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The Strange Bird: A Borne Story Paperback – February 27, 2018
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"Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress"
Is the world really falling apart? Is the ideal of progress obsolete? Cognitive scientist and public intellectual Steven Pinker urges us to step back from the gory headlines and prophecies of doom, and instead, follow the data: In seventy-five jaw-dropping graphs, Pinker shows that life, health, prosperity, safety, peace, knowledge, and happiness are on the rise. Learn more
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Praise for The Strange Bird
"With hallucinatory imagery and expressive prose, this companion novella to Borne is beautiful and bleak, painful and rewarding in equal measure." --Booklist (starred)
"A lyrical if dark-hearted sidenote to VanderMeer’s wonderfully inventive dystopian novel Borne . . . VanderMeer writes circles around most fantasists at work today." --Kirkus
Praise for Borne
“The conceptual elements in VanderMeer’s fiction are so striking that the firmness with which he cinches them to his characters’ lives is often overlooked . . . Borne is VanderMeer’s trans-species rumination on the theme of parenting . . . [Borne] insists that to live in an age of gods and sorcerers is to know that you, a mere person, might be crushed by indifferent forces at a moment’s notice, then quickly forgotten. And that the best thing about human nature might just be its unwillingness to surrender to the worst side of itself.” --Laura Miller, The New Yorker
“Borne, Jeff VanderMeer’s lyrical and harrowing new novel, may be the most beautifully written, and believable, post-apocalyptic tale in recent memory . . . [VanderMeer] outdoes himself in this visionary novel shimmering with as much inventiveness and deliriously unlikely, post-human optimism as Borne himself.” --Elizabeth Hand, Los Angeles Times
“VanderMeer’s apocalyptic vision, with its mix of absurdity, horror, and grace, can’t be mistaken for that of anyone else. Inventive, engrossing, and heartbreaking, Borne finds [VanderMeer] at a high point of creative accomplishment.” --Michael Berry, San Francisco Chronicle
About the Author
Jeff VanderMeer is an award-winning novelist and editor, and the author of the national bestseller Borne and the Southern Reach Trilogy: Annihilation, Authority, and Acceptance. His fiction has been translated into twenty languages and has appeared in the Library of America’s American Fantastic Tales and multiple year's-best anthologies. He grew up in the Fiji Islands and now lives in Tallahassee, Florida, with his wife.
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The Strange Bird is as much urban odyssey as fantasy. At the beginning of the narrative Strange Bird, a biotech marvel, escapes the confines of a lab. In flight, she navigates an unfamiliar and frightening world, and begins to understand herself in new contexts and from different perspectives. Before long she is captured by a solitary old man who admires her, but who also imprisons her. He is attached and attentive, seems to want to commune with her, but he can’t appreciate her suffering. Like other humans in the novella, he rationalizes his cruelty even as he is haunted by it.
Eventually Strange Bird lands squarely into the narrative of Borne, where she is captured by The Magician, a sadistic genius who transforms her into a cloaking device. Somehow she survives the radical transformation and enters a kind of bardo, where she communes with other animals, alive and dead.
The Strange Bird traces the terrible beauty of animal trauma in the Anthropocene, not as a surrogate for human trauma, but as a creaturely condition that directs our attention to the ubiquitous effects of climate change. If trauma can be communicated through non-verbal behavior, it may be an appeal to all animals. Artists like VanderMeer seem to hear that call, but are they uniquely aware of animal suffering, or uniquely responsive? I imagine that many of us are more aware of our collective suffering than we know. VanderMeer may not speak for non-human animals, but he surely gives voice to the unconscious.
Christine Skolnik, Environmental Critique