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"Borne" Summary

By Jeff VanderMeer

science fiction | 336 pages | Published in 2017

In a ruined, nameless city of the future, a woman named Rachel, who makes her living as a scavenger, finds a creature she names “Borne” entangled in the fur of Mord, a gigantic, despotic bear. Mord once prowled the corridors of the biotech organization known as the Company, which lies at the outskirts of the city, until he was experimented on, grew large, learned to fly and broke free. Driven insane by his torture at the Company, Mord terrorizes the city even as he provides sustenance for scavengers like Rachel.At first, Borne looks like nothing at all—just a green lump that might be a Company discard. The Company, although severely damaged, is rumoured to still make creatures and send them to distant places that have not yet suffered Collapse.Borne somehow reminds Rachel of the island nation of her birth, now long lost to rising seas. She feels an attachment she resents; attachments are traps, and in this world any weakness can kill you. Yet when she takes Borne to her subterranean sanctuary, the Balcony Cliffs, Rachel convinces her lover, Wick, not to render Borne down to raw genetic material for the drugs he sells—she cannot break that bond.Wick is a special kind of supplier, because the drug dealers in the city don’t sell the usual things. They sell tiny creatures that can be swallowed or stuck in the ear, and that release powerful memories of other people’s happier times or pull out forgotten memories from the user’s own mind—or just produce beautiful visions that provide escape from the barren, craterous landscapes of the city.Against his better judgment, out of affection for Rachel or perhaps some other impulse, Wick respects her decision. Rachel, meanwhile, despite her loyalty to Wick, knows he has kept secrets from her. Searching his apartment, she finds a burnt, unreadable journal titled “Mord,” a cryptic reference to the Magician (a rival drug dealer) and evidence that Wick has planned the layout of the Balcony Cliffs to match the blueprint of the Company building. What is he hiding? Why won’t he tell her about what happened when he worked for the Company?


Estimated read time: 5 min read

One Sentence Summary

A scavenger finds a mysterious creature in a post-apocalyptic city and must navigate its ever-changing nature and powers.


In Jeff VanderMeer's captivating novel, "Borne," readers are transported to a post-apocalyptic world filled with strange and mysterious creatures. With his unique blend of science fiction and fantasy, VanderMeer weaves a mesmerizing tale of survival, love, and the blurred lines between humanity and nature. Through vivid prose and imaginative storytelling, "Borne" takes readers on a thrilling and thought-provoking journey that explores the depths of human nature and the resilience of the human spirit.

Brief Synopsis

"Born" is set in a city devastated by an unnamed ecological disaster. The once thriving metropolis is now a wasteland, overrun by a biotech company called the Company and its creations. In this bleak and desolate landscape, Rachel, a scavenger, discovers a strange creature named Borne during one of her expeditions. Borne is a small, shapeshifting organism with an insatiable hunger for knowledge.

As Rachel takes Borne under her care, a bond forms between them. She raises Borne as her own child, teaching him about the world and nurturing his growth. However, as Borne grows bigger and more complex, Rachel realizes that he may not be what he seems. Borne's abilities and origins become increasingly mysterious, and Rachel must decide whether to trust him or protect herself from the potential danger he poses.

Main Characters

Here are the main characters in "Borne":

RachelA resourceful scavenger who discovers and raises Borne. She is fiercely independent and determined to survive in the harsh world she lives in.
BorneA small, shapeshifting creature Rachel finds during her scavenging. Borne is curious, intelligent, and eager to learn about the world around him.
WickA former employee of the Company, Wick is a complex character with a troubled past. He becomes entangled in Rachel and Borne's lives and plays a pivotal role in the story.

Summary of Story Points

Chapter 1-5: Discovery of Borne

Rachel, a scavenger, finds Borne during one of her expeditions. Intrigued by the creature's unique abilities, she brings him back to her sanctuary and begins taking care of him. Borne starts as a small, helpless organism but quickly grows in size and complexity.

Chapter 6-10: The Company's Influence

Rachel and Borne encounter Wick, a former employee of the Company who warns them of the danger they face. The Company's creations, including the giant bear named Mord, pose a threat to Rachel and Borne's safety. Rachel becomes torn between protecting Borne and finding a way to survive in the face of the Company's power.

