Book Review – Borne

Book: Borne – Author: Jeff VanderMeer

Genre: Fiction, Sci-Fi, Dystopia

Description from Goodreads:

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. 

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.

My Review:

Honesty upfront, I didn’t finish this book. I made it about 100 pages in before I gave up and took it back to the library.

“So why are you reviewing it?” 

Well, I personally didn’t enjoy this book, but I think it had a lot of potential and I can see where a lot of YOU might like it, so I wanted to put it out there.

Borne had a lot going for it. The description is intriguing, it has decent reviews, the cover is weird & beautiful…and I’m also apparently on a sci-fi kick, so that helped. 😉

The main character, Rachel, is a pretty kickbutt lady. She lives off the land and makes things work, continuing to survive despite the horrific landscape. The fact that she can still find it in herself to care for this creature she randomly finds one day, especially in the circumstances under which she lives, is admirable. (And extra props to the author for not attributing it to ‘female hormones’. I kept waiting for the reference to ‘maternal instincts’ but it never came. Thumbs up!)

The author is also great at world building, which is essential for a good sci-fi. You get really great “on the ground” descriptions of everything, from the poisonous river to the ruinous buildings to the weird, mutated creatures. The author does sneak in glimpses of how this strange world came about, but the main focus is on the here and now.

Also…GIANT BEAR. I’m still really intrigued as to how Mord came about. And what’s with all the bugs being used for everything, from medicine to memory enhancers to weapons? And the weird fish with the human face? And what the frick is Borne?!? I don’t want to spoil anything for those interested in reading the book, so I’ll stop there. Needless to say, I have A LOT of questions.

“Sounds like you actually liked the book. Why didn’t you finish it?”

Honestly, I really just wasn’t feeling this one. Put it down to actually not liking the book or the fact that I had just finished one I REALLY liked so it had a lot to live up to…whatever you want to go with. I’m not a huge fan of dystopias to begin with, so something about it has to grab me pretty early on in order for me to want to finish it. That just didn’t happen in this book. As intriguing as I found the world, it wasn’t enough to keep a hold of me.

And as much as I admired the main character, I didn’t really like her. Rachel is a hard person; completely understandable in her position, but not easy to empathize with. Considering there were only three real characters in the book, the other two of which barely spoke, not caring about the main character at all was a major drag.

Also, I couldn’t stand the writing style. Which isn’t to say it was bad, just not my cup of tea. I have difficulty with “train of thought” books and, while this wasn’t QUITE the same thing, it didn’t really have enough structure for me to read easily. The pacing was also EXTREMELY slow, which worked really well in the last book I reviewed (The Long Earth), but was just annoying in this one. ::shrugs::

I guess what I’m saying is: I didn’t really like this one, but if you like dystopias, weird sci-fi, or kickbutt female protagonists you should definitely try it out! As for me, I’m going to get started on the second book in the Long Earth series. 😉

Similar Book(s):

Hmm, I’d say This Savage Song (Victoria Schwab) but that’s not really similar at all…

We’ll just go with one of the Jeff VanderMeer’s other books: Annihilation