A lyrical if dark-hearted sidenote to VanderMeer’s wonderfully inventive dystopian novel Borne (2017).
When the singularity arrives, as it surely will, it will do so on extended wings. Where Borne, the blobby union of various genetic brews, escaped from the ruins of a biotech factory owned by the spectacularly malign Company, the Strange Bird, as she is called, “did not know what sky really was as she flew down underground corridors in the dark,” experiencing the rapturous freedom of flight while not quite understanding what was happening to her outside her cage. The Strange Bird, like all critters in this hellish place, is not just bird, but comprises bits and pieces of biotechnology, other DNA, and even some human material—though this heritage does not incline her to like or trust humans, not in the least. Good thing, for just about every human she encounters has designs on her, from the old man who captures her out in the desert and assures her that otherwise she “would be in something’s belly by now” to the magician who marvels at the “sad, unlucky lab bird that never existed before” even as she speculates about how the Strange Bird, ever worse for the wear, might be remade into something more immediately useful. Mord the giant bear, Rachel, Wick, and other figures from Borne turn up to join in fun and games that make the future world of the Terminator film series seem right jolly. The story doesn’t always quite add up, and there’s some spackling and grouting to do to make it neatly join up to its parent novel, doubtless the work of sequels to come. Still, Vandermeer writes circles around most fantasists at work today, and the story, while rewarding of itself, is of an elegantly bleak piece with its predecessor, reminiscent of the best of Brian Aldiss and Philip K. Dick.
VanderMeer fans will treasure this installment in the Borne saga while hoping for something more substantial to follow—and soon.