In a near-future world where the creations of a biotech company known as The Company run amok terrorizing and destroying a once prosperous city is where we find ourselves in Jeff VanderMeer’s latest novel, Borne.
Following Rachel, we learn of the origins, the ‘life’ and the ultimate fate of an undefinable creation of The Company that is known in the book as Borne. Borne is introduced to us as a discovery made by Rachel in the fur of a sleeping three-story tall flying bear known as Mord. When she takes her discovery back to her home in the Balcony Cliffs – a defunct hotel – she initially believes it to be some bio-engineered form of plant life.
Until it begins to grow.
Soon Rachel begins to see that what she had brought back is actually some formless sentient being that she gives a name; Borne. Nothing about Borne is ‘normal’ in regards to what we consider to be ‘life’. It consumes but leaves no waste – and everything that it consumes becomes a part of it. This creation that Borne is has a desire to learn, to know, to be and we see this being try to become what it is lead to believe it is; a person.
But is Borne even a form of life?
Through the course of events we learn about Rachel’s origins – we learn about Wick, the man she lives with at the Balcony Cliffs. We watch from afar the terror that is unleashed by a giant, flying bear known as Mord and his equally violent proxies. As the story unfolds we get brief snippets of this peculiar character referred to as the Magician. The role that the Company has played in all of this, and finally we get to watch Borne become … something.
Before this novel, I hadn’t read anything by Jeff VanderMeer and given the initial response to the release of this book I thought I was in for something that would be extraordinary. What I got was this rather wordy story that I continually had to force myself to pick up and read. The beginning was great, but somewhere along the way the book went from being a delight to read to simply being a chore.
I went from being deeply invested and interested in what the outcome would be to simply just not caring. The only thing that prevented me from not DNF’ing this book was to see if there was any merit in the rave reviews this novel had received.
The ENTIRE story pivots around the work of the Company. The origins of Mord, of Borne and essentially the entire cast of this book have something to do with this biotech corporation. You do learn a bit about Borne’s initial purpose, but not the intention of his creators – the same goes for Mord.
Why were these creatures brought into being?
VanderMeer even has his main character and her boyfriend(?) Wick entering the Company and briefly go into the areas of Mord and Bornes development, but that is the extent of it. Unfortunately by the time we get to this point I’m not sure I really cared any more.
Will this novel stand the test of time?
I’m not sure if this book will be remembered past 2017 – I doubt I’ll be able to recall much of it past May of this year.
As for the authors other books….
Any interest I had in reading VanderMeer’s Southern Reach Trilogy also evaporated when I finished this book.
☆½ – Borne By Jeff VanderMeer