Rachel and Wick eke out an existence scavenging through the wreckage of a post-apocalyptic city as Mord – a giant King Kong-like bear engineered by the shadowy Company – rages through the ruins.
One day Rachel finds Borne – a shape-shifting bioexperiment that initially seems like an innocuous sea flower but somehow exudes a strange power over her. She takes it home and soon it starts to speak and learn and think. Is it a person or a bioweapon? Can it be both?
As regular readers of this blog know, I’m always looking for good, modern sci-fi but it often feels like a depressingly futile search.
Many acclaimed recent examples – from Sleeping Giants to The Regional Office is Under Attack – left me cold, with their derivative stories and clunky writing. Jeff VanderMeer’s new book is not a masterpiece – plodding at times and in some ways underdeveloped – but it’s much better than those others, a clever environmental and family parable that’s both grim and strangely funny.
VanderMeer is a good writer, with a good grasp of imagery and allegory: this is not just a straightforward techno-thriller, but a rather a clever exploration of parenthood in an age of swirling uncertainty.
It deals with timeless, universal questions. Who are our children and how much influence do we as parents really have over them? If we find out our children are monsters, can we still love them? Should we? It asks more modern questions too, like how do we keep our children safe in this frightening, technological era?
I’m still searching for the modern sci-fi writer to rival the likes of Ray Bradbury or John Wyndham, but Borne is a worthwhile stop along the way.