Borne by Jeff VanderMeer

Posted July 24, 2017 by michaelhicks in Reviews / 0 Comments

Borne by Jeff VanderMeerBorne by Jeff VanderMeer
Narrator: Bahni Turpin
Published by Blackstone Audio Inc on 25 April 2017
Length: 12 hrs and 10 mins
Genres: Post Apocalyptic, Science Fiction
Format: Audiobook
Rating Report
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Production Quality
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Attention Holding
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Overall: One StarOne StarOne StarOne StarHalf a Star

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.

"He was born, but I had borne him."

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.

©2017 Jeff VanderMeer (P)2017 Blackstone Audio, Inc.

ABR received this audiobook for free from the in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect our opinion of the audiobook or the content of our review.

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Jeff VanderMeer presents a compelling post-apocalyptic landscape populated by a pair of highly interesting human characters and vicious biotech experiments run amok in the wastelands.

Rachel and Wick survive by scavenging whatever they can from The City, and steering clear of the massive bio-engineered bear that lords over the ruins. On a scavenging run, Rachel notices something odd stuck to the bear’s fur, which she manages to dislodge and bring back home. What this “it” is, though, defies description – it’s not a plant, nor is it an animal, nor a machine. Or maybe it’s all three. As time goes on, Rachel begins to notice new things about this strange discovery, eventually realizing that Borne is, indeed, sentient. Her partner, Wick, an ex-employee of the biotech Company, wants to dissect Borne, or perhaps scrap him for parts, but she refuses to allow that to happen. While Borne is certainly strange, Rachel becomes not only fond but paternal of it, and she strives to protect Borne from the threats lying within and without their sanctuary.

While the post-apocalyptic world-building is very well done, Borne really thrives and revels in its characters. VanderMeer has created a trio of relateable, sympathetic, and ultimately very human personalities. Rachel and Wick squabble, share their disagreements and keep their secrets. Borne, meanwhile, grows, adapts, and learns, becoming a sounding board for Rachel and a mirror to hold up to humanity in all its brilliance and flaws. Borne is a highly intriguing creation from VanderMeer and one that is highly charismatic in its child-like mentality, at times reminding me a bit of Johnny Five from Short Circuit in its earnestness and keen attempts to learn and study the world.

Although this is primarily a character-driven drama and not an action-heavy sci-fi title, VanderMeer does manage a few terrific set pieces. And with Mord, the larger-than-life bioengineered bear, being so massive a few of these sequences carry the weight of a kaiju-like destructiveness. Others action scenes are smaller in scope, but no less effective and dramatic in their execution, such as an early attempt on Rachel’s life by a gang that invades her sanctuary.

Told entirely from Rachel’s point of view, this is a title that is only made stronger by the brilliance of its narrator. Bahni Turpin delivers a stellar reading of VanderMeer’s terrific writing, completely selling the story and bringing Rachel’s tale to life. Turpin does some solid voice work for each of the characters, but it’s her performance as the titular character that proves just how adept she is as an audiobook narrator. She nails the humor and warmth, and when necessary the anger, of each of the three leads, making this an absolutely engrossing read.

About Jeff VanderMeer

Jeffrey Scott VanderMeer is an American writer, editor and publisher. He was born in Bellefonte, Pennsylvania, but spent much of his childhood in the Fiji Islands, where his parents worked for the Peace Corps. This experience, and the resulting trip back to the United States through Asia, Africa, and Europe, deeply influenced him.

In 2003, VanderMeer married Ann Kennedy, then editor for the small Buzzcity Press and magazine the Silver Web. Ann VanderMeer is currently the editor of Weird Tales magazine, and a respected anthologist and publisher in her own right. The VanderMeers live in Tallahassee, Florida.

He is the author of the best-selling City of Saints and Madmen, set in his signature creation, the imaginary city of Ambergris, in addition to several other novels from Bantam, Tor, and Pan Macmillan. He has won two World Fantasy Awards, an NEA-funded Florida Individual Writers’ Fellowship, and, most recently, the Le Cafard cosmique award in France and the Tähtifantasia Award in Finland, both for City of Saints.

About michaelhicks

Michael Patrick Hicks is the author of Broken Shells: A Subterranean Horror Novella, Mass Hysteria, an Audiobook Listeners Choice Awards Horror Finalist, and Convergence, an Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award Finalist. He is a member of the Horror Writers Association and the Great Lakes Association of Horror Writers.

In addition to his own works of original fiction, he has written for the online publications Audiobook Reviewer and Graphic Novel Reporter, and has previously worked as a freelance journalist and news photographer in Metro Detroit.

Michael lives in Michigan with his wife and two children. In between compulsively buying books and adding titles that he does not have time for to his Netflix queue, he is hard at work on his next story.

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