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The Vanished Birds

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A mysterious child lands in the care of a solitary woman, changing both of their lives forever in this captivating debut of connection across space and time.

"This is when your life begins."

Nia Imani is a woman out of place and outside of time. Decades of travel through the stars are condensed 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; all she has left is work. Alone and adrift, she lives only for the next paycheck, until the day she meets a mysterious boy, fallen from the sky.

A boy, broken by his past.

The scarred child does not speak, his only form of communication the beautiful and haunting music he plays on an old wooden flute. Captured by his songs and their strange, immediate connection, Nia decides to take the boy in. And over years of starlit travel, 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. The past hungers for him, and when it catches up, it threatens to tear this makeshift family apart.

391 pages, Hardcover

First published January 14, 2020

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Simon Jimenez

4 books426 followers

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 1,275 reviews
Profile Image for Jenna ❤ ❀  ❤.
765 reviews1,139 followers
March 9, 2020
Universe Stars GIF - Universe Stars Pretty GIFs

Holy. Freaking. Moly!! I love this book!!

Wow, what an amazing ride; I think this might end up being my favourite book of 2020, or at the very least my favourite science fiction! It was incredible. How the hell is this a debut novel?? This is something a long time writer with years of writing experience would have written. This is genius!

The Vanished Birds spans a millennium and is set on many worlds in many galaxies. It begins on a planet where every 15 years, a spaceship arrives to collect the harvest of seeds grown on this planet.  One of the workers, Kaeda, is drawn to Nia, the ship's captain. Because she travels in the "pocket" between this world and her own, she experiences only 8 months for every 15 years. We watch as Kaeda grows and changes and finally becomes an old man, while Nia remains much the same.  When a small child appears next to a wrecked spaceship - he the only survivor and apparently not in the ship when it crashed - the citizens of this world do not know what to do with him. He does not speak and the people are afraid of him. The next time Nia's ship arrives, Kaeda convinces her to take the boy, sending with him the small flute of which he's enamored, the very same flute Nia had gifted Kaeda when he himself was a small boy.

We are then taken back in time to get to know Fumiko Nakajima, one of earth's most brilliant scientists. It is Fumiko who helped humans leave a dying earth by designing space worlds for them to inhabit and who in effect helped colonise the galaxies. I loved her character and Nia's. I loved that the two main characters were not just strong, intelligent women, but minorities as well. Nia is Black and Fumiko is lesbian. Hell yeh! And thankfully there weren't any stereotypes attached to either of these characters.

I won't write more about the plot; you can read the book's synopsis to learn more - or the book itself which is what I would recommend.  I'll just add that the story is a mystery of sorts, a love story of sorts, a centuries-long saga spanning many galaxies and star systems. There is love and hate and revenge and an evil corporation. There are deep friendships and old enemies. And at its heart this is a story of family, the people we are most connected to whether or not we share blood, of the people we always long to return to. The prose is gorgeous. Exquisite. From page one I was entranced. There is not one thing I did not like about this book and that says a lot. I don't even care that there wasn't much science in this though normally I am disappointed with science fiction sans science. I wish I could give this 10 stars instead of 5. It is a masterpiece and Simon Jimenez is an author I will be eagerly awaiting another novel by.

Incredible. Absolutely incredible. 
Profile Image for David Putnam.
Author 16 books1,471 followers
April 23, 2020
Not sure how I like this book. The story is clear and obvious, but I again think it’s the Fictive Dream that I am missing. The writing is top notch, the concept intriguing, the characters interesting, for a Space Opera.
The first chapter doesn’t open with the main character which I always think is a mistake. The opening words are the contract with the reader that says, “take a look, this is what and how I’m going to tell the story.” The first chapter is historical information in the point of view of a throw- away character and was interesting enough to hold my attention, but it felt more like a too-long prologue. The next chapter is the main character and I was right there with the story, all though I would have preferred more scenes instead of the summary “telling.” The next chapter we are back in history, giving background setting up the space stations so we were not in the main character’s point view long enough to grab hold. The rest of the book had a similar feel. This book has interesting prose and a great concept I just don’t find myself thinking about the characters. In writing voice is king and I’m not sure-for me anyway-that it’s here. I was on the fence about how to rate this one, between a three and a four. If asked to recommend this book, I’d have to say, “Meh.”
David Putnam
Profile Image for Dave.
2,979 reviews321 followers
January 14, 2020
Vanished Birds is a mysterious science fiction tale bathed in beautiful prose that offers glimpses of a future of seasons changing, stars within reach, technological marvels, corporate greed, and metaphysical depth.

