The beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic is not the ideal time to be reading a postapocalyptic novel, especially one with passages as brutal and horror-filled as Borne has. I’ve read a few other postapocalyptic novels: Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? The Children of Men, and The Road. They all have violent passages, but much of the violence takes place off the page. Or maybe the images of the violence have faded in my memory. In any case, Borne has been a challenging read.
Interested readers can find plenty of synopses and reviews of the story, so I won’t attempt to provide one here. There is a clear environmental message—the apocalypse comes about through climate change—but Jeff VanderMeer also takes on corporate attempts at world domination and government collusion in those attempts. To balance those messages, VanderMeer weaves narratives of friendship; childlike playfulness and eagerness to learn; trust, mistrust, and distrust; courage, resilience, hope, and loyalty.
How do those narratives fit into such an outwardly dark novel? Surprisingly, they fit well. If the reader can tolerate sometimes graphic violence set in a bleak landscape, Borne will reward persistence.
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