In the post-apocalyptic ruins of an unnamed city, a woman named Rachel survives by scavenging for food, water and biotech--living experimental refuse cast off by the defunct Company. She braves desperate fellow humans, inhuman organic horrors and the predatory Mord, a behemoth bear that terrorizes the city. Rachel brings her discoveries to Wick, her partner in love and survival, whose mysterious past with the Company helps him turn Rachel's treasures into drugs--for profit and personal use. Balcony Cliffs, their hidden compound, is precariously perched between Mord's territory and the territory of a rival biotech dealer called the Magician.

Rachel's latest find threatens to upend their uneasy existence. It's a blob clinging to Mord's fur, a thing neither plant nor animal that quickly becomes as threatening as it is unusual. Rachel names this amorphous entity Borne, and decides to keep it despite Wick's reservations. Borne speaks, grows and learns under Rachel's care, ever curious about its possible personhood and purpose--one that may decide the fate of Rachel, Wick and the city itself.

Jeff VanderMeer, author of the Southern Reach trilogy (Annihilation, Authority, Acceptance), proves himself a wizard of weird fiction with Borne. The titular creature is lovably charismatic, vaguely menacing and presents a peculiar parable of parenthood in its relationship with Rachel. The setting is a delightfully bizarre mix of post-apocalypse, dystopia and light science fiction, blended with the creeping unease of the unknowable that made Southern Reach so memorable, and delivered with VanderMeer's keen eye for natural--and unnatural--detail. --Tobias Mutter, freelance reviewer

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