Jeff VanderMeer’s BORNE
A book review by Dennis D. McDonald
I enjoyed Annihilation and the other two novels in this author’s “Southern Reach” trilogy so it did not take much convincing from my son for me to read Borne.
I was not disappointed. In some way the writing in this novel is superior to even those three earlier books. VanderMeer’s writing is at times sparse, direct, and chilling. At other times it is fluid, lyrical, even poetic.
VanderMeer’s Borne characters are unique and real, even the non-human characters, starting with Borne himself/herself/itself.
Don’t let the “post-apocalyptic“ label throw you off. This one is unique. The “apocalypse“ reference here used by some about this book is as much environmental and technological as it is war related. Remnants of long-ago war are everywhere and faced regularly by the novel’s characters. Whether the war was the precursor to or result of environmental calamity is not central to the grim survival tale told by the main character.
If you squint and let your imagination wander it is possible to see links between Borne and the Southern Reach trilogy but I’m not totally convinced of that -- and I’m not sure it really matters.
What matters to me is that the book is a unique read and at times a “page turner” based on the questions raised about how the characters got where they are in the timeline and where they might be going in the future.
Is it appropriate to call Borne a “science fiction” novel? I suppose so, but I’m not convinced that labeling it as such will make any difference to serious readers.
Just be prepared for interesting characters, occasional plot twists, wild imagination, flashes of horror, and some beautiful and humanely insightful writing.
Review copyright 2018 by Dennis D. McDonald