Borne by Jeff VanderMeer
The Company has destroyed the city, and in its ruins roam the deformed outcasts of its experiments. Children with claws, invisible foxes and the overlord of them all: the enormous, flying bear, Mord. Huddled in this chemically blighted, life-draining landscape, Rachel and Wick persist at living - he makes biotech to protect their lair, she scavenges for food and tech that will help them survive. But with the arrival of the strange, jellyfish-like creature they call Borne, the couple’s uneasy existence encounters a challenge like none before.
‘We all just want to be people, and none of us know what that really means.’ Jeff VanderMeer’s Rachel summarises the theme of his latest book best. The author’s first novel since his acclaimed Southern Reach Trilogy, VanderMeer’s Borne is a surreal piece of work that examines the idea of identity in a relentlessly unforgiving, post-apocalyptic setting.
Although broken into three sections, Borne is really a book of two halves. The first part is an intimate examination of Rachel’s relationship with Borne after she brings him into her and Wick’s home, and the questions his presence raises. The second evolves the characters in a way that takes these questions and makes them real. The consequences of the answers Borne may or may not have reached about who and what he is, and how those decisions impact the trio are laid out, questioning the nature of relationships, trust, and independence.
Borne is a fascinating character because he is the ultimate blank canvas who speaks as a child without social conditioning. His appearance is ever changing and evolving, as is his mind, preventing definition in any meaningful way. He is childlike, naïve, intelligent and powerful, and with no understanding of himself. He constantly questions Rachel on who and what he is: ‘Am I a weapon? Am I a person?’ Questions ultimately posed not so much to our protagonist but to the reader, challenging us to define what makes a person a person.
One scene where Rachel takes Borne out into the city for the first time echoes a child first discovering the world beyond their home, an experience filled with joy, intrigue, enthusiasm, and dangerous naivety. It’s a tense and wonderful set piece that provides just one in many examples of VanderMeer’s ability to cleverly build on both his characters’ complex dynamic as well as his world.
The simplicity of his set up – The Company, Mord, Rachel, Wick and Borne - is one of the best things about this book, as it leaves no room for distraction. Everything on page is relevant and contributes to the questions being asked. The twists are few but significant and the pacing is occasionally uneven, but overall it’s a delicately written, charming and terrifying read that has you constantly reappraising your conclusions.
This Borne book review was written by Alice Wybrew
Have you read Borne?
We've found that while readers like to know what we think of a book they find additional reader reviews a massive help in deciding if it is the right book for them. So if you have a spare moment, please tell us your thoughts by writing a reader's review. Thank you.
Borne reader reviews
Charlie from England
The world that this was set in and many of the ideas were good and enjoyable, it just felt as though it was missing something the whole way through and the background of the characters was not develped as well as could have been. Overall a good read however.
7.5/10 from 2 reviews
Write a reader review
Thank you for taking the time to write a review on this book, it really makes a difference and helps readers to find their perfect book.
More recommended reading in this genre
A father and his young son walk alone through burned America, heading slowly for the coast. Nothing moves in the ravaged landscape save the ash on the wind. They have nothi...
Hidden away in the Record Department of the sprawling Ministry of Truth, Winston Smith skilfully rewrites the past to suit the needs of the Party. Yet he inwardly rebels ag...
The year is 2033. The world has been reduced to rubble. Humanity is nearly extinct. The half-destroyed cities have become uninhabitable through radiation. Beyond their boun...
Facing down an unprecedented malevolent enemy, the government responds with a nuclear attack. America as it was is gone forever, and now every citizen – from the Pres...
Oryx and Crake
Snowman may be the last man on earth, the only survivor of an unnamed apocalypse. Once he was Jimmy, a member of a scientific elite; now he lives in bitter isolation and lo...
The Last Man Standing
Italy is on the brink of collapse. Borders are closed, banks withhold money, the postal service stalls. Armed gangs of drug-fuelled youths roam the countryside. Leonardo wa...
The Drowned World
Fluctuations in solar radiation have melted the ice caps, sending the planet into a new Triassic Age of unendurable heat. London is a swamp; lush tropical vegetation grows ...
Wastelands: Stories of the Apocalypse
John Joseph Adams
Famine, death, war, pestilence. These are said to be the harbingers of the biblical apocalypse-Armageddon. The End of the World. Whether by nuclear warfare, a biological di...
The Crystal World
Through a ‘leaking’ of time, the West African jungle starts to crystallize. Trees metamorphose into enormous jewels. Crocodiles encased in second glittering ski...
Emily St John Mandel
What was lost in the collapse: almost everything, almost everyone, but there is still such beauty. One snowy night in Toronto famous actor Arthur Leander dies on stage whil...
An illness spreads through an unnamed city. It has only one symptom: blindness. It comes without fanfare, pain, or warning. One moment a man waits in his car at the traffic...
The Reapers are the Angels
God is a slick god. Temple knows. She knows because of all the crackerjack miracles still to be seen on this ruined globe... Older than her years and completely alone, Temp...
Legends of the Red Sun
Mark Charan Newton
An ice age strikes a chain of islands, and thousands come to seek sanctuary at the gates of Villjamur. It’s a city of ancient spires and bridges, a place where banshe...
The Return Man
The outbreak tore the USA in two. The east remains a safe haven. The west has become a ravaged wilderness. They call it the Evacuated States. It is here that Henry Marco ma...
A modern Britain. An age-old cruelty. Britain's magically skilled aristocracy compels all commoners to serve them for ten years - and now it's the Hadleys' turn...
Looking for more suggestions? Try these pages: