Borne

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It’s been far too long since I’ve picked up a sci-fi novel, and it just so happens that an excellent author recently put out a new book! Some of my favourite speculative sci-fi is the Southern Reach Trilogy, the first of which is soon to be made into a film. Jeff VanderMeer’s effective use of creeping horror in his trilogy was unparalleled and I was eager to see what he’d cooked up this time.

Thus, it was with supreme glee that I picked up his newest novel, Borne.

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Right from the beginning I knew that I was going to love this book. Why?

Partially because I so enjoyed Southern Reach, but partially because of this:

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That’s right. It’s an angry bear. Not only that, it’s an angry murder-bear that is quite an important part of this novel. He is atypical of other bears, and I’m not going to ruin things for you by telling you how. But I guarantee you’ll be surprised.

Borne was fantastic. It’s a character-driven science fiction novel that follows Rachel, a young woman living in an unnamed city as a scavenger. One day, Rachel finds Borne while out scavenging and brings him home. She’s unsure of what he is, assuming him to be some type of plant life. As Borne grows and develops, so does his relationship with Rachel.

Rachel is a first-person narrator and she’s certainly a likeable one. Though her thought processes are sometimes a bit erratic, that’s to be expected in a post-apocalyptic society. Her relationships with Wick and Borne are rich and complex things that affect each other despite her best efforts.

Wick is an interesting secondary character who gains immense dimension as the story moves forward. I liked him far more at the end of the book than I did at the beginning, but that’s perspective for you!

Borne himself was extraordinary. Remaining a mystery for the entire novel, he was both extremely likeable and quite terrifying. The more I learned of him, the more questions I had. The immense questionability and tragedy of his existence informed the feel of the entire narrative.

All characters, major and minor, are fascinating in different ways. I wouldn’t say no to a book about any of them, if VanderMeer decided to follow up with one.

The post-apocalyptic landscape is disturbing and believable, bio-modded children and alcohol minnows included. The city is seething with poisonous creations from the Company, the ever-unnamed conglomerate responsible for Mord and everything that came thereafter. As you learn more of Rachel’s past, she slowly learns more of the city and of the Company.

Unlike the Southern Reach Trilogy, Borne is a stand alone novel. Like its predecessors, it’s a novel that makes you think while you’re reading. VanderMeer’s writing is intelligent and easy to digest either in short bursts or all in one massive book binge.

With this masterpiece of creepy and (at-times) uncomfortable speculative sci-fi, Jeff VanderMeer proves himself to be a consistently excellent writer. He’s a sure thing when it comes to a great read, and I’m looking forward to seeing what he has in store for readers next!

Have you picked up a copy of Borne? Have you read the Southern Reach Trilogy? Let me know what you thought in the comments below!

Archangel

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With a lot on my plate lately, it was sort of inevitable that I would fall into my comfort zone and re-read an old favourite rather than tackle the list of new to-reads that I have right now. Sometimes, you just need a bit of a mental break – and nothing but revisiting a world discovered ages ago will do.

However, since I’ve never written a review for this book, I thought it was about time.

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I discovered Archangel at a jumble sale at which you could fill bags and boxes with books for a pittance, and it was ages later that I read it. But in the tumble of abandoned classics, neglected YA, and trashy magazines, it stood out – and firmly cemented itself as a favourite.

Let me preface this by saying that I’m not a religious person. I have no overt complaints or problems with the institution of religion, but it hasn’t particularly called to me as an adult, nor have I sought it out.

Archangel then, may seem like a strange favourite.

It’s set on a world called Samaria, in which angels have holds in each region, mingle and mate with humans, and intercede with God on their behalf on issues of weather, health, and faith. It follows two main characters: Gabriel, who is slated to become the next Archangel (leader of the angel host), and Rachel, the woman who is chosen by God to become his wife, and thus, the next Angelica.

Gabriel is a stubborn man, determined that his term as Archangel will bring many changes for the better. Rachel is perhaps even more stubborn, though also more prideful, and much of her story is of trying to find her place and come to terms with the new life that she is expected to lead. They’re often frustrating characters to read about, but I was so emotionally invested in their story that I would plough through even when discontent.

This book is a simple read. It’s filled with faith, and it’s also filled with singing. Music is a central theme in the story simply because its how the characters communicate with God. The descriptions of music made me wish that I was more gifted with melodies, and it was easy to hear the lovely songs in my head as I was reading.

Though the story is that of two people brought together to wed, it isn’t precisely a love story. Rather, it’s a tale of pride, stubbornness, evil, and curiosity. The cast of characters is diverse, with various personalities coming together to form a very believable tapestry – even considering that some are angels.

Because I have read several other books in the series, I know that the stories of some are mentioned in passing in the narrative, which was a fun little surprise. For that same reason, I’m also aware that this book is not, in fact, a theological novel. While it deals with faith, with God, and with angels, its actually a science fiction novel, which makes it that much more brilliant. While you won’t get the full effect (or any of it, really) if you don’t read the other novels, the truths and stories revealed in the later books made me love this book even more.

This first novel in the series of Samaria books sets in place the world that is built upon in the later novels without going into so much detail that it becomes tedious.

In short, if you’re looking for a quick read that includes angels, a campaign for human rights, and a super awkward duo getting married, this is the one for you.