Monday, May 15, 2017

SciFi/Fantasy Book Review: Borne by Jeff Vandermeer

Long Review after the Jump:

Borne is, like Jeff Vandermeer's most recent novels (the Southern Reach Trilogy), a weird book.  Vandermeer excels telling stories of strange dystopian worlds that are very different from our own (even if they take place in possible futures) and describing these worlds in vivid detail.  Whereas the SR Trilogy had Area X, Borne features a destroyed City built around a "Company" building - a City now ruled in essence by a gigantic bear named Mord - really a giant piece of biotech gone awry.  Mord stumbles throughout the City, able to fly and able to spawn smaller bears who follow his orders, destroying seemingly without purpose.  The world itself has been devastated by global warming, and what little remains is heavily affected by biotech firms like the Company, which have since fell themselves.  Now, the remnants of the company's biotech is heavily trafficked and a major part of the world.

----------------------------------------------Plot Summary--------------------------------------------
Rachel is a woman who lives with a man named Wick, who was a former employee of the Company before it fell.  She survives the City by scavenging for parts and biotech that Wick can use/sell, and the two depend upon each other to defend against the other scavengers/leaders of the City.  Both have secrets - Rachel has missing gaps in her memory, while Wick did horrible things as a Company employee and still grieves for mysterious lost biotech projects.

But then, one day, Rachel finds Borne, a strange small cephalopod/scaly monster that may or may not be plant or animal.  She takes it home and against Wick's advise tries to raise it.....but Borne turns out to be a being unlike any other, capable of learning but also of great growth physically and of great hunger.  And disturbingly, Borne, who sometimes has the mind of a child, never excretes.  Anything.

Borne will wind up changing not just Rachel and Wick's lives, but the lives of everyone in the City, and force them to take action to move forward....if they can survive.

Whereas the Southern Reach Trilogy was kind of a horror story, Borne winds up not being such a story (although it feels like one at times).  This is a story of beings of different level of innocence, of power, of intellect, and their striving for purpose.  And Vandermeer writes it incredibly - Rachel and Borne are great characters (Wick is a bit less of one as he's a bit removed), and while the other characters aren't strong, it really works.

Again the fact that the primary antagonist (The Magician) is basically a non-entity to the point where I haven't mentioned her at all so far is a minor minor problem.  This Book really works, despite that.  So Highly recommended.

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