Jeff Vandermeer: Borne

“Am I a person?” Borne asked me.

“Yes, you are a person,” I told him. “But like a person, you can be a weapon, too.”
In Borne, a young woman named Rachel survives as a scavenger in a ruined city half destroyed by drought and conflict. The city is dangerous, littered with discarded experiments from the Company—a biotech firm now derelict—and punished by the unpredictable predations of a giant bear. Rachel ekes out an existence in the shelter of a run-down sanctuary she shares with her partner, Wick, who deals his own homegrown psychoactive biotech.

One day, Rachel finds Borne during a scavenging mission and takes him home. Borne as salvage is little more than a green lump—plant or animal?—but exudes a strange charisma. Borne reminds Rachel of the marine life from the island nation of her birth, now lost to rising seas. There is an attachment she resents: in this world any weakness can kill you. Yet, against her instincts—and definitely against Wick’s wishes—Rachel keeps Borne. She cannot help herself. Borne, learning to speak, learning about the world, is fun to be with, and in a world so broken that innocence is a precious thing. For Borne makes Rachel see beauty in the desolation around her. She begins to feel a protectiveness she can ill afford. 

“He was born, but I had borne him.”

But as Borne grows, he begins to threaten the balance of power in the city and to put the security of her sanctuary with Wick at risk. For the Company, it seems, may not be truly dead, and new enemies are creeping in. What Borne will lay bare to Rachel as he changes is how precarious her existence has been, and how dependent on subterfuge and secrets. In the aftermath, nothing may ever be the same. 

What a WEIRD book!

I know the whole dystopian thing is sort of “over,” but trust me, you need to read Borne. This might be the most creative fiction I’ve read since Dark Matter, and ya’ll know how much I screamed over that one. I’m STILL yelling at my friends to go read it, in fact. And now Borne is probably going to be next on that list.

The person I got this book from told me it reminded him of Fallout. I don’t play video games, so I can’t really compare it to that. The image I kept coming up with was if WCKD invented Flubber instead of Grievers. Think sentient biotech that grows and morphs into just about anything, with that same curious childish personality…with a bit more sinister background.

Borne is definitely the star of the show, but we also have a WOC main character who’s family were refugees, and her partner is chronically ill. I couldn’t find any major faults with the rep (but I am not a WOC nor refugee), I thought the writing was incredible, and as I said before, it’s for sure one of the most creative books I’ve read this year.

My husband has started listening to audiobooks recently and I’m adding this to his must read list–as soon as he gets done with Armada, I’m going to have him download Borne. You should too!


This post contains affiliate links.

Leave a Reply


Get the latest posts delivered to your mailbox: