Borne by Jeff VanderMeer
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
This is probably going to be one of those times where I rail against the universe and popularity norms because this novel is an exemplary piece of imaginative fiction that goes well above and beyond the call of any duty to amaze, wonder, and offer up a meal of monstrously epic proportions.
First, I should say that no matter how much I loved the weirdness and the atmosphere of VanderMeer's previous trilogy, nothing quite prepared me for just how good this was going to be. In fact, if I didn't already have an ultimate favorite for the year's best SF already, I'd be pushing this one to the fore. But that's not going to stop me from nominating it for the Hugo, mind you. :)
It's deceptively simple and very engaging at first, but as life and growth become a bit more complicated, as it always seems to get, or when your lover starts getting jealous of your rescued intelligent abandoned biotech creature, then you have to make a few decisions.
Add that to the fact that this whole world is a brilliant biopunk nightmare dystopia where most people have died and minnows are alcoholic and a gigantic bear eclipses the night, dropping monsters and salvageable biotech down onto the broken city, and we've got ourselves a recipe for a piece of imagination that will rival most books anywhere. Add to this a very wonderful and generous dose of wit and charm, delightful characterizations and dialogues between Rachael, Wick, and our loveable ubermonster, Borne, and I'm shot over the moon.
The devil is in the details, of course, and there are enough details for any fan of Geoff Ryman, early Greg Bear, and the more recent Robert Jackson Bennett.
So what's my complaint, again? The fact that I love this so much? No, of course not... it's the fact that it's WEIRD.
I love weird! I love it to freaking death! I live for weird! And it's a weird that rides on the coattails of originality, too!
I mean, sure, we've seen a lot of oddball and screwy (read cute) biotech monstrosities in the world of fiction, from Heinlein to cartoon shows, but few will do as smooth a job of turning an ubermonster into a delightful child to be raised, who never needs to poop or pee, and which focuses all its energies on what it means to be a person when there's no such "thing" left in this world.
At least, of course, until it all goes wrong... or what that means to the rest of the city, Rachel and Wick's relationship or the fact a series of godzilla-like battles will rage across the world.
Yeah, this is the good shit, man. This is the stuff I live for. Now if only I could get everyone else in the world to see this my way. :)
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