It’s rare these days that I read a book as soon as it is published. I usually wait awhile, grab it from the library when I can, and go from there. However, when Jeff VanderMeer publishes a book, I will be first in line. And thankfully my library already had it on order and I was first in line to reserve it. I’ve read book the Southern Reach trilogy (fantastic) and the Ambergris trilogy (not so great), so I was curious to see where Borne fell within my judgements of his work, and wouldn’t you know, I’d say it is smack dab in the middle, maybe leaning a little closer to Southern Reach.
Rachel and Wick live in the Balcony Cliffs in a world that is governed by a giant flying bear named Mord. Yep, you read that right. However, when Mord sleeps, Rachel can climb on him and scavenge for things. And one day she found Borne. The size of her fist, appearing to be plantlike or some sort of anemone, she names him Borne because, although she didn’t give birth to him, he was “born” under her watch and care. And of course Borne doesn’t stay small. Rachel soon noticed that he’s growing quickly and never producing any kind of waste. Eventually Borne begins speaking and learning and their relationship is pushed to the limits. Wick doesn’t approve of Borne because he has no idea what Borne truly is (neither do we, but Rachel accepts him) and tensions arise.
There is a side story about the Company which is a, well, company that created Mord and assorted biotech. There is also a woman named the Magician who unofficially rules the lands where Rachel and Wick live. I promise this book is easy to follow; I’m just not good at explaining how crazy the world is.
Overall, I liked the book. It was compelling and you really get sucked into the world, even with its implausible giant bear. There are definitely remnants of Area X in this world, unintentional I’m sure. At one point, Rachel and Wick are traveling a long dark corridor and I kept wondering if some crazy language would be written on it, like in Annihilation. I feel like this world and Area X reside next to each other in alternate realities. I definitely recommend this book, especially because it’s just a stand alone book and well written, but if you really want his best work, go with the Southern Reach trilogy.