Friday, May 12, 2017

A Book Review

"I prefer the old betrayals, the ones based on trust."

The revelation least tied to the plot of Jeff Vandermeer's Borne rises gently like a wave. It's relatively inconsequential, not like the giant, stinking biotech bear that glides over the ruined city where the scavenger Rachel lives. The characters never discuss it, but by that time the book has revealed its long argument about the value of unspoken truths.

As a fan of the Southern Reach Trilogy, I was looking forward to more of the same - New Weird from one of its masters, biological horror and descriptions of monsters I could pore over. There are passages I mentally marked down as lessons in wording.

More than that, though, it's clear that this is a book about family. It's about empty-nest syndrome, about a parent's fear of raising their child badly, or their fear of the choices that child could make of their own volition. It is about holding a romantic partnership together for a long time under great stresses, and it is about how to express trust through conversations and through silence and through telling one another stories.

I feel the need to find flaws. None of them, though, change the fact that this is a book that left me word-drunk and looking for ways to use what I had learned. (As I write this I'm in a 737, in turbulence. I am not a nervous flier. Nevertheless, with everything going on I think this: as long as it is not too rough for me to write, I am okay.)

In Borne, Rachel and Wick are both consistently and rigorously realized. Rachel especially imbues the book with her own themes of trap-making, of memory, and of her relationships with her strange city and the creatures within it. When all hope is gone, she keeps walking, keeps fixing her eyes on the beautiful things she wants to save. It's a carefully-woven novel that got at my marrow.

(Here is a list of less organized impressions: Wick is so great, as a child of divorced parents some of this novel was difficult, and I'm going to watch the heck out of that movie version.)

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