I read this for my office's sci-fi book club. I was jazzed about this pick, since VanderMeer wrote the acclaimed Southern Reach trilogy, yet I've never read anything by him.
"Borne" has rave reviews from both critics and casual readers. But I found it a HUGE slog. The plot of "Borne" is a shallow, paper-thin metaphor for the pains and perils of motherhood, as Rachel finds and then raises a weird piece of sentient biotech in a post-bioapocalypse near future. I found myself very put off by VanderMeer's characterization of motherhood as blind devotion in the face of all reason and self-preservation in an otherwise very savvy survivalist.
It feels like a short story that was stretched into a novel: very few characters, motivations that fall apart upon closer examination, and world building that is at once shallow and loud. Seriously, the book opens with a 7-story-tall hyper-intelligent flying bear, who was made by The Company and now rules over The City. Less laziness in world building, please. The "big reveals" about backstory at the end feel meaningless because the characters just shrug them off and don't change their actions or relationships as a result.
The last series I read was NK Jemison's "Broken Earth" trilogy, which has a lot of deep things to say about motherhood and loss and the end of the world. "Borne" truly suffers by comparison, splashing around in the kiddie pool of these ideas. NEXT.