Top positive review
A fantastic read if you are looking for something different.
Reviewed in the United States on January 15, 2018
If I could describe this book in one word it would be: Bizarre. I want to comment on the genre, because though it is definitely science fiction, I think there's an argument for survival horror in there as well (and I sort of reveled in it). The writing style really clicked with me here. It was both poetic and punchy. It complemented the overall feeling of the book while still being impactful, and I'm really excited to check out this author's other works in the future.
The beginning starts tame enough. Just another day in the post-apocalyptic neighborhood, scavenging for biotech. Climbing giant psychotic killer bears and rifling through their stinking blood matted fur. Yes, that's the tame part.
Rachel brings home an odd piece of biotech she's never seen before and decides to name it Borne. He's an invertebrate sea anemone type creature who can change shape and size. Her lover and roomie Wick, an ex-biotech scientist and a memory beetle drug dealer, immediately wants to break him down, crack him open and see what's inside. But Rachel likes him. Rachel wants to keep him. Rachel puts him in the window like a decorative plant. This is where the fun begins.
Borne was far and away my favorite character here. I loved the way he spoke. I loved the way he learned and grew. I loved that you could never really trust him. I loved that when it came to Borne, Rachel wasn't exactly reliable. She loves him the way any mother loves her child, blindly. I enjoyed Rachel and Wick's characters as well, and I think Vandermeer did an excellent job making them all very human.
The story could be slow going at times. The action part of the plot is centered on day to day survival, while in the background the reader has all these mysteries propelling them forward. What is Borne? Can he be trusted? What is happening at the Company? What's wrong with Wick? Why can't Rachel remember what happened to her? The ending is ambiguous and will leave you with questions unanswered and many things to think about.
My only real complaint about the book, was that the world that all these characters lived in occasionally felt devoid of other humans. For example, Wick is a drug dealer. He sells memory beetles to people who can't cope with reality and just want to forget, or remember someone else's life instead of their own. I really would have loved for the author to have done something with this concept. The world is filled with monsters galore, but there were no other people (save for one other person, who I won't spoil). I just kept wondering, who is Wick selling all these memory beetles too? Where is everyone else? There is talk of territories between the drug dealers but it never seemed like there would have been enough humans to sell all these biotech drugs to.
Overall I enjoyed it. It was unique. It was weird. It was fun. It gave me something to think about. I'd recommend this to anyone looking for something different, a little change in their regularly scheduled programming.