This is an absolute stunner in every sense of the word–rich prose, tight plotting, and imaginative twists and turns.
The Company has manufactured biotech that wreak havoc upon the City. The actions of Mord, a man-made bear-like creature, and his proxies cause the Magician and her pseudo-children to rebel.
Even before the rebellion, however, the City has been wrecked, leaving many scavengers. Rachel, who lives in the Balcony Cliff with Wick, has learned the art of scavenging.
Though there is a gap in her memories, Rachel remembers once living on an island. Later, as the waters rose, she became a climate refugee and moved to the City.
Perhaps she sees something of herself in the creature, Borne, who helplessly clings to Mord’s flank. She nurtures him yet she doesn’t know exactly what he is.
No one does, not even Borne himself. For a time, he ponders if he is a biotech weapon created by the Company. Wick suggests that they deconstruct him to see what he is but Rachel feels outraged. He is a “person” in her eyes yet he at first seems little more than a plant with eyes.
VanderMeer’s The Strange bird (2018) is a Borne story. He has also written the Southern Reach Trilogy (2014), Dead Astronauts(2019) and Hummingbird Salamander(2021).