By: Jeff VanderMeer
Release Date: February 27, 2018
Publisher: MCD/Firrar, Strous, and Giroux
My library tends to always have novellas in their new books section, and I tend to always check them out immediately. This past week I found a book called The Strange Bird by Jeff VanderMeer, which is a title I hadn’t heard of before. Once I’d checked the book out and gotten home I realized I was in the middle of two other novels by the same author – Annihilation, the first book in the Southern Reach trilogy, as well as Borne.
Such are the struggles of reading six or seven books at once I suppose.
The Strange Bird is the story of, well, a strange bird. This is a creature that is aesthetically beautiful, but clearly a lab creation. One day it escapes the lab it calls home and flies out into the world for the first time.
This novella is set in the same world as Jeff Vandermeer’s novel Borne. While reading Borne first will no doubt provide more background and world building, it isn’t necessary to the plot. This is partially due to the manner in which the story is told. We follow the strange bird as it escapes and tries to survive. It is this one point of view from a character with total ignorance to the workings of the world around it which makes this novella work so very well.
The world of the novel is not the same as it is today. This is a land that has been ravaged, though by what I am unsure. The reasons are hinted at, but never stated outright. The strange bird tries to navigate this harsh landscape with no real idea of what freedom is, or what the world is like.
I do want to warn readers that this book does get a bit horror-esque at times. This is not a post-apocalyptic world with everyone trying to do their best. This is a post-apocalypse with broken individuals. Scientists have experimented with genetics and performed terrible mutilations. Those who are still alive do whatever they must to ensure survival. The world is a scary one, and the strange bird goes through some truly frightening, awful situations.
As dark as the story can get, it never felt totally hopeless. The ending is not something I want to spoil, but it was very good and I really loved it.
Despite being a novella I can’t necessarily call this a fast read. The writing style and material do not really support that.
The Strange Bird by Jeff Vandermeer was very good, a fantastic look at a post-apocalyptic world through truly unique eyes. I really enjoyed reading this novella, and can’t wait to read more of the author’s works.