Borne by Jeff Vandermeer. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2017. 9780374115241. 336pp.
Vandermeer’s books and stories are, in all senses of the word, weird. They’re also well written, pleasing on a sentence-to-sentence level, and they have a depth that pulls me in. But I’m not sure I could justify any of that in a coherent, English major way without rereading his books >7 times and talking about them for a quarter in a literature class, which is the only way I ever felt like I “got” a play by Shakespeare. (Don’t ask me which. I won’t tell you.) Anyway, Vandermeer’s books are high quality shit, dude.
This one takes place in a city ruined by biotech produced by the Company. A lot of it has gone feral, including some terrifying creatures that were once children and a giant flying bear called Mord, the boss monster. Rachel is a scavenger, operating from a secret base with her biotech-building lover/partner Wick. One day she finds an anemone/squid-like thing, brings it home, and names it Borne. It starts to eat everything and grow and eventually (I don’t think this is much of a spoiler) to talk. She loves and raises it like a mother, but it learns and grows at a terrifying rate. The whole situation is spooky and strange and then starts to feel dangerous, though throughout it seems like Borne loves Rachel back.
It is the most vivid post-apocalyptic world I’ve read about in a long while. All of the praise on the cover of my galley copy is very vague, and I’m afraid I have to be, too. A more detailed description of what plot there is or the setting or the atmosphere would ruin the book for you. I’m already afraid I’ve said too much.