Book review: Borne by Jeff Vandermeer

It’s been a while since I treated myself to a good book, so I was on the lookout for something a little off-the-cuff. I’d read the first part of Vandermeer’s Southern Reach trilogy, and though I enjoyed it, I don’t think I liked it enough to pick up the next two.  (Though, that probably says more about my attention span than the writer’s talent).

In many ways, Borne was very similar to Annihilation: set in an unspecified land at some unspecified point in the future, it follows a female protagonist and her partner trying to survive in what’s left of the world following untempered experimentation in biotechnology. What doesn’t help is that the Company responsible for the disaster seems to have gotten away with it (maybe everyone was too preoccupied with staying alive to bring about some sort of legal case), and are still developing some weird and less-than-wonderful creatures to inflict upon the surviving populace. Their biggest success (and I do mean biggest) is Mord, a bear-like creature several storeys high who just happens to be able to fly.

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Or he was their biggest success until Rachel, our protagonist, discovers a tiny plant-like creature sticking to his fur. She removes it, takes it home, calls it Borne, and watches it grow into a sentient being with limitless shape-shifting abilities and a hunger for learning. All seems to be going well, aside from her partner’ suspicions, until she notices that the lizards, insects and people around their camp are disappearing, and that Borne is getting larger.

What’s worse is that he doesn’t seem to excrete…

Yep, it’s that weird, and it’s a real treat of a book. The setting is painstakingly crafted to give a despairing sense of place, and the story cracks along at a reasonable pace, though sometimes I did find it got a little slow. This is undoubtedly aiming at the literary end of the dystopia/sci-fi market, so it does focus a lot on the characterisation, mostly Rachel’s. The whole story is told through introspective memories with a lot of detail wrought around her conflicted feelings for Borne and her partner, Wick.

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Film review – Alien: Covenant (‘You know what? We should all split up…’)

Can you take a franchise too far? Police Academy says you can, which is why I’m always  a tad apprehensive before I take my seat for another Alien instalment. On the whole it’s been a good run: one or two classics, the occasional ‘meh’, and only one real stinker. But there is a formula for the best ones:

  1. More than one killer xenomorph.
  2. Lots of people with lots of guns, but no clue…
  3. An android with an agenda to make things just that much harder.
  4. No more than three survivors at the end.

So on that basis, Alien: Covenant is something of a winner.

covenant

The Covenant in question is a huge ship carrying two thousand people, in suspended animation, to a far-off world ripe for colonisation. Unsurprisingly, the ship suffers a disaster en-route (and the rather gruesome death of its captain), so the jaded crew decided to investigate a much closer world, looking to cut seven years off the journey time. The right climate, water and vegetation. It seems perfect; but of course, it’s not…

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Film review: Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (The Baby Groot Show)

guardians_of_the_galaxy_2.jpgYou  know what it’s like. Marvel Comics hands you one of the their B-teams and tells you to go make a movie. It’s a surprise smash, and now they want a sequel…

This is often where the trouble starts, and that’s why I can count on one hand the number of sequels that are better than the original. Fortunately, the director of Guardians of the Galaxy didn’t get a god complex and jet off on a wild tangent to find his artistic centre; nope, he looked carefully at what made his first outing such a huge success and then delivered exactly the same … only more so.

 

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