The Strange Bird—from New York Times bestselling novelist Jeff VanderMeer—is a novella-length digital original that expands and weaves deeply into the world of his “thorough marvel”* of a novel, Borne.
The Strange Bird is a new kind of creature, built in a laboratory—she is part bird, part human, part many other things. But now the lab in which she was created is under siege and the scientists have turned on their animal creations. Flying through tunnels, dodging bullets, and changing her colors and patterning to avoid capture, the Strange Bird manages to escape.
But she cannot just soar in peace above the earth. The sky itself is full of wildlife that rejects her as one of their own, and also full of technology—satellites and drones and other detritus of the human civilization below that has all but destroyed itself. And the farther she flies, the deeper she finds herself in the orbit of the Company, a collapsed biotech firm that has populated the world with experiments both failed and successful that have outlived the corporation itself: a pack of networked foxes, a giant predatory bear. But of the many creatures she encounters with whom she bears some kind of kinship, it is the humans—all of them now simply scrambling to survive—who are the most insidious, who still see her as simply something to possess, to capture, to trade, to exploit. Never to understand, never to welcome home.
With The Strange Bird, Jeff VanderMeer has done more than add another layer, a new chapter, to his celebrated novel Borne. He has created a whole new perspective on the world inhabited by Rachel and Wick, the Magician, Mord, and Borne—a view from above, of course, but also a view from deep inside the mind of a new kind of creature who will fight and suffer and live for the tenuous future of this world.
Praise for Borne
*“Jeff VanderMeer’s Southern Reach Trilogy was an ever-creeping map of the apocalypse; with Borne he continues his investigation into the malevolent grace of the world, and it's a thorough marvel.” —Colson Whitehead
“VanderMeer is that rare novelist who turns to nonhumans not to make them approximate us as much as possible but to make such approximation impossible. All of this is magnified a hundredfold in Borne . . . Here is the story about biotech that VanderMeer wants to tell, a vision of the nonhuman not as one fixed thing, one fixed destiny, but as either peaceful or catastrophic, by our side or out on a rampage as our behavior dictates—for these are our children, born of us and now to be borne in whatever shape or mess we have created. This coming-of-age story signals that eco-fiction has come of age as well: wilder, more reckless and more breathtaking than previously thought, a wager and a promise that what emerges from the twenty-first century will be as good as any from the twentieth, or the nineteenth.” —Wai Chee Dimock, The New York Times Book Review
Sticks the landing
The adversity you face in this short book ends up being completely worth it for the ending. I cried and cried it was so emotionally satisfying and completely beautiful. I have liked everything VanderMeer has written. The interesting thing with him is he’s not afraid to completely take a new direction with each book and this is no acception. Inventive. Horrific. Vivid. Open yourself up to the strange bird.
Shorter Work in the World of Borne
This novella takes place in the same post-apocalyptic world of Jeff Vandermeer‘s Novel “Borne” but tells an entirely separate story. This story is that of the Strange Bird, who is a form of biotech created for a purpose that it itself does not understand. It is set off on a mission across the blasted world, and it encounters the city that is further described in “Borne.” We meet some of the same characters that are in that novel, but this story stands alone. It is neither sequel nor prequel, although some events are seen through different points of view. After being helped by the foxes then later by Wick and Rachel, it sets off to complete its own purpose on a far shore.
This story further rounds out the post biotech future world Jeff Vandermeer began introducing us to in “Borne.” It is a grim but interesting place. Like “Borne” I think it is as much fantasy as sci-fi, since the biotech employed seems more fantastic than realistic. However, in Jeff Vandermeer’s “New Weird” works the nuts and bolts aren’t the focus, it is the feel and the story. The reader goes along for the ride.