Jeff Vandermeer’s Borne Review

Jeff Vandermeer is the front runner of a speculative fiction sub-genre which people are calling “New Weird”. Now, this is my first experience with any of Vandermeer’s work other than the film adaption of his book Annihilation, which I loved. (I plan on reading the trilogy soon.)

Borne tells the story of a young woman named Rachel that lives in a ravaged world full of failed experiments in the form of living creatures and sometimes even people. The Company has long since vanished from The City, but evidence of its influence on the area run rampant.

Bio-enhanced children run feral through the streets, drugs in the form of beetles can grant new memories or open a gateway to someone else’s memories, and a gigantic bear named Mord patrols the skies of The City gobbling up anything in his path.

!!!SPOILER ALERT!!!

One day while Rachel is out scavenging for supplies for her partner Wick, she decides to climb up onto the back of Mord. The sleeping Mord is somewhat of a hot-spot for scavengers in The City due to all of the junk that gets collected throughout his dense fur.

On this day, Rachel finds an interesting life form stuck in the hair of Mord. At first, she describes it as a blob with sea anemone-like features, but he quickly grows and changes. This is Borne.

The rest of the book describes the mother/son relationship between Rachel and Borne as she introduces him to the world around them. While this is happening, Wick grows more and more cautious of Borne due to so many unanswered questions surrounding the organism. Where did it come from? Is it another Company experiment? Is it a weapon?

All the while, Mord roams The City’s skies and another adversary called The Magician controls the streets. Rachel must make the motherly choice of how to approach the situation of Borne and her partner/lover Wick before either Mord or The Magician, or worse, both destroy them and their home.

The Good:

  • I loved this book. For having a premise that is so weird and out there it is an addictive read. It is told in sort of diary-like entries where Rachel starts each “chapter” with questions or statements like “How Borne Let Me Know He Needed Privacy” or “What Happened When I Went Outside Again”.
  • The strong point here for me is the way Rachel and Borne’s relationship is handled. It is very clear she holds a bond for the organism, but must wrestle with the doubt that Wick has and if it is warranted.
  • Another thing I loved about the book is the sense of mystery to what Borne is, what exactly The Company is or does, and who The Magician is. I loved it.

The “Meh”:

  • Now, I don’t necessarily think there was anything bad about this book, but there were some things or resolutions that I expected to hit harder.
  • We don’t really find out who The Magician is, which I’m fine with, but I was a tiny bit let down by her death. The setting was cool, with a weird portal door type thing that seems to be the way that The Company has transported all of these creatures to The City, but the reader never really finds out what it is or what is on the other side.

The Final Thought:

  • 8.5/10
  • With all of that being said, I loved Jeff Vandermeer’s Borne and I have already started reading Dead Astronauts which takes place in the same universe and may give some answers to the above resolutions that I wasn’t exactly crazy about.

I highly recommend this book to any lover of sci-fi or if you just love weird premises in books. It is an easy read in my opinion!

HUGE shoutout to the Media Death Cult!

This is a science fiction Youtube channel and community that has recently gotten me back heavily into reading. I hope to be doing a lot more book reviews soon and hopefully completing work on my own stories!

Thanks for reading!

Published by Jacob Fite

My name is Jacob, I'm 30 years old and currently serving in the USAF. Born in Sheridan, Arkansas, USA. I love writing poetry and stories. My first completed story, The Drip can be found here on my blog.

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