Jeff VanderMeer's Borne is an astonishingly beautiful book about relationships, survival, and attachment in a world racked by climate change and flooded with refugees. Set in a ruined, post-apocalyptic city which has been decimated by the “Company” and its biotech creations, it's one of the most moving and intensely human books I've read this year. It also includes a gigantic, lethal flying bear named Mord. As he demonstrated in his earlier work, VanderMeer is remarkable at crossing genre lines to create gorgeously literary speculative fiction, or surreally beautiful sci-fi. Recommended By Jill O., Powells.com
Relations between technology and humans are tackled in a bizarre and post-apocalyptic world in Jeff VanderMeer's Borne. Readers familiar with VanderMeer's unique psychedelic style will find a familiar sense of awe in the intricacy of his newly imagined world. To those unfamiliar with VanderMeer, Borne is a great and gruesome introduction. All readers will finish this sci-fi novel mystified and hungry for more. Recommended By Alex Y., Powells.com
Jeff VanderMeer has blown my socks off in the past with stories that expand sci-fi into brave new biological realms while challenging our stuffy notions about utopias and dystopias. With Borne he's outdone himself, throwing us into a place as utterly bizarre as it is convincing. A giant bear floats in the sky and is worshiped by some as a god; the mysterious and menacing specter of the Company looms; and a scavenger finds and adopts a strange sentient blob that learns to talk. Beneath all of these threads is a story that is as old as time: the love between mother and child. It's just that this time the child may or may not be a bioweapon that could change life as we know it. Recommended By Cosima C., Powells.com
Borne has all of the lush savagery of VanderMeer's excellent Southern Reach trilogy, but with an added humanity and optimism that kept me rapt during the novel's more brutal and stranger moments. VanderMeer is gifted at creating unique biological environments, populated by creatures and plants that both reflect the human condition and express abilities and knowledge far beyond human limitations. It is in such a place, a ruined, perilous city, that a scavenger named Rachel meets a "child" named Borne. Their relationship is at the heart of this absorbing novel, which is ultimately about how to define personhood in a post-human world. Recommended By Rhianna W., Powells.com
This rollicking good read about a wrecked city haunted by a flying bear and a mysterious blob named Borne is richly imaginative. Dystopian, post-apocalyptic environmental fiction seems to be the genre of the year so far, and Jeff VanderMeer is superlative in that class. What surprised me about Borne was how poignantly VanderMeer addresses topics like parenthood and loyalty in a book about anarchic society. Two thumbs up! Recommended By Mary S., Powells.com
Synopses & Reviews
Named one of the most anticipated books of 2017 by The New York Times, The Huffington Post, Book Riot, Chicago Reader, The Week, and Publishers Weekly.
"Am I a person?" Borne asked me.
"Yes, you are a person," I told him. "But like a person, you can be a weapon, too."
In Borne, a young woman named Rachel survives as a scavenger in a ruined city half destroyed by drought and conflict. The city is dangerous, littered with discarded experiments from the Company — a biotech firm now derelict — and punished by the unpredictable predations of a giant bear. Rachel ekes out an existence in the shelter of a run-down sanctuary she shares with her partner, Wick, who deals his own homegrown psychoactive biotech.
One day, Rachel finds Borne during a scavenging mission and takes him home. Borne as salvage is little more than a green lump — plant or animal? — but exudes a strange charisma. Borne reminds Rachel of the marine life from the island nation of her birth, now lost to rising seas. There is an attachment she resents: in this world any weakness can kill you. Yet, against her instincts — and definitely against Wick’s wishes — Rachel keeps Borne. She cannot help herself. Borne, learning to speak, learning about the world, is fun to be with, and in a world so broken that innocence is a precious thing. For Borne makes Rachel see beauty in the desolation around her. She begins to feel a protectiveness she can ill afford.
"He was born, but I had borne him."
But as Borne grows, he begins to threaten the balance of power in the city and to put the security of her sanctuary with Wick at risk. For the Company, it seems, may not be truly dead, and new enemies are creeping in. What Borne will lay bare to Rachel as he changes is how precarious her existence has been, and how dependent on subterfuge and secrets. In the aftermath, nothing may ever be the same.
"VanderMeer, author of the acclaimed Southern Reach trilogy, has made a career out of eluding genre classifications, and with Borne he essentially invents a new one... Reading like a dispatch from a world lodged somewhere between science fiction, myth, and a video game, the textures of Borne shift as freely as those of the titular whatsit. What’s even more remarkable is the reservoirs of feeling that VanderMeer is able to tap into... resulting in something more than just weird fiction: weird literature." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review)
"Supremely literary, distinctly unusual... VanderMeer’s deep talent for worldbuilding takes him into realms more reminiscent of Cormac McCarthy's The Road than of the Shire. Superb." Kirkus Reviews (Starred Review)
"VanderMeer offers another conceptual cautionary tale of corporate greed, scientific hubris, and precarious survival... VanderMeer marries bildungsroman, domestic drama, love story, and survival thriller into one compelling, intelligent story centered not around the gee-whiz novelty of a flying bear but around complex, vulnerable characters struggling with what it means to be a person. VanderMeer's talent for immersive world-building and stunning imagery is on display in this weird, challenging, but always heartfelt novel." Krista Hutley, Booklist (Starred Review)
"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
About the Author
Jeff VanderMeer on PowellsBooks.Blog
You have to trust your subconscious when it tells you that a flying bear makes sense and that things will accrete around that. What I realized with this book, as opposed to the Southern Reach, is that the Southern Reach has an accretion of detail in a totally different way...