Borne by Jeff VanderMeer

Posted On 19 June 2017

Filed under Book Reviews

Comments Dropped 20 responses

Before even starting to review Borne just let me ask you to take a look at those two covers.  They are strangely hypnotic aren’t they, you want to look at them, to make sense of them, just turn them around slightly or turn them upside down even. I suppose there’s something in us all that makes us want to find the sense of something, figure out the puzzle – give it a name we understand.  Now, literally, what the actual fuck is going on with either of those covers.  Frankly, I don’t know, and having read the story I’m still not sure I do – I suddenly think I’ve found an image that makes sense but really I haven’t.  And yet, in spite of that, I love those covers, they draw me in and hold my attention and more than that they are a perfect representation of this book.  I was compelled by this read.  I was partly scared to pick it up because I always make the assumption that I’m not going to fully grasp what’s actually going on, but, you know, it doesn’t really matter – I will take what I will from this book and so will you, we might discuss it and open each others eyes to more possibilities, open up new avenues, but even without that I can say that I really loved this book.  It’s a crazy story, filled with strange visions, I won’t deny they’re difficult to pin down at first, the notion of a gigantic bear that flies and rampages around the place, not to mention then having little mini me versions of the bear in the form of proxy bears – I can just imagine you all shaking your heads right now and saying ‘what?’ – but, it just works.

Basically, and I’m not going to elaborate much on the plot to be honest, this has a feel of a post apocalyptic world – and yet at the same time that might not be entirely the case as the world here also feels quite unique, certainly highly developed and yet at the same time ruined.  Experiments in biotech seemed to have gone terribly wrong at some point and that coupled with the planet meeting ecological disaster have spawned a very difficult world in which to live.  Rachel is the main character in the book, as the story commences she finds a piece of biotech when hunting for salvage and for some strange reason it calls out to her – hidden amongst the fur of the great bear (Mord).  Rachel takes this piece of ‘what’ I don’t know – home, well, back to her boyfriend who she usually gives up her finds to so that he can salvage what he will – but this time is different, she doesn’t want to give this find up.  She eventually takes it home and gives it a name – Borne.  Probably a name that is significant and poignant in equal measure

I really don’t want to give much away about this book – for me, it’s a story of finding identity -which seems like a very pedestrian description amongst such strange comings and goings but having really thought about it that’s the route I’m going down.

The writing is excellent.  VanderMeer does not take the easy route with anything and yet even in writing about such unusual topics he grips you.  Then there are the characters, not many to be sure, but you find yourself being drawn to them – even the  rather odd Borne.  There is this great parent/child relationship going on here between Borne and Rachel – a questioning and questing for knowledge that is amusing to read about even at the same time that you’re wondering at the back of your mind which route this is going to go down and then an almost coming of age feel.  Borne himself in fact questions his own identity and what is his purpose.

I’m actually not going to say much more – I think this is a very compelling read – I loved it.  There’s so much going on here, Little Shop of Horrors as written by Lewis Carroll whilst living in an alternative universe where gigantic bears fly in the sky.  It sounds bizarre.  It is bizarre. It’s bizarrely good and I love that VanderMeer just writes a story with such a unique feel – one that actually pushes your boundaries.  He doesn’t take the easy route and yet even in saying that – this isn’t difficult.  It’s a good story, you want to get to the bottom of it and as strange an environment it might be set in it is gripping.

This is a difficult book to recommend in some ways, it’s a little bit surreal, it’s unusual and initially you have to get over your resistance to this not being quite the norm, so I don’t know if you’ll like it or not.  But, if you want to be tested a little bit with a story that is undoubtedly unique, a mystery, a twist in the tale and some excellent writing then I think you should give it a shot.  This is s little bit of a step out of character for me but I’ve found that I’ve thrown off my reading comfort blanket recently in order to embrace different reads and I’ve definitely not been disappointed.

I received a copy of Borne through Netgalley courtesy of the publisher, for which my thanks.  The above is my own opinion.





