Rachel, a scavenger in a burned out city in a dystopian world, finds a houseplant-sized piece of glowing biotech tangled in the fur of Mord, a giant flying bear who terrorizes the human inhabitants. She lives in an abandoned, partially-ruined apartment complex called “The Balcony Cliffs,” with Wick, a genius biotech designer. She takes her salvaged biotech home to find that it grows and learns and becomes a sentient being she calls “Borne.”
This science fiction novel has a hint of Frankenstein about it. Mord was created by the “Company,” along with other monsters, but they lost control of him. Is Borne another Frankenstein? Will we have Frankenstein versus Frankenstein?
I used to teach Finch, another Jeff Vandermeer novel in this course. Finch is about a noir Sam Spade or Phillip Marlow-style detective trying to solve a double murder in a city run by “Gray Caps,” fungal alien beings who came up out of the ground. It’s a science fiction detective novel. However, it went out of print and used copies are very expensive. I’ll bring it back if it ever goes back in print. But my students enjoyed Borne.
As with Stranger in Olondria, I made podcasts for each section of the book. However, these podcasts are organized a bit differently. I focused on character development and issues rather than doing a chronological walk through of the reading. I also stopped putting a list of questions at the end because the students felt that they had to answer the questions rather than engaging in their own speculations. The questions are still there, but they are scattered throughout the presentation.
I may be teaching this again a year from now. I imagine that for now the podcasts and questions could also be used for a book club sort of discussion. The podcasts contain spoilers, so it is best to read the section before listening to the podcast or reading the notes. The notes were created to script the podcasts, but the podcasts often contain additional comments that come to me on the fly.
Borne Part 1, 3-56
Borne Part 2, 59-193
Borne Part 3a, 197-264 (Part 3 has been divided in half)
Borne Part 3b, 264-323