The Strange Bird is a short and bittersweet, and entirely dependent on Borne. You’ll understand little if you haven’t read VanderMeer’s novel set in the same world (you can read my review of Borne here).
Goodreads Rating: 4/5 Stars
This novella is very meandering. You’re meant to take it slow and absorb the Strange Bird’s observations on life beyond her laboratory. She relishes her freedom, but it is a lonely existence, because the other animals know that she isn’t quite natural. She was created in a lab, with biotech from birds, humans, and even squids. She was an experiment, and as civilization failed, she escaped into the wild.
Her journey, though slow, is purposeful. She has a homing beacon, demanding she fly in a very particular direction, and since she doesn’t have any other desires, she follows it.
Of course, she encounters several obstacles along the way. A lonely old man whose guilt has leeched at his mind. A cannibal, whose interest in the bird lies no further than selling her. And the Magician, who takes her and reforges her into the invisibility cloak we see used in Borne.
It’s this part of the story that requires that you read the novel. If you haven’t, you won’t understand who the Magician is and why her cloak is important. You won’t feel the mounting anticipation as you know what comes next, as you realize who the Strange Bird is about to encounter.
And you won’t enjoy the emotions and relief in seeing and hearing Rachel in Wick in the aftermath. You’ll miss out on a lot of nuance if you haven’t read Borne. But, the ending will still strike home. It is soft and sweet and rife with resignation. It isn’t what the Strange Bird wanted, but it is more than she thought she would ever have.
It is enough. And you learn what the story is really about, underneath all the layers of language and exploration, and the Strange Bird’s life of suffering.
I was surprised at how much this book affected me. I cried at the end, just a little, and felt satisfied, much more so than I did at the end of Borne. I think the novella could be reread, that I could actually glean more by spending more time in the language, whereas I felt the prose in Borne was a barrier to understanding.
The Strange Bird snuck up on me, in a delightful, heartbreaking way. If you read Borne, and enjoyed it even a little, I recommend giving the novella a try.
In my usual fashion, I am on to the next book, The Mechanical by Ian Tregillis. I’m only 44 pages in and it is already much different than I anticipated and not much like my typical reads at all. But, this is my vacation read so I’m taking a chance on it!
I’ll be back on Monday for the usual Goals Summary, and then it’s off to Germany!