Book Review – The Strange Bird by Jeff VanderMeer

Hey Bloggos,

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

the strange bird

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.

Image result for the mechanical tregillis

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!

 

BZ

Book Review – Borne by Jeff VanderMeer

Blogland,

I went into reading this book with very mixed expectations. I’d heard multiple firsthand accounts of how brilliant it is, but actually knew absolutely nothing about it. I’ve never read anything by VanderMeer before, and all I knew about Borne was what I could glean from inside the jacket flap.

Goodreads Rating: 4/5 Stars

borne

Rachel is a scavenger, eking out a living in the City for herself and her partner Wick. Tensions are high, with resources in the ruined city scarce and the giant, hyper-intelligent bear, Mord, wreaking havoc wherever he pleases. Wick and Rachel are distrustful lovers and partners, helping one another and keeping more than their fair share of secrets to boot.

One of those secrets is Borne, a sentient blob of biotech that grows and grows and grows. Rachel tries to raise him in secret, just another topic to avoid with Wick, but Borne quickly proves too curious and clever to be satisfied with Rachel’s small apartment.

With the secret out, Borne explores their domain of the Balcony Cliffs while Rachel and Wick let their secrets drive a wedge between them. When all the lizards have disappeared from their ruined halls, when all the small critters that scampered in the walls have vanished, and when raiders attack their home only to mysteriously abandon the Cliffs, Rachel refuses to entertain Wick’s accusation.

“Borne eats and eats,” says Wick. “But nothing comes out.”

And so begins the battle between Rachel and Wick about Borne. The decisions in which will shape the rest of their lives.

I have some pretty conflicted thoughts about this book. On the one hand, I very much enjoyed the story and the characters. Rachel, Wick, and Borne are delightfully complex and I often found myself disappointed in them as often as I was pleased. The world is developed extremely well, and I’d be happy to spend more time to learn about the City and the Company that deteriorated it so.

But…

VanderMeer’s writing was a struggle for me. Don’t misunderstand, it is beautiful. But it’s also strange. Just like the book itself. I had a hard time, not because the prose is overly Image result for borne vandermeercomplex or wordy, but because the sentence structures were often bizarre. There were entire paragraphs, large chunks of the page that were only a sentence or two. Those were immediately followed with sentence fragments and sentences that played with word order. You have to scavenge the story from the page. And while I can appreciate the mastery of craft behind such a novel, it frequently pulled me from the story, jarred me from the world, and allowed my mind to wander when all I really wanted was to know what happened to Rachel and her makeshift family.

 

See? I’m conflicted. It is a beautiful book. It’s a book that makes the reader work. And I’m not opposed to doing the work, but I felt that Borne could have balanced storytelling and readability a little bit better.

I can’t say if this is true for all of VanderMeer’s stories. I’ve only read Borne, and I’m only a third of the way through the Borne novella, The Strange Bird. So far, I don’t feel like it suffers as much from the jarring language as the novel did. Or maybe I’m just acclimated and notice it less. Either way, I’m struggling less so far. Which is a good thing.

I should be back this weekend to write up my review for The Strange Bird and probably to vent about how stressed I am about this trip. I’ll be fine once we’re on the plane, but each passing day my anxiety grows and grows. Just like Borne.

I need a beer.

 

BZ

Goals Summary 2018 – Wk 35

Bloggos,

Labor Day weekend found us celebrating with friends from out of town, and then I streamed another play-through of Detroit: Become Human, from beginning to end, on Monday.  I’m paying for all that screen time with a migraine and delayed blog posts.

Last Week

  • Publish two blog posts
  • Write/share a tumblr prompt
  • Record/share 2 episodes of Santa Sarita
  • Read two stories from More Human Than Human
  • Write chapter 7 of Sanctuary

How’d I do?

  • Publish two blog posts
  • Write/share a tumblr prompt
    • Yep! It took a little while to get a response, but it’s doing well enough.
  • Record/share 2 episodes of Santa Sarita
    • Hahaha. Nope.
  • Read two stories from More Human Than Human
    • Nope. Although, does playing 40-60 hours of Detroit: Become Human count? They are androids after all.
  • Write chapter 7 of Sanctuary
    • No. But I wrote just about half of it. So there’s that.

Weekly Word Count: 2,596

So, not a very productive week, it turns out. I’m not too torn up about it. The word count is good considering how few projects I had to work on, and I did a really good job of emptying my brain and just being human for a few days. I’m happy enough with the output of last month as a whole not to worry too much about how the last week played out.

What’s Next?

  • Publish two blog posts
  • Write 1000 words on Sanctuary
  • Finish reading Borne
  • Read two short stories
  • Review Madhu’s query letter

I’ll admit, that’s more bullet points than I expected. Lots of reading this week. A little bit of writing, nothing too crazy. Gonna keep it low key and prep for Germany! My big goal is to have a great, relaxed month and come back ready to prep and research for my NaNoWriMo novel.

And that’s where I’ll leave this. Migraine brain has got me good, so I’m not much use right now.

Talk at you soon,

 

BZ