Author(s): Jeff Vandermeer
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Original Release Date: April 25th 2017
Widely-known for his Southern Reach trilogy (including Annihilation, Authority and Acceptance), Jeff Vandermeer is an author that I have been meaning to check out for quite some time and Borne has ended up being my entry point to what is surely to be an author that I just can’t neglect anymore.
Jeff Vandermeer’s latest novel is nothing like I have ever read before. It is a self-contained piece of literature that envelops your brain and stimulates your imagination in the most stunning way. Set in a nameless city, Rachel is a scavenger who lives in a subterranean sanctuary called the Balcony Cliffs with her partner Wick, a drug dealer who sells tiny creatures that can be put in the ear or swallowed in order to live memories of happier days.
One day, Rachel stumbles upon a creature that looks like a cross between a sea anemone and a squid. It is the moment that she makes the decision of bringing it to her hideout and to call it Borne that her life had forever changed within this post-apocalyptic universe where hope seemed like a bleak and impossible promise. With biotech creatures roaming the streets freely, there is nothing too far-fetched to exist within this world and making Borne a stunning and mythical adventure.
Alongside a giant flying bear called Mord floating around and being seen almost like a God to many and a Magician who conquers territories and uses tricks that are yet to be understood, Borne is however the highlight of this novel and whose existence will be seared into your memories forever. In fact, Borne is a special creature who reminds me of a shape-shifting liquid metal. To be honest, I even saw it as some kind of mimetic polyalloy; think Terminator. The difference however lies in his innocent and cute air as he learns about the Balcony Cliffs and the “not good” world in which it lives.
One of the best thing about this stand-alone story is Borne. This blob creature and its neon colours always puts up a show whenever he is graces the pages of this book. Its quirkiness stands out like a sore thumb and enlightens the atmosphere like no other character has ever done before. When he is first introduced, it is quickly treated like a plant. Taken care of its basic needs only for Rachel to learn over time that it isn’t anything as simple as a plant, her relationship to Borne quickly evolves into a mother-child bond offering us an exhaustive look at the motherhood cycle that every mother goes through with their child.
Besides this beautiful and accelerated look at growth and everything that defines maternal love, Borne is also a novel that dives deep into the concept of humanity. Throughout the story there is a whole discussion of what it is to be human and where humans are placed in the hierarchy of all living thing. It is in fact that food chain that is brilliantly examined and questioned throughout the story, and it is thanks to Jeff Vandermeer’s impeccable world-building that everything was explored and presented to us with finesse and life.
The world-building is honestly where this novel excels in. Atmospheric to the point of almost feeling suffocated by the lifeless world in which they live, Borne is a story that does wonders in vividly describing its universe. The pace could easily be seen as something slow, almost like walking through thigh-high thick mud, but in my case it simply contributed to the world-building. Add in the backstory that Rachel reminesces about here and then, Jeff Vandermeer simply proves us why he should be known as a master story-teller.
Filled with bio-engineered organisms, Borne is a pool of surprises that explores its themes with depth and conviction. I might have not read the Southern Reach trilogy yet, but I will not neglect anything Jeff Vandermeer writes anymore. I just need to get my hands on a copy now.
You can order your own copy now!
MY OVERALL RATING: ★★★★★
Have you read it yet? Do you plan to? What do you think about Borne?
Share your thoughts with me!
Till next time,