Chapter 11-15: Borne's Identity Revealed

As Borne continues to grow, Rachel discovers his true nature. Borne is not just a simple creature but a complex being with the ability to imitate others and absorb their knowledge. Rachel grapples with her feelings of both love and fear towards Borne, unsure of what he might become.

Chapter 16-20: Confrontation with the Company

Rachel, Borne, and Wick devise a plan to confront the Company and put an end to its control over the city. They face numerous obstacles and dangers along the way, including Mord, the Company's most formidable creation. The final confrontation tests their strength, resolve, and the bond between Rachel and Borne.

Main Events

  • Rachel discovers and raises Borne, a shapeshifting creature with unknown origins.
  • The Company's creations, including the giant bear Mord, threaten Rachel and Borne's safety.
  • Borne's true nature and abilities are revealed, causing tension and uncertainty.
  • Rachel, Borne, and Wick plan to confront the Company and reclaim their autonomy.

Themes and Insights

Nature vs. Technology

VanderMeer explores the theme of nature versus technology throughout the novel. The Company's creations, born from biotech experiments, disrupt the natural order and wreak havoc on the environment. Rachel's connection with Borne, a creature born out of nature, highlights the importance of preserving and respecting the natural world.

Identity and Self-Discovery

The characters in "Borne" grapple with questions of identity and self-discovery. Borne's evolution and ability to imitate others raises questions about what it means to be truly human. Rachel's journey of self-discovery parallels Borne's as she navigates her own identity in a world that has been irrevocably changed.

Love and Sacrifice

The bond between Rachel and Borne is at the heart of the novel. VanderMeer explores the depths of love and sacrifice as Rachel must make difficult choices to protect both herself and Borne. Their relationship serves as a reflection of the enduring power of love in the face of adversity.

Reader's Takeaway

"Borne" is a captivating and thought-provoking novel that immerses readers in a world of mystery and wonder. VanderMeer's vivid prose and imaginative storytelling create a rich and atmospheric setting that lingers in the mind long after the final page is turned. The exploration of themes such as nature, identity, and love, coupled with compelling characters and a thrilling plot, make "Borne" a must-read for fans of science fiction and fantasy.


Jeff VanderMeer's "Borne" takes readers on a mesmerizing journey through a post-apocalyptic world filled with strange creatures and complex characters. With its exploration of themes such as nature, identity, and love, the novel offers thought-provoking insights into the human condition. VanderMeer's masterful storytelling and vivid prose make "Borne" an unforgettable reading experience that will leave readers pondering the boundaries of humanity and the power of connection.

Borne FAQ

  1. What is the genre of the book?

    The book 'Borne' by Jeff VanderMeer is a science fiction novel.

  2. Who is the author of 'Borne'?

    The author of 'Borne' is Jeff VanderMeer.

  3. What is the main storyline of the book?

    The main storyline of 'Borne' revolves around a scavenger named Rachel who finds and adopts a mysterious creature named Borne in a post-apocalyptic city.

  4. What is the setting of the book?

    The book is set in a dystopian city called Balcony Cliffs, which has been devastated by an ecological disaster.

  5. What are some key themes explored in 'Borne'?

    Some key themes explored in 'Borne' include humanity, identity, nature, and the power dynamics between humans and non-human creatures.

  6. Is 'Borne' part of a series?

    'Borne' is a standalone novel and is not part of a series.

  7. What is the writing style of Jeff VanderMeer in this book?

    Jeff VanderMeer's writing style in 'Borne' is often described as lyrical and imaginative, with a focus on vivid descriptions and atmosphere.

  8. Are there any notable awards or recognitions received by 'Borne'?

    Yes, 'Borne' was a finalist for the Arthur C. Clarke Award.

  9. Is 'Borne' suitable for young readers?

    The book 'Borne' contains mature themes and may not be suitable for young readers. It is recommended for mature young adult and adult readers.

  10. Where can I purchase a copy of 'Borne'?

    You can purchase a copy of 'Borne' from various online retailers such as Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or directly from the publisher.