Enlarge / Several artists have made work inspired by Borne. This is a woodcut of Mord, the giant flying bear, created by Theo Ellsworth. (credit: Theo Ellsworth)

Wick and Rachel are barely surviving at the fringes of a city destroyed by an apocalypse so bizarre that it almost defies description. All we know is that a skyscraper-sized floating bear named Mord frequently zooms across the sky, terrorizing the area’s remaining inhabitants. In bestselling author Jeff VanderMeer’s new novel, Borne, we’re plunged into a future environmental hellscape. The best part is that lurking beneath this book’s bitterness and body horror, there is a profound, complicated story of hope.

When we first meet Rachel, she’s scavenging bizarre, half-alive devices from the urban ruins, bringing home alien items like shell medicines and alcohol fish. She lives in the half-buried remains of an old apartment complex with former scientist Wick, who has converted the swimming pool into a wet lab. There, he patches up insect-based weapons and grows the medicines he needs. It’s a rough life for the couple, but they’ve managed.

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