Borne by Jeff VanderMeer

What a fantastic, mind-bending story this is. I don't know whether to call it science fiction, fantasy, fairy tale, a combination of all three, or something new entirely. Around page 30 I wondered if it might be too weird and wasn't sure I liked it enough to continue. I tried a bit more, and the next time I remembered that thought I was on page six hundred and something. I was mesmerized. (It isn't actually that long - small e-reader pages). 

It begins with Rachel, a scavenger living in the ruins of a city destroyed by climate change, finding an unusual thing in an unusual place. Are you ready for this? She's combing through the thick golden hair of a gigantic flying bear called Mord. Mord is bio-tech, possibly human at one time, serveral stories tall and given to flying over the city killing and destroying at will. Rachel waits till he's asleep and quietly picks through the odds and ends of debris he picks up in his destructive rages through town. She finds usable things to take back to Wick, her partner/lover, a drug dealer who makes tiny beetles that placed in the ear, can help you forget bad memories or imagine good ones. And if you think that's weird, hang on. 

On this particular day of scavenging, Rachel finds something unlike anything she's seen before. She describes it like this:

"a hybrid of sea anemone and squid: a sleek vase with rippling colours that strayed from purple toward deep blues and sea greens. Four vertical ridges slid up the sides of its warm and pulsating skin. The texture was as smooth as waterworn stone, if a bit rubbery. It smelled of beach reeds on a lazy summer afternoons and, beneath the sea salt, of passionflowers. Much later, I realized it would have smelled different to someone else, might even have appeared in a different form."

Not sure if it's plant, animal, or something else, she takes it home to nurture as if it were a child. Wick is not enthusiastic - the city is a dangerous place, no living thing should be trusted, especially an unknown thing - and when it begins to grow, and walk, and talk he wants it gone. But Rachel by then has adopted it, even feels love toward it, and can't let it go. 

In the background of all this is The Company, the bio-tech people responsible for unleashing Mord on the stricken city. Other results of their experiments roam the streets creating havoc for the few remaining humans trying to survive there. 

There's far more to the story than what I've covered. More articulate reviewers have done a better job of explaining it:

As I read over what I've written it sounds totally ridiculous, but it's not. It's incredible. The characters and the setting are so real you are there with them. You feel their vulnerability, their fear, an eerieness that keeps you on the edge of your seat. Even the "thing", which she calls Borne, is relatable. It's cute when it's small and later admirable in it's protection of Rachel, even when you begin to understand its true nature.    

This is a dystopian, bio-tech bad dream, sweet and terrifying and unlike anything I've ever read. Well written. Unimaginably imaginative. Amazing.


shelleyrae @ book'd out said...

Probably a little too outside my comfort zone, but thanks for sharing your thoughts

Dianne said...

I get that, Shelleyrae. We all have our comfort zones. Thanks so much for stopping by.

Post a Comment