Starting with a distant world, a colony frozen in time except for brief decades-apart visits from offworlders. You get a strong juxtaposition of the few backward souls living simple lives and the grand civilization out there. A young boy exploding from the stars ✨ changes everything. And, his future appears special. He's mute. He doesn't belong anywhere. But he may just be the one everyone in the cosmos has been waiting for. Or not.

Meanwhile, a thousand years earlier, a designer baby changes everything and puts in motion things unimagined. The question is always what matters most, personal affections or human progress. Is it the job or the relationship that's important? Is loyalty to your friends, shipmates, companions paramount or setting aside a nest egg? Ultimately are we all disposable, interchangeable, useful? And what are the limits of corporate greed? Will it take us places we never thought we'd go?

This is a metaphysical story, not a bang bang shoot em up. It's filled with a sense of wonder and magic. Although I enjoyed it, I'm not certain everyone will.

What I think makes this novel work so well is that you never really know where the story is going. At first, you think one is the main character, but then there's a shift and the story focuses on someone else in another part of he universe becomes the focus. A lot of the story takes place on an aging ship with a motley crew, but it's a few giant steps till you get there. First, you have to flee the dying earth and it's not necessarily fair who gets to go. First, you have to have the oddest extramarital affair imaginable. First, someone has to predict what may come to be.

In any case, the writing is captivating, mystical. And takes the reader on a
One strange trip through ugh time and 🚀 space.
Profile Image for Nataliya.
725 reviews11.5k followers
August 24, 2021
I wish I could just cut out the first chapter out of this book and have it be its own story.

After the first chapter I was in love with this book. It was melancholically bittersweet and wonderful and a beautiful self-contained story that could have stood completely on its own. A story of a life spent under the hold of what could have been, the possibilities and longing, a life punctuated by brief glimpses of the life and the person you crave, until with the passage of decades you realize that you need to live the life that is and not the life that just could be, and learn to let go, no matter how painful it may be — because what other choice do you have? A story of a man, Kaeda, living in the agricultural pre-industrial society on a planet exploited by a space ruling corporation, mesmerized by the space ship that comes every 15 years and loving the captain of the ship, with every meeting getting older by a decade and a half as she ages just a few months (time dilation, you know) — and knowing that for you and for her the life will continue just the way it is, only meeting at intervals but never together, while the real life — choices and marriages and children and work and community — still goes on.
Apparently, according to the interview with Simon Jimenez (https://bookpage.com/interviews/24695...) this chapter was indeed actually written as a self-contained story as he was working up to writing longer fiction :

“Jimenez began working on the novel when he was studying for his MFA at Emerson College. In an effort to draw his classmates into his story without burying them under piles of science fiction lore, he started in a somewhat self-contained way, composing the opening chapter of the book almost like a piece of short fiction.

“I felt like I had to prove that I could write genre with some level of emotional intelligence, and that meant writing this fleshed-out short story of this person’s life,” he says. “So it’s very grounded but in a heightened reality.”

This was wonderful, and I loved it so much — and because of this instant connection my standards went so high that the rest of the novel sadly did not end up meeting them. Because after the wonderful, melancholic, confidently unhurried and lyrical beginning came the rest of the story, and for some reason it ended up strangely uneven, drawn out, fluctuating between lyrical and boring — and then making another U-turn and then suddenly culminating in a surprisingly touching bittersweet ending which brings us another full circle and that almost redeemed all the struggles I went through to keep reading to get to that point.

But to get to the ending we had to suffer through a lot of slow narration focusing on mundane bits of space life in a way that felt that we were skirting the exciting parts of the story — and then this cardinal sin of narration was committed as I was slogging through the entire middle of the book:
“The black spires. Sounder’s Outpost Kai. Networked streets of Suda-Sulai. The icescapes of Gallahad. We’ve performed countless jobs in places both large & small. Delivered vaccinations across continents. Escorted three wealthy sisters as they pilgrimaged to the old temples of their religion. Diagnosed the mysterious ailment that plagued the son of a Primark Prince, an ailment that would go on to take his life. We’ve traveled circles & zigzags across all of fringe space, rambling behind us years of stories.”

All those awesome things - and yet we don’t actually get to see any of that? A brief one-paragraph description of the cool things that happened off-page while nothing interesting is happening on-page. Instead we were getting descriptions of people getting sick in the lavatories and complaining about broken machinery and foot numbness? It’s not that the scenes of domesticity aren’t important — but don’t tease us with paragraphs like the one above just to return to another dinnertime conversation about mundanity. And the eventual ending/resolution, written almost in a fairy-tale style over a backdrop of relentlessly advancing technological society, feels a bit rushed despite being quite beautiful, and hiding uncertainty and nagging questions in its poetic culmination. And all of that left me wanting something just a bit more.