20 Responses to “Borne by Jeff VanderMeer”

  1. Captain's Quarters

    Fun review! I have tried this author’s writing before and have just been confused. And yet lots of people have recommended his books to me. Which is confusing also. Guess his writing just isn’t to me taste.
    x The Captain

    • @lynnsbooks

      I can see what you mean – with this book I think I just decided to go with it and I really enjoyed the read – it was just compelling, but definitely not to everyone’s taste.

  2. brideofthebookgod

    So glad you enjoyed this Lynn, I thought it was superb. This is the fourth of his novels that I’ve read and I definitely will be picking up more.

    • @lynnsbooks

      It is wonderful isn’t it – I could barely tear my eyes away from the page.
      Lynn 😀

  3. Tammy

    I’m so happy to read this review! I can’t wait to dive into this book. The flying bear is making me super curious:-)

    • @lynnsbooks

      It’s a really compelling read – or at least I found it to be so.
      Lynn 😀

  4. maddalena@spaceandsorcery

    Since the first time I saw the cover for this book – and I mean the one of the left, which is a veritable puzzle – I’ve been drawn to it, like you unable to tear my sight from this image that has no apparent meaning and yet at the same time seems on the verge of transforming into *something*. So it hardly surprises me to learn that the story is weird and surreal, but this only reinforces my desire to see for myself…
    Great, intriguing review 🙂

    • @lynnsbooks

      I just thought this was great to be honest – the sort of book that you don’t want to put down. And I loved the almost mother/child relationship and the way in which it grows.
      Lynn 😀

  5. Lisa (@TenaciousReader)

    hmmm… I really am not sure if I would like this or not. One of these days I will try one of his books.

    • @lynnsbooks

      His books definitely aren’t for everyone and I did worry whether I’d be able to get into this or not but it did grip me.
      Lynn 😀

  6. Mogsy @ BiblioSanctum

    I hear ya. It honestly doesn’t sound like it would be for me, but I’m glad you found it interesting. I’ve also mulled over the covers like you have, and in fact the first one kind of disturbs me! Makes me think of a creature with multiple cancerous growths and I can’t figure out where one part starts and the other begins!

    • @lynnsbooks

      Haha – yes, I can see why it would disturb you tbh, it is kind of disturbing, I have a vision of it beating like a heart – ew! But, even so, I’m fascinated!
      Lynn 😀

  7. Danya @ Fine Print

    I don’t mind a bit of what the fuckery so long as the characters are good and the writing overall is strong. Sounds like Vandermeer delivers on both those points! Admittedly though, I think I might have to start with his Southern Reach books rather than this one. It seems a bit *too* out there…

    • @lynnsbooks

      The odd thing is – even though it really does sound out there – it’s quite an easy read for some reason.
      Lynn 😀

  8. Amanda @Cover2CoverMom

    There is something very visually unique and compelling about that cover! If I saw it in a bookstore, I would 100% pick up the book and read the book description.

    This sounds like a book that is very hard to put into words. I feel like it is going to be one of those books that isn’t going to appeal to everyone. Based off what you said, I would give it a go. These types of books are generally hit or miss for me, but when it’s a hit, it’s a hit!

    • @lynnsbooks

      I definitely don’t think this would appeal to everyone – although, having read it I’m almost going to contradict myself because although it was an unusual read I didn’t find it at all difficult to get into, in fact it was surprisingly easy.
      I hope you get a chance to give it a shot.
      Lynn 😀

  9. sjhigbee

    Great review, Lynn:). Like you, despite the oddness of the setting and VanderMeer’s quirky writing style, I thought this was more readable than the Southern Reach books. Like you, I loved it and have found myself thinking a lot about it since I’ve put it down.

    • @lynnsbooks

      It was a really good read – to be honest I liked it a heck of a lot more than I expected to.
      Lynn 😀

      • sjhigbee

        Yes – I prefered it to Annihiliation. I thought it a far more humane book.

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