The Strange Bird

Author: Jeff VanderMeer

Type: Fiction, novella

Full title: The Strange Bird: A Borne Story

Published: 2018

I read it: March 2018

the strange bird

Each turn in the story, like a bird dipping across a gray sky before storms, turns around the question: who is the Strange Bird? She is a she, but is she known by more? Or is she “just and always forever the Strange Bird, who had no need of a name, not in the way human beings liked to name things”?

As she rattles and resets inside the organic machine that is her vessel, a much larger question looms up out of the blown apart world, a world that “looked so very old and so very worn, and only when she climbed to the right altitude could she pretend that it was beautiful.” That question: not who, but what, is the Strange Bird?

The Magician knows something (too many things). The Magician says, between lies, that she is “a made bird.” What are made birds made for, especially now, in the post-, when creatures live and die based on a combination of subroutine, gut instinct, and capacity for cruelty? A Strange Bird in a strange land, dodging small greedy captors as well as the shadow of the flying bear. For “the bear infernal was also the bear eternal, a kind of angel that was unexpected and wondrous yet terrible, too.” Too many enemies in this space.

The Strange Bird flies on memory and an internal compass that was given to her (forced into her) but is, still, hers. Even though she is not, really, herself. A pity that she is something at all, as the Magician tries to unmake (remake) her. To feel herself being ripped and restitched. Can she continue to inch toward whatever is southeast?

To exist is the thinnest stretching of a thread.


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