Title/Author: The Vanished Birds by Simon Jimenez
Publisher: Del Ray
Published: January 14, 2020
In a nutshell (Publisher):
A solitary ship captain, drifting through time.
Nia Imani is a woman out of place. Traveling through the stars condenses decades into mere months for her, though the years continue to march steadily onward for everyone she has ever known. Her friends and lovers have aged past her. She lives only for the next paycheck, until the day she meets a mysterious boy, fallen from the sky.
A mute child, burdened with unimaginable power.
The scarred boy does not speak, his only form of communication the haunting music he plays on an old wooden flute. Captured by his songs and otherworldly nature, Nia decides to take the boy in to live amongst her crew. Soon, these two outsiders discover in each other the things they lack. For him, a home, a place of love and safety. For her, an anchor to the world outside of herself. For both of them, a family. But Nia is not the only one who wants the boy.
A millennia-old woman, poised to burn down the future.
Fumiko Nakajima designed the ships that allowed humanity to flee a dying Earth. One thousand years later, she now regrets what she has done in the name of progress. When chance brings Fumiko, Nia, and the child together, she recognizes the potential of his gifts, and what will happen if the ruling powers discover him. So she sends the pair to the distant corners of space to hide them as she crafts a plan to redeem her old mistakes.
But time is running out. The past hungers for the boy, and when it catches up, it threatens to tear this makeshift family apart.
My verdict: Fantastic world-building with very strong, memorable characters. They’d have you rooting for them, even the slightly unlikeable ones!
The novel starts with the birth of Kaeda, a baby born with an eleventh finger. He had always been in awe of the offworlders, the star travellers, whose stories he had heard of from his parents. When Shipment Day finally arrived in Fifth Village in planet Umbai V, which happened once in fifteen years, he waited for the arrival of the offworlders in bated breath. That night he met Nia Imani, captain of a time-folding ship, he was smitten by her and longed to see her again every other Shipment Day, which they did.
On her final Shipment Day, Nia was asked to deliver a mysterious boy who fell from the sky to the Umbai government, as the people of Fifth Village believed him to be an evil omen and wanted to have nothing to do with him.
After having bonded with the mysterious boy during their travel back to Pelican Station, Nia reluctantly handed him over to Umbai. She never thought she’d ever see him again, until the reknown space engineer, Fumiko Nakajima, who was responsible for creating the space stations (Pelican being one of them) that migrated humans to space, tasked Nia with caring for the fallen boy. She would need to take him to fringe space for fifiteen years (real time). Fumiko believed this boy had the special ability to ‘Jaunt’, and wanted to protect him from the claws of Umbai.
Will she succeed? Will the boy be safe?
I’m a newbie to sci-fi, and I found it really challenging at first having to learn new concepts and terms. But the narration was so engrossing that the pages just flew by, as I learned about interstellar travel and what it would be like living in space.
This novel had many characters that stood out, even those who only appeared briefly like Dana and Nurse. They’d have you rooting for each of them, and yes, even the unfavorable ones, although my favorites were Sartoris – his sense of humor is infectious, Ahro – his quiet demeanor grew on me, and Captain Nia – her soft spot for Ahro and her confidence as a captain. Unfortunately, I found it hard to like Fumiko, who was also a designer baby. She was cold, cold, cold.
I also enjoyed the camaraderie of Nia with her old and new crew whom she bonded with over time. Ahra and Satoris made such a great pair! I loved reading about their time together as teacher and student; and oh those quiet, tender moments between the boy and Nia, getting to know each other, were so brilliantly captured!
In ‘The Vanished Birds’, traverse in the awe-inspiring world that Jimenez built – travel in underwater tunnels, escape the dying earth to safer planets in space arks, use neurals to translate languages instantly and get around new places, and see the other possibilities of our future, which in this book, included designer babies and living on the moon serenaded by music all day long!
This novel made me realize, no matter how different our future may be from our present, one thing doesn’t change, or will never change – human greed and selfishness, and our cruelty towards nature, which we continue to ravage to serve our own needs. Will we ever learn?
I want to leave my review with what Dana said,
“But a part of me still revolts against the notion that this is our basic nature; that we are, in essence, self-serving creatures. That love is an explainable construct and souls are a pretty feint to distract ourselves from our own cruel emptiness.”
I think this would make a great pick for sci-fi lovers who look for strong characters in their stories.
Also, if you have a few minutes to spare, check out this video. Is Nature trying to tell us something?
Something to think about:
Thank you NetGalley and Del Ray for providing me a free eARC of this book in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are mine.
Have you read this book? What did you think? If you haven’t, do you intend to read it? Or have you read a sci-fi book similar to this one? Please share with me your thoughts!
Till then, may the power of good books be with you always, especially now when everyone is self-isolating.
Stay safe and vigilant, you all. Let’s beat this beast!