wick's mysterious past with the Company, the identity of the mercurial rival he calls the Magician, the origin of the feral children who roam the wasteland, and even the circumstances of Rachel's own interrupted childhood. Reading like a dispatch from a world lodged somewhere between science fiction, myth, and a video game, the textures of Borne shift as freely as those of the titular whatsit. What's even more remarkable is the reservoirs of feeling that VanderMeer is able to tap into throughout Rachel and Wick's postapocalyptic journey into the Company's warped ruins, resulting in something more than just weird fiction: weird literature.
An Adventure in the Aftermath of the Biotech Apocalypse
In "Borne" Jeff Vandermeer asks the question, "What does it mean to be a person?" The setting for this inquiry is a post-apocalyptic hellscape of a unnamed city which is overrun by biotech produced by the "The Company." Survivors inhabit the ruins and try to avoid being eaten or just killed by a giant flying bear called Mord, or his proxies, which were some of the last creations of The Company.
Our protagonists are Wick, a former Company biotech creator, and Rachel, a scavenger with a traumatic past. One day Rachel finds a very advanced and unique biotech organism she calls Borne. She decides to raise this organism, first like a pet, then when it shows intelligence, like a child. Little does any of them know of Borne's full abilities and purpose.
The world created by Vandermeer is very bleak, but is not without hope. It is very different from most post apocalyptic tales in that society seems to have fallen apart from many smaller events than one large one. After reading it, I am still not sure if this book is more science fiction or fantasy. Although it explains its creations as biotech, they are so advanced as to be indistinguishable from magic. There are little trappings of science fiction added to support these. Wick for example does not have a laboratory he works in, instead he grows his organisms in an abandoned swimming pool that seems more like a witch's cauldron than a science fictional setting. Some of the scenes and settings seem more dreamlike than realistic, in this way it is like his Southern Reach Trilogy. It certainly supports Jeff Vandermere's reputation as a master of the "New Weird" and that his works can be classified as "Squid-Punk."
Regardless of how it is classified, "Borne" is a gripping novel. It has complex and flawed characters who have relationships that are not what you expect. It is also a self-contained story, which is refreshing in a genre filled with endless series. I read it in record time, as I couldn't wait to find out what would happen next.
Different but enjoyable and interesting
I really liked this book. It had a lot of very unique features and twists. I will definitely read more of this authors writing.
So glad it wasn’t a run of the mill apocalyptic storyline.
Very colorful world and themes. I recommend it!
Strange, weird and wonderful.