I have a very self deprecating sense of humor. But trust me when I say: it’s no joke that I am neither intelligent enough or creative enough or abstract-thinking enough to appreciate this book. I don’t want to trash it completely- because I can appreciate this for the literary experiment that it is. I just don’t know that it’s a literary experiment that works.
VanderMeer can string words together on a page better than most, but hot damn, this was a total slog for me. It took me longer than I care to admit, to realize this is a non-linear story, and on top of it’s non-linearness it’s also very repetitive in parts. We explore many different realities and alternative timelines in separate parts, never coming together to add up to anything.
I think this is supposed to be the story of Charlie X, the rise and fall of the Company introduced in Borne. But if I’m being honest, I don’t remember Charlie X all that well from Borne, and I didn’t think anything about the Company that was revealed really contributed any additional understanding. I guess the questions I cared about, like what happened to humanity and what was the purpose of the Company, weren’t explored enough in any detail to make me care.
We also don’t get to spend enough time with any of the many characters to grow to care about them. Astronaut dies. Astronaut dies. Astronaut dies again. Blue fox sneaks in and says some clever foxy stuff. I just don’t know what the point was. Maybe for some there doesn’t need to be a point. For me- there needs to be a point.
If, like me, you were hoping for more of Borne, if you were hoping for an origin story to the villain (villain being the company or the sorceress), I think this is safe to skip. If you’re looking for something to bend your brain and make you work for it, by all means, pick this up. The writing is beautiful. Unfortunately that’s the only thing to leave an impression on me.