This is a character-driven book for the entirety of the story, but, except for Kaeda in that wonderful opening chapter, I failed to meaningfully connect to any of them. Nia kept me exasperated; Sartoruis was… well… was also there (what was the point of him, exactly?); Fumiko was, after a brief interest when she was first introduced, infuriating; and Ahro just annoyed me first with that incessant flute playing and then with all that childish wonder of his and the clear intent from the author that we were supposed to love him as much as Nia does - but I failed to see why exactly; their bond just seem to spring into being from nowhere, and I wasn’t getting it. And the rest of the crew were so interchangeable that I barely noticed when most of them were actually replaced a few chapters in.

And yet despite the gripes and frustration I did not end up actually disliking this book. First of all, the goodwill from the beginning lasted a while. Secondly, Simon Jimenez is a good writer, even when I am not too happy with his storytelling. He writes so well, in a voice that is mature and confident even when his storytelling falters. His prose is vivid, poetic and captivating, and was a pleasure to experience even when the plot was frustrating me to no avail.

So overall it’s a 2.5 star read — but it’s almost Christmas, and I’m feeling generous and so rounding up to 3 stars, for the sake of lovely beginning and good writing that kept me reading it despite the often-sluggish story. I’ll still try his future works because despite the uneven beginning I think Jimenez has potential.
Profile Image for megs_bookrack.
1,462 reviews9,320 followers
December 29, 2022

This book went so far over my head, it's now residing somewhere in the thermosphere.

Let's chat about it, shall we?

The Vanished Birds is a good book. The quality of the writing is fantastic. Absolutely gorgeous storytelling, however, I have to rate the book based upon my personal reading experience.

For me this was a fair, to good, reading experience. Pleasant, nothing off-putting, but not significantly engaging either. If I had the mental capacity to understand it more, perhaps my rating would have been higher.

I think what it boils down to is that this just isn't my type of book. I am fast reader. Additionally, I am a polygamous reader. I read multiple books at the same time, quite quickly.

As annoying as this character trait is, it is the only way for me to do it. I have tried to take my time, or just read one book at a time, and it puts me into a reading slump.

Therefore, deep books steeped with a lot of philosophical meaning tend to be wasted on me.

I just don't take the time to really sit back and assess the messages that the author is trying to convey. I wish I could, or really even wanted to. I envy those of you who are able to do that.

The Vanished Birds is a lyrical Science Fiction story of various relationships connected across space and time. I think a lot of readers will be able to get so much out of this. Even I can tell that the quality of this story is above average.

As a character piece, I think this holds a lot of value, and I'm not afraid to admit that it is beyond my comprehension.

I want to encourage everyone to read this synopsis and if it sounds intriguing to you, please pick it up. The synopsis is true to what is in the book, so I think it will draw in the appropriate readers.

With intelligent, subtle narrative, futuristic concepts and beautiful writing, for many Sci-Fi readers, I anticipate this being 4-or 5-stars. Maybe that reader will be you.

Thank you so much to the publisher, Del Rey Books, for providing me with a copy of this to read and review.

I appreciate it so much and look forward to seeing other reviews for this one!
Profile Image for Philip.
497 reviews666 followers
November 3, 2021
4.5ish stars.

I couldn't help seeing this as kind of the anti-Wayfarers. This book and Becky Chambers’s series share themes of finding family, love, and acceptance among motley crews across spacetime. Whereas The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet (which I also really enjoyed) is optimistic and warms your heart, Vanished Birds leaves your heart outside in the heat until it’s shriveled like a raisin. Still sweet but with several extra sides of bitter.

Not a selling point? Then let me assure you that it’s gorgeous. Jimenez crafts each sentence with such expressiveness, and his characters never fail to impress and disappoint us, often in quick succession.

So it's not as cute and escapist as thematically similar books, but if you need a counter-balance after reading that particular brand of positivity to bring you back to reality, this is that. As my reading buddy Denise says, "Vanished Birds was the kind of sad I recognize in the world- missed opportunities."

Posted in Mr. Philip's Library
Profile Image for Libby.
575 reviews157 followers
March 31, 2021
4+ stars - I’ve been craving a good science-fiction or fantasy novel like craving something missing from my reading diet. Maybe it’s a dessert or Vitamin SF, but a well-written book in this genre can be truly satisfying for those of us who like the genre. ‘The Vanished Birds’ more than met my expectations. Kaeda is a newborn with an extra finger, which the doctor removes. The father dreams that his son will grow up to be a governor of the Fifth Village on their planet, Umbai V, and places his son’s finger bones in a bone jar. On Umbai V, offworlders come every fifteen years to collect dhuba seed on ‘Shipment Day.’ Kaeda is seven-years-old the first time he sees the sky open up and the metallic ship descends. An even more fascinating vision is the offworlder woman he finds in an alley playing a wooden flute. She is black-skinned with a shaved scalp. Kaeda is very taken with her and her music. She gives Kaeda her flute before she leaves.

When Nia Imani returns, Kaeda is twenty-two years old. She explains to Kaeda that she travels in Pocket Space along currents like those that run in the ocean. Her trip to collect the dhuba seed and return it to her base station takes eight months while on Kaeda’s planet, fifteen years pass. Kaeda has dreamed of Nia all these years. He asks her to take him with her, but she leaves the next morning while he is still asleep. Before the last ‘Shipment Day’ in Nia’s circuit (six trips), a fireball streaks across the sky, making the ground shake when it lands. When the village hunters return from the site where it landed, they have with them a naked boy, about twelve-years-old, unharmed. He cannot speak or tell the villagers where he is from. Kaeda takes him in and decides he will be given to the offworlders who are due in three months. The villagers who are perturbed by the boy’s appearance are appeased that he will soon be leaving. By now Kaeda is eighty-two.

Fumiko Nakajima was born on earth back when it was whole. During the time of her birth, parents designed the children they wanted to have, but Fumiko’s mother, an actress, was part of a post-vanity movement and designed her daughter to be unattractive. Crooked teeth, eyes close together, large ears, her looks make her stand out among all the other beautiful children. “At least she is a genius,” one man tells her. Fumiko can figure out complex mathematical problems without a Handheld. Eventually, she is able to achieve fame when she works on creating an airship hull that can withstand the pressures of folding into Pocket Space. At a gathering, she meets Dana Schneider, who is even more beautiful than the usual designer people. Her parents had created her as an artist would. Tall with full red lips and purple eyes with gold flecks, she makes Fumiko’s heart jump.

This is Simon Jimenez’s debut novel; previously he has written short fiction. The first section read a bit like a short story in that one of the characters that I thought was going to be a main character goes off radar. I was starting to be a bit disappointed when enough things started happening to ensnare my attention and I was again caught up in his beautiful writing. The slow roll out as I tried to figure out what direction the story was going to take took a bit of patience, but it was well worth it. The writing is consistently beautiful, striving for meaning, but not in a work-hard way. His characters are the focus of his writing, not his world-building, which is an aspect I appreciated. The technological marvels and time travel elements appear as part of the story, not the focus of it. The characters are diverse, ‘other,’ strong, good, honorable, and villainous. The pacing is mostly terrific. Secondary characters are great and much will turn on the actions of one of them. The ending was breath-taking and cinematic; perhaps some will expect it; I did not.

Themes are colonialism, ‘going home’ accompanied by a music motif, the loss of time, resource abuses, betrayal, loneliness and isolation, loss of love, and love as fulfillment. There was one section that reminded me of Philip K Dick’s ‘Minority Report,’ but otherwise, it felt like its own story, fresh and unique. Recommended to those who love the genre.
Profile Image for Silvana.
1,119 reviews1,113 followers
September 14, 2020
Probably the best SFF book I read this year. Beautiful beyond words. It's just been a day since I finished it. I realize anything I'll say in this review will not do it justice.

What I could say for now is that the novel spoke to me in such a profound way. I was not just immersed in its fascinating world-building, but it was emotive since the very first page. While the plot held my attention, the character-driven narrative, written beautifully, was the X factor. I could not help but sympathize with the POV characters, felt their tribulations as human, having relationship with other human beings, no matter whether it’s short or spanning over than a thousand years. After all, like the great Terry Pratchett said, we, humans, are made of the people we encounter, who influence our thoughts and actions (I am totally paraphrasing that one).

If you're looking for a pure SF, this is not for you. In fact, at first I got a fantasy feel (forgot that I voted for it in an SF poll), then it became space opera SF, but later on there were parts throughout that make it a genrebending book. For me, 'twas totally fine.

Aside from the relationships, the other theme that occupied my mind during and reading the book was the colonialism/capitalism theme. It's not as angry as The Word for World is Forest, but it was as intense and heart-wrenching. Yet, it's not depressing per se, more like somber and contemplative.

I'll stop there and would recommend reading these SFFBC discussion threads since many members there are more articulate than me and the discussions have been illuminating so far: https://www.goodreads.com/topic/group...

Thanks again for the Coode Street guys for yet another fantastic recommendation.

Folks, if you could only read one SFF book in 2020, let this be it.
Profile Image for Bradley.
Author 5 books3,903 followers
February 11, 2021
This is a deeply moving character-driven book that could have been a love child, a cross between Becky Chambers and Orson Scott Card at his very best.

It has the wonderful relationships and harrowing loss of interstellar travel including time dilation effects, colony worlds, and the people who must suffer such a life, but more than that, it goes beyond an almost litSF beautiful prose approach and heads straight into classic SF territory.

Let me be frank. I love this.

And I laughed out loud when I heard them refer to "Jaunt" because that is exactly what Alfred Bester called the event, the instant teleportation, in The Stars My Destination, but with an extra e "Jaunte". Of course, this doesn't have the same overriding revenge theme, but the sense of loss and pain and neverending desire makes them intensely similar.

And, of course, any novel that deals with the nastiest possibilities when it comes to faster than light travel will get two thumbs up from me.

So, yeah. A litSF with deep characters AND a hard SF tale is something I don't often see, but when I do, I treasure them, as I will treasure this.

Authors who know their audience are very, very appreciated. Thank you. :)
Profile Image for Monica.
582 reviews611 followers
December 23, 2021
It has been said, there are no new stories, just new ways to tell a story. The Vanished Birds reminded me of an old cartoon Rocky and Bullwinkle that used to feature a series of vignettes called Fractured Fairytales. These stories were about 10 minutes long and the basic premise was to do an off kilter mashup of various fairytales to produce thought provoking commentary on humans. Pretty clever way to entertain children and grownups alike. In the case of this book, we have literary and science fiction tropes rather than fairy tales to fracture. Overall this was a chase story and a coming of age story with a redemption arc. The obvious themes of exceptionalism, acceptance, greed, innocence, hubris, vindictiveness, betrayal, redemption, love, community, family.

I enjoyed the Vanished Birds more that I thought I would. For me it had a bit of heart in the characterizations and storytelling. This was a time travel story and a space opera, corporations run the universe. It had elements of mystery and some ethical and philosophical depth. It isn't a happy tale or uplifting tale; but by the end of the story, a glimmer of hopefulness. I was interested and engaged the entire time with the story. A touch too much deus ex machina but on the whole, a very smart page turner.

4+ Stars

Listened to the audiobook. Shayna Small was excellent as the narrator!
Profile Image for posthuman.
64 reviews105 followers
January 26, 2020
There is a promising glimmer of brilliance in The Vanished Birds, the debut sci-fi novel by Simón Jiménez. It pains me to consider what a masterly work this might have been with some additional polish, scenes cut or added here and there. Keep an eye on Jiménez, though. He will likely become one of the important voices in this genre in the coming years.

The first forty pages or so had me engrossed in the life of a young boy growing up in a primitive farming community on an alien world. He falls in love with one of the visitors who lands on his planet every fifteen years to pick up the harvest of purple dhuba, an exotic crop in great demand on other worlds.

This is a bittersweet love affair that reads like a fable or folklore. For the visitor, Nia, only a few months have passed. Meanwhile Kaeda the boy becomes a young man, middle aged and finally the elderly village leader.

One day a naked and mute alien boy appears on their doorstep, and the village is in an uproar. At great political cost old Kaeda shelters the mysterious boy in his home until the next scheduled visit from Nia's ship.

Jiménez's lyrical prose and captivating vision of the primitive society made this part a delight to read. The chapters about Fumiko Nakajima's life on Earth and the crew of Nia's ship on leave at Pelican station felt like a completely different book. These scenes dragged on a bit and particularly on Pelican station it felt like Nia was wandering about with no particular goal. The worlds of Pelican station and near-future Earth were somewhat bland and contrived compared to the lush, original setting of Umbai-V or some of the other places the author takes us later in the story. I was close to putting the book down at this point, but I'm glad I continued reading.

Once the crew finally embarks on their mission from Fumiko, the story shifts to a higher gear and for the most part I was enthralled to the very end.

The author's vision of our distant future populating fascinating new worlds and cultures was breathtaking - Gorlen and his dogs on the lonely moon of Ariadne, the Painted City, the fringe settlements and the ragamuffin who stole Ahro's heart in the sunbaked fishing village on Kilkari.

Later, when the boy returns to Umbai-V, I had high hopes he would visit those distant villages with Elby and meet more interesting characters and local conflicts. It was disappointing that we didn't get to explore more of this setting. Also would have loved to read about some of the exotic locales mentioned briefly in passing:

The black spires. Sounder’s Outpost Kai. Networked streets of Suda-Sulai. The icescapes of Gallahad. We’ve performed countless jobs in places both large and small. Delivered vaccinations across continents. Escorted three wealthy sisters as they pilgrimaged to the old temples of their religion. Diagnosed the mysterious ailment that plagued the son of a Primark Prince

Some reviewers complained about the ending. For me it worked. There are a few lingering questions, but I suppose any story that has me still mulling over its secrets long after I've finished reading is a story that succeeded in moving me in some way. Perhaps would have liked to see a bit more of an interesting twist in Ahro's origin and the identity of the Kind One.

Many thanks to NetGalley and Del Ray Books / Random House Publishing - Ballantine for providing advance review copy
Profile Image for Zoeytron.
1,025 reviews659 followers
September 12, 2019
Copy furnished by Net Galley for the price of a review.

A young boy falls from the sky.  He is mute, but eventually finds his voice with a wooden flute and the magic of music.  There is something very special about this boy.  Myriad worlds in outer space have become established now.  The blue sky overhead may very well be virtual, cherry blossoms no longer exist except in memory and fireworks.  Digital glamour is all around, artificial youth and designer babies are par for the course.  All tempered with a poisonous moon, a smell of hate, a two-tailed cat, and a city of dogs. 

Sci-Fi is not my preferred genre, but I enjoy giving it a go from time to time.  If you like Sci-Fi with a goodly dose of the metaphysical, climb on board and give this a spin.
Profile Image for Sarah.
597 reviews143 followers
February 4, 2020
This book is so difficult to put into words. The blurb isn’t inaccurate, but at the same time I feel like it doesn’t do a great job of conveying how brilliant this story really is. Nia Imani is captain of a space crew, transporting goods for Allied Space. The problem is, they travel by what is called pocket space, eight months for her is the equivalent of fifteen years planet side. She watches her friends’ and lovers’ lifetimes go by in just a few short years. We also follow Fukimo Nakajima, the woman responsible for saving humanity and launching everyone into space. Finally, we have Ahro, a mysterious boy with a traumatic past.

This is largely a character driven book. The plot meanders from different places and view points, exploring the relationships between characters and how the choices they make effect them. Some choices we regret, some we can’t let go, and others are bittersweet. Could you choose one family at the expense of another?

One thing I loved about this book was the setting. If you’re looking for a sprawling intergalactic adventure, this is a good place to look. We visit farming worlds with purple skies, bustling high tech cities, abandoned planets overrun with dogs, the list goes on (though I will add, most time is spent on the ship between worlds). I was always excited to see where the crew was going and who they’d meet next.

In part three, the plot shifts in a big way. Where the book was previously content to take it’s time, suddenly every scene is filled with nail biting tension. You don’t know if the characters you’ve grown to love and spent all this time with will live, and if they do, how damaged they’ll come out on the other side.

This was a big point of contention for my friend the Captain @ The Captain’s Quarters (her review can be found here). It didn’t work for her and I completely understand why. The last third doesn’t feel like the rest of the book.

That being said- I didn’t mind the plot shift. I felt like the book had become very comfortable in part two and part three brought some much needed conflict to the story. I am also very accustomed to books like this so maybe I half expected it. Where I agree with her, is that the ending was mildly unsatisfying. I won’t spoil it, but I felt like it really could have used an epilogue to wrap it all up nicely.

My biggest complaint about the book is that the chapters are on average 30 pages in length (with some reaching up to 40 pages), which I know I’ve said before and I’ll certainly say again, makes me crazy. I want an opportunity to put the book down if I need it, and not in the middle of a chapter.

Overall I really loved this book and I’ll definitely be on the lookout for more from Simon Jimenez in the future. Thank you to the publisher for sending a review copy.
Profile Image for Anthony.
Author 4 books1,822 followers
September 15, 2020
This is a poetic, evocative, dreamlike, deeply imagined book. It’s hard to believe that it’s a first novel, considering how assured the sentence-to-sentence writing is, and how completely and convincingly Jimenez has created his far-future society. There are times when the pacing feels perhaps a bit too diffuse and languid, and one of the major plot twists in particular feels a bit unearned, but overall, I am deeply impressed by this novel, and I will avidly seek out whatever Jimenez does next.
Profile Image for Justine.
1,109 reviews301 followers
December 24, 2020
4.5 stars

A beautifully woven and well-crafted story about finding and defining identity, friendship, and family. It's about coming to terms with what love means, and what lengths you will go to defend it, or to redeem its loss.

The story is intensely character driven, exploring the interior lives of the players in great detail. Jimenez's debut novel shines with the polish and assurance of a writer comfortable with himself and his craft, delivering to the reader equal helpings of joy and sorrow, loneliness and fulfillment, the bitter and the sweet of human experience.
Profile Image for aPriL does feral sometimes .
1,859 reviews421 followers
March 10, 2021
‘’The Vanished Birds’ by Simon Jimenez is haunting me like a song stuck inside my head. It’s beautiful and terribly sad.

The feeling is: https://youtu.be/CvFH_6DNRCY

There was a lump in my throat when I finished reading. Strangely, while the novel is an elegiac and melancholy tune, I feel good about having read it. It is in the end about love, memory, trust, duty and family. The novel made me very teary.

The science fiction plot is a series of stories which connect to each other like a music album of thematic tunes. A group of characters living on a planet and another group of characters on a spaceship intersect with characters on other planets and ships and space stations. Readers spend time with an individual long enough to really enjoy the knowing of that person, if not always their life or choices.

The life and culture of a farmer, Kaeda, is followed. He is a man living to harvest a single crop on a backwards farm planet while love, marriage and kids happen.

Another character, a brilliant high-tech engineering scientist, Fumiko Nakajima, shapes the future of Humanity while she lives on for a thousand years using suspended animation technology to extend her span of life. She reminded me of the real life J. Robert Oppenheimer, who focused his mind on the mysteries of radiation to the exclusion of all else, including political and business realities. Until he “woke” up to the uses people would envision later for an atomic bomb. Love is a useless mystery to her - and then she falls in love.

One character, a spaceship captain, Nia Imani, delivers goods and people through areas of space which have agreed to be part of Allied Space. Allied Space is mostly under the thumb of the Umbai Corporation. There also is the Fringe where ‘free’ planets are. Umbai is a company much like amazon.com, only Umbai is using mercantilism principles to govern the known universe of thousands of space stations, planets and solar systems. Capitalist business practices are the rule of law through ironclad contracts and a military force which enforces the contracts.

The spaceship voyages often can take a year or much longer, even with the invention of engines and machines which “fold” space and time travel. A year for a ship traveling in the “pocket” can mean being away for decades in real spacetime. Some space transportation companies are corporate, others are run by a single entrepreneur for hire. But it’s a living, and for many, they wouldn’t have it any other way.

The crew and Captain of a transportation ship on regular routes for contracted journeys can eventually become like family with the being together so long. Often at the end of a delivery contract, the departure of crew members can be bittersweet. Taking a lover bound to a life on a planet is very problematic, but it happens too. Visitations can be fifteen years apart for the person on the planet but only 4 months for a Captain and crew. Can culture and education and experience differences be bridged over, changing what is a relationship based on sex or business to something more? The author explores these kinds of love among others.

Whenever Umbai learns of a fringe planet with a product which can be profitable, Umbai makes a deal. Sometimes the planet has a failing civilization. Umbai can seem like a VERY bittersweet solution when independent communities agree to replace their own society’s autonomy with a high-tech corporate overlord of uniformity and control. Air conditioning and exotic entertainments can be wonderful - and maybe crippling of innovation. Or, if the corporation thinks keeping a planet uneducated and primitive, closed to offworlders to better focus the inhabitants on monoculture farming production, the contract might intentionally reenforce Umbai’s ideas for a desired social shape in a technologically weak society. Umbai’s preference for a good business environment is one in stasis - unless it is a change under Umbai’s control.

Or one can choose to live out in the fringes of known space or on an ingrown farming community or on a spaceship where every human desire and form of community is possible - including cult nightmares as well as idealistic lifestyles.

The scientist hears a rumor some people are born with a talent she calls “jaunting”. The rumor is some individuals can simply pop out of this space into another, from a planet to another, instantaneously, without losing time or needing a spaceship. She decides to commit some of her scientific explorations to explore if such people exist. When a boy shows up on an agricultural planet, popping unconscious into a field, she contracts with an entrepreneurial spaceship Captain to hire a crew and to take the boy out to the Fringe and raise the boy for fifteen years away from Umbai. It is an extraordinary contract. But the Captain agrees.

Everything changes on this long journey through Time and space - individual people, Allied, Umbai and the Universe. It isn’t good, gentle reader. The corporation sees everything and everybody as a product. Fortunately, individual people can still go off the reservation...

Personally I like pretty weeds and independent cats, actually, but they can unexpectedly overturn your personal expectations and plans for your little piece of property and life. Other people do enjoy primarily a rigidly controlled monoculture of social life and creative choices, like a community dedicated to the planting of a single crop, or a regulated lifestyle, living in a garden of only pretty flowers or an easily monetized product or a community dedicated to an ideology. Growing only one plant on a farm, as well as living in planned housing communities, can be a comfortable life of walled gardens. Such a controlled society can make for a secure sinecured living, one that is safe and well regulated and uniform, deliveries always on time, meals always A-grade quality, apples without bruises. Or a simplified life of primitive small-town universal conformity. The monotony can be tedious, but obviously trading certainty for uncertainty is preferable for many people. Long lives happen more often in high-tech controlled environments.

Ah, the sweet safe life of a huge corporation! Right? Right? Um. Maybe one should create or have a secret backdoor escape, though, just in case.
Profile Image for hiba.
227 reviews304 followers
September 30, 2021
"they could take my day...but i'd still have the night."

breathtaking. phenomenal. by far one of the best books i've read this year.

my highlights:
- absolutely brilliant writing, i'm in awe.
- this is such an absorbing and immersive book, it'll grip you and refuse to let go until you've turned the last page and are left feeling both fulfilled and empty.
- every single character, even the most minor seemingly insignificant one, has a full life and personality and feels like a real person. i felt like i KNEW these people.
- the most beautiful parent/child found family relationship ever. i'm truly a sucker for the cold cynical closed off adult adopting a sweet curious child trope.
- also queer people in space!
- the scope of this world is so expansive, spanning decades and centuries, and yet the author knows how to hone in on the intimate private moments, the ones that truly matter.
- ultimately this is a painful, even tragic, story but also a hopeful one that shows the fierce impossible love people can have for each other.

this won't be a book for everyone since it's kind of a literary take on sci fi with multiple POVs and storylines that switch a lot. but if it clicks with you, you'll absolutely love it. genuinely cannot recommend it enough.

rep: japanese sapphic mc, black mc, gay mc, asexual sc
Profile Image for Allison Hurd.
Author 3 books687 followers
September 21, 2020
Don't read this if you want to avoid impressions about the SFFBC BOTM!

Profile Image for Gabi.
689 reviews117 followers
September 5, 2020
4.5 stars

Holy sh*** is this beautiful! Devastating and brutal, but beautiful!

The first and the last part are lyrical perfection, the middle part is 'only' good. What a grandiose prose for a debut novel - I'm overwhelmed. In parts I'm not sure the inner logic of the story worked and rational readers certainly will find enough to pick on. But overall this was one of those rare books, that spoke directly to my soul, that moved me so deeply that every possible flaw simply pales.

What a writer! I want more!
August 7, 2019
The first few chapters are like the kind of perfectly encapsulated short stories you always want to be a novel and then this IS a novel. And from then on it's just casually a far-reaching space opera of stunning emotional depth (and beautiful prose) with a cast of radiantly queer characters that will teach you the meaning of chosen family. No big deal.
Profile Image for Fran (apologies...way behind).
627 reviews574 followers
January 3, 2020
Intergalactic traveler, Captain Nia Imani, was hired by the Umbai Company to complete six cycles of crop collection from distant farming worlds. Nia's ship "Debby" folded into "pocket space" where a journey of mere months across space and time could tabulate to one and a half decades of time in a far away world. Nia, an offworlder, landed in Kaeda's family community every fifteen years to collect the harvest of dhuba seeds (seeds with a mauve patina). On Shipment Day, a great banquet was held for both offworlders and the farmers.

Kaeda saw her. "A woman alone on a bench, sitting by the fire playing the flute...the woman's breath flumed through the wooden tube...gladly mesmerizing him...the music stopped...". The connection between Nia and Kaeda could not be denied. No matter how strong, any relationship was doomed. Every fifteen years, when Nia collected the harvest, she had only aged months, not so for Kaeda. "Their fingers grazed as he took the gift...her flute...".

An odd, mute boy crash landed on Kaeda's planet. Music was the key to communication between "the boy" and Kaeda. Kaeda taught him to play the flute. He determined that the best course of action was to send "the boy" into space with Nia when she arrived, in a few months, on Shipment Day. Would this be a wise decision?

One thousand years earlier, Fumiko Nakajima was "designed" by her mother to be ugly, the goal, "to have a daughter with a mind finely honed for intellect, a prized attribute." Fumiko became an aerospace engineer and was soon hired by Umbai Associates to design a series of space stations. Periods of suspended animation had enabled Fumiko to safeguard Umbai's