Borne by Jeff VanderMeer
Published by MCD on April 25th, 2017
Genre: Science Fiction
“We all just want to be people, and none of us know what that really means.”
This was my introduction to VanderMeer’s work besides watching Annihilation on Netflix. I wouldn’t call myself the number one fan of science fiction, but I do enjoy reading it. But Borne is in a category of its own. I’ve never read anything quite like it.
Borne happens in a post-apocalyptic world. Rivers have been poisoned, genetically engineered creatures roam and even govern. People are barely getting by and are just trying to survive each day. Rachel is a scavenger and along with fellow survivor Wick, they are trying to outrun Mord: a large flying bear who destroys everything in its path. While scavenging one day, Rachel finds a strange creature embedded in Mord’s fur. She names this being that looks like a plant Borne. But who is Borne and what is its purpose?
It was really difficult to rate this book because on the one hand I absolutely loved it. VanderMeer’s writing is engaging, but it’s also very difficult. This isn’t a book you can read casually and expect to finish in a day. It takes a lot of effort just to make sure that you understand exactly what VanderMeer is trying to say.
I love that VanderMeer trusts that his readers will follow him down the rabbit hole. He doesn’t dumb anything down and he expects you to fill in the blanks.
All the effort to read the book pays off because the world building in this book is fantastic. You feel like you can picture exactly what the post-apocalyptic world looks like. You can smell the stench and you can feel how eerie it is to live in a world where a giant bear flies around. It’s frightening, sad, and very vivid.
This is the kind of book that everyone either loves or hates. I definitely loved how gloriously bizarre the story is, but I was a bit put off by the pacing. And I know others won’t want to keep reading to figure out how all the puzzles pieces fit together.
At times, it felt like the story dragged along and VanderMeer was giving us way too many random details that didn’t matter. And I still have quite a few questions about certain plot points.
But ultimately, I chose to gave it 4 out of 5 bubble teas because of how unique the story is. It’s been awhile since I’ve read a good sci-fi book. Especially one that asks the readers to consider how comfortable we are meddling in the natural world with genetic engineering.
If you’re a huge fan of sci-fi and haven’t read VanderMeer’s work yet, I’d definitely recommend you check it out!