Jeff VanderMeer
The Strange Bird

Book Cover

The Strange Bird—from New York Times-bestselling novelist Jeff VanderMeer—is a digital original that expands and weaves deeply into the world of his “thorough marvel” (Colson Whitehead) of a novel, Borne.

The strange bird is a new kind of creature, built in a laboratory—she is part bird, part human, part many other things. But now the lab in which she was created is under siege and the scientists have turned on their animal creations. Flying through tunnels, dodging bullets, and changing her colors and patterning to avoid capture, the strange bird manages to escape.

But she cannot just soar in peace above the earth. The sky itself is full of wildlife that rejects her as one of their own, and also full of technology—satellites and drones and other detritus of the human civilization below that has all but destroyed itself. And the further she flies, the deeper she finds herself in the orbit of the Company, a collapsed biotech company that has populated the world with experiments both failed and successful that have outlived the corporation itself: a pack of networked foxes, a giant predatory bear. But of the many creatures she encounters with whom she bears some kind of kinship, it is the humans—all of them now simply scrambling to survive—who are the most insidious, who still see her as simply something to possess, to capture, to trade, to exploit. Never to understand, never to welcome home.

With The Strange Bird, Jeff VanderMeer has done more than add another layer, a new chapter, to his celebrated novel Borne. He has created a whole new perspective on the world inhabited by Rachel and Wick, the Magician, Mord and Borne—a view from above, of course, but also a view from deep inside the mind of a new kind of creature who will fight and suffer and live for the tenuous future of this world.

Praise for Jeff VanderMeer's Borne:

“The conceptual elements in VanderMeer’s fiction are so striking that the firmness with which he cinches them to his characters’ lives is often overlooked. . . . Borne is VanderMeer’s trans-species rumination on the theme of parenting. . . . The novel’s scope is of human dimensions, despite its nonhuman title character. But VanderMeer’s take on the postapocalyptic fantasy is not without subversive ambition. . . . The novel insists that to live in an age of gods and sorcerers is to know that you, a mere person, might be crushed by indifferent forces at a moment’s notice, then quickly forgotten. And that the best thing about human nature might just be its unwillingness to surrender to the worst side of itself.” —The New Yorker

“VanderMeer, author of the acclaimed Southern Reach trilogy, has made a career out of eluding genre classifications, and with Borne he essentially invents a new one. . . . What’s even more remarkable is the reservoirs of feeling that VanderMeer is able to tap into . . . resulting in something more than just weird fiction: weird literature.” —Publishers Weekly, starred review

“[A]n atmospheric and decidedly dark fable for our time . . . supremely literary, distinctly unusual . . . VanderMeer's deep talent for worldbuilding takes him into realms more reminiscent of Cormac McCarthy's The Road than of the Shire. Superb” —Kirkus Reviews, starred review

"VanderMeer marries bildungsroman, domestic drama, love story, and survival thriller into one compelling, intelligent story centered not around the gee-whiz novelty of a flying bear but around complex, vulnerable characters struggling with what it means to be a person. VanderMeer’s talent for immersive world-building and stunning imagery is on display in this weird, challenging, but always heartfelt novel." —Booklist, starred review

“Jeff VanderMeer’s Southern Reach Trilogy was an ever-creeping map of the apocalypse; with Borne he continues his investigation into the malevolent grace of the world, and it’s a thorough marvel.” —Colson Whitehead, the National Book Award winning author of The Underground Railroad

"VanderMeer is that rare novelist who turns to nonhumans not to make them approximate us as much as possible but to make such approximation impossible. . . . This coming-of-age story signals that eco-fiction has come of age as well: wilder, more reckless and more breathtaking than previously thought, a wager and a promise that what emerges from the 21st century will be as good as any from the 20th, or the 19th."
The New York Times Book Review

“[T]he most beautifully written, and believable, post-apocalyptic tale in recent memory . . . Vandermeer, whose many works of fantastika include the bestselling Southern Reach trilogy, outdoes himself in this visionary novel shimmering with as much inventiveness and deliriously unlikely, post-human optimism as Borne himself.” —The LA Times

“VanderMeer’s undeniable skill as a writer keeps what could be an unwieldy blur of a plot from devolving into grim melodrama or atmospheric nihilism. . . . Rachel, a brown-skinned, kinky-haired refugee woman, will also satisfy readers eager to see marginalized figures move to the center of an adventure novel. And there’s enough allusiveness in this story to satisfy a whole conference of literary critics . . . Ultimately, though, these heady delights only add to the engrossing richness of Borne. The main attraction is a tale of mothers and monsters—and of how we make each other with our love.”
The Washington Post

“[D]eeply strange and brilliant . . . powerful . . . thrilling, edge-of-the-seat . . . No one writes a post-apocalyptic landscape like VanderMeer . . . Ovidian in its underpinnings, exploring the radical transformation of life forms and the seams between them.” —The Guardian

“[U]ndeniably imaginative . . . marvelous and tantalizing . . . Magnificently realized” —Library Journal

"Borne, the latest from sci-fi savant Jeff VanderMeer, begins innocently enough: Girl meets strange plantlike creature. But if you haven't read his haunting Southern Reach trilogy, prepare yourself--this is Walden gone horribly wrong." —Esquire

"VanderMeer's world is vast and imaginative . . . [Borne] augments its weirdness with strong characters and worldbuilding, and a narrator who manages to charm and unnerve in equal measure . . . From its biotech creatures to its god-bear and attack beetles, Borne is intriguing, unnerving, and quintessentially VanderMeer." —Barnes & Noble

"Beautiful . . . VanderMeer's fiction is not preachy by any means. Rather, it probes the mysterious of different lifeforms and highlights our human ignorance at the life around us." —Vice

"Borne maintains a wry self-awareness that's rare in dystopias, making it the most necessary VanderMeer book yet." —Wired

"Just as VanderMeer subverted your expectations for each sequel to Annihilation, with Borne he’s written something completely different and unpredictable—not just in terms of the story, but also with regards to language, structure, and point of view." —Chicago Review of Books

"VanderMeer's apocalyptic vision, with its mix of absurdity, horror, and grace, can't be mistaken for that of anyone else. Inventive, engrossing, and heartbreaking, Borne finds [VanderMeer] at a high point of creative accomplishment." —San Francisco Chronicle

Related media links:

"From Annihilation to Acceptance: A Writer’s Surreal Journey" in The Atlantic

"The Weird Thoreau" in The New Yorker

"The Illusions of Control: Jeff VanderMeer's extraordinary Southern Reach Trilogy" in Slate

Publication Date: August 2017
Page extent: 93 (e-book)

World rights (Farrar, Straus & Giroux)
Film rights (Paramount Pictures and Scott Rudin Productions) 

Jeff VanderMeer

Photo Credit: Kyle Cassidy

Jeff VanderMeer is an award-winning novelist, and the author most recently of Borne and the New York Times bestselling Southern Reach Trilogy, the first book of which, Annihilation, is being released as a feature film starring Natalie Portman, Oscar Isaac, and Gina Rodriguez in spring 2018. His fiction has been translated into thirty-five languages and his nonfiction has appeared in the New York Times and Los Angeles Times. He grew up in the Fiji Islands and now lives in Tallahassee, Florida, with his wife.