Borne by Jeff VanderMeer

July 10, 2017
Borne by Jeff VanderMeerBorne by Jeff VanderMeer
Published by Harper Collins on June 15th 2017
Genres: Fantasy, Science Fiction
Pages: 336
Format: eARC
Source: Publisher

Thanks to Harper Collins for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

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Before even starting to review Borne just let me ask you to take a look at the cover I’ve chosen.  It’s strangely hypnotic isn’t it, you want to look at it, to make sense of it, just turn it around slightly or turn it upside down even. I suppose there’s something in us all that makes us want to find the sense of something, figure out the puzzle and give it a name we understand.  Frankly, I couldn’t make sense of the image on the cover and having read the book I’m still not entirely sure what is being depicted, but, in spite of that, I love the cover, it drew me in and held my attention and more than that is a great representation for this book because I don’t think there is any one fixed image – for me, the point is the image could be anything that your mind comes up with whilst reading this.

I was compelled by this read.  I was partly scared to pick it up because I always make the assumption that I’m not going to fully grasp what’s actually going on, but, as I was reading I began to appreciate that it doesn’t really matter – I will take what I will from this book and so will you, we might discuss it and open each others eyes to more possibilities, open up new avenues, but even without that I can say that I really loved this book.  It’s a crazy story, filled with strange visions, I won’t deny they’re difficult to pin down at first, the notion of a gigantic bear that flies through the sky and rampages around the place destroying and killing, not to mention then having little mini me versions of the bear in the form of proxy bears – I can just imagine you all shaking your heads right now and saying ‘what?’ – but, it just works.

Basically, and I’m not going to elaborate much on the plot to be honest, this has a feel of a post apocalyptic world – and yet at the same time that might not be entirely the case as the world here also feels quite unique, certainly highly developed and yet at the same time ruined.  Experiments in biotech seemed to have gone terribly wrong at some point and that coupled with the planet meeting ecological disaster have spawned a very difficult world in which to live.  Rachel is the main character in the book, as the story commences she finds a piece of biotech when hunting for salvage and for some strange reason it calls out to her – hidden amongst the fur of the great bear (Mord).  Rachel takes this piece of’ I don’t know what’ home, well, back to her boyfriend initially who she usually gives up all her finds to so that he can salvage what he will – but this time is different, she doesn’t want to give this find up.  She eventually takes it home and gives it a name – Borne.  Probably a name that is significant and poignant in equal measure

I really don’t want to give much away about this book – for me, it’s a story of finding identity -which seems like a very pedestrian description amongst such strange comings and goings but having really thought about it that’s the route I’m going down.

The writing is excellent.  VanderMeer does not take the easy route with anything and yet even in writing about such unusual topics he grips you.  Then there are the characters, not many to be sure, but you find yourself drawn to them – even the  rather odd Borne.  There is this great parent/child relationship going on here between Borne and Rachel – a questioning and questing for knowledge that is amusing to read about even at the same time that you’re wondering at the back of your mind which route this is going to go down and then an almost coming of age feel.  Borne himself in fact questions his own identity and what is his purpose and that in turn helps to sow doubt.

I’m actually not going to say much more – I think this is a very compelling read – I loved it.  There’s so much going on here, Little Shop of Horrors as written by Lewis Carroll whilst living in an alternative universe where gigantic bears fly in the sky.  It sounds bizarre.  It is bizarre. It’s bizarrely good and I love that VanderMeer just writes a story with such a unique feel – one that actually pushes your boundaries.  He doesn’t take the easy route and yet even in saying that – this isn’t difficult.  It’s a good story, you want to get to the bottom of it and as strange an environment as it may be it is gripping.

This is a difficult book to recommend in some ways, it’s a little bit surreal, it’s unusual and initially you have to get over your resistance to this not being quite the norm, so I don’t know if you’ll like it or not.  But, if you want to be tested a little bit with a story that is undoubtedly unique, a mystery, a twist in the tale and some excellent writing then I think you should give it a shot.  This is s little bit of a step out of character for me but I’ve found that I’ve thrown off my reading comfort blanket recently in order to embrace different books and I’ve definitely not been disappointed.


Lynn Williams
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