If I could type out the noise of a standing ovation I would but since I can’t, I’ll settle for writing this review. Jeff VanderMeer has you wrapped up in the story almost instantly! I should probably preface that by saying this was my first read by him but it sure as hell won’t be the last!
Borne initiates in a post-apocalyptic Earth where the whole world has gone to shit basically humans just kept following their own self-destructive path. In this world there’s a company (ingeniously referred to as “the company”) that’s somewhat like Umbrella corporation in resident evil…or Monsanto in real life (JK Monsanto, don’t sue me). “The company” experimented with all the taboo areas of genetics and biotech eventually creating at least one major thing the town near it would learn to fear. I’m referring to a flying (levitating?) sky-scraper sized bear that can make smaller versions of him (about grizzly bear size) with just as much bloodlust of course! Now this isn’t your average yogi the bear environmentally friendly type, in fact he probably starts more fires than he puts out. You can imagine that most people in this world either spend their time hiding from this bear called Mord (he’s quite Mordifying … to be fair my editor said to leave that joke out) or they spend their time dying.
Fear not however because Mord isn’t the only thing causing havoc in the city. Rachel, our main character, has cojones the size of coconuts (she’s a scavenger) and decides one day to jump and climb on Mord’s fur to see what she could find (scavenging is actually pretty common although many people have died doing it). One day, she finds something that almost looked like a blob plant thing glowing on Mord and takes it back with her like an good scavenger would. What Rachel doesn’t know is that what she found wasn’t your everyday household plant. This “plant” ends up being a sentient life form that learns to speak and shapeshift, you could say it was Borne to be wild…ehem.
Rachel is torn juggling raising her new “child” Borne, and calming her lover, Wick’s justifiable caution of the creature, after all most things in this world you either eat or get eaten by. In fact Wick at one point worked for the evil company in question and it’s thanks to his biotech-savviness that Rachel has lived this long. Wick also has reason to suspect Rachel’s newly adopted alien-child may be a weapon of some sort from his old employer (Maybe part of his severance package?). Vandermeer makes us question what it means to be human and even what it means to love. You can’t help falling in love with the characters and find yourself rooting for them when they get into trouble. Some of the greatest moments are the dialog between Rachel and Borne while she is trying to raise him.
‘“I’m going outside. I’m going on a scavenging run. I’ll be back before dark.”
“What’s a ‘scavenging run’?”
“Doing Dew,” I said, “Doing Dew for you.”
“I want to go,” Borne said, as if the city were just another tunnel. “I should go. It’s settled. I’ll go.” He liked to settle things before I could decide.
“You can’t go, Borne,” I said.
But Borne was undaunted by my resistance.
“I have an idea,” he said. “Don’t say no yet.” Another favorite gambit. Don’t say no yet. When had I ever really said no to him? The number of discarded lizard heads gathered in a wastebasket in a far corner of the Balcony Cliffs was testament to that.
“But I said you can’t say no!” In a flurry and fury, he expanded in all directions and covered walls like a rough, green-tinged surreal sea with what now became two huge glowing red eyes, staring down at me from the ceiling. I smelled something burning. He knew I didn’t like that smell. (Unfortunately, he didn’t mind the smell of me farting in retaliation.)’
The language feels so real and that’s what makes the characters so believable, it has you anxious when they’re in danger, laughing when they are joking, and in tears when they feel pain. Not enough for you you might say? Well don’t worry, Wick has an ex-colleague, going by “The Magician” making things more difficult for everyone in their ruined city by trying to take on our lovely mascot, can’t have Mord getting ALL the attention now can we? Listen, all in all this is a great SciFi read and you should definitely give it a gander. If you have read it, leave a comment below and let me know what you thought about it!