07 May 2017

Review: Borne

Borne Borne by Jeff VanderMeer
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I had some electrical work done on my house today, and I've had Borne sitting on my desk/end table/work bag since it came out, so a morning without electric power seemed like a perfect time to settle in with a book about sentient bioengineered amoebas and flying bears. Jeff VanderMeer is perfect for things like this, where the surreal seems so commonplace and the unsettling so typical, and Borne is maybe the best effort surrounding it that I've read from VanderMeer so far - and that's speaking as someone who thinks Area X is one of those pinnacle reads.

The story concerns Rachel and a... thing she finds and names Borne. Borne sort of resembles a sea anemone, or something, but it eats and feeds and grows and eventually talks and learns and what have you. In Rachel's world, a post-climate change post-corporate wasteland, Borne might have been bioengineered or worse, but Borne and Rachel form a bond of sorts. Rachel's friend, however, is a little more skeptical, and there's just a lot of mystery surrounding the whole situation of their area. Oh, and flying bioengineered bears. That wasn't a joke.

It's hard to describe books by Jeff VanderMeer and make them sound serious or, if you're not one to stretch your literary wings, even all that compelling. But Borne, while having a steady and deliberate ecological strain flowing underneath it, is really a story about relationships and trusts. The relationship between Rachel and Borne mirrors a lot of what one might expect in readily-identifiable ones, and the situations of trust and of coping with the reality that's in front of you is stronger here than what I've read in more traditional reads. It's just really brilliant.

I didn't expect to read this all in one, powerless sitting, but I did. The prose is so compelling, the story so solid even in spite of a lot of absurdity on the surface, that it was very hard to put down once I was fully immersed. I knew I'd like this a lot, but love was something I didn't see coming. Give this one a shot, especially if you still haven't jumped on the VanderMeer bandwagon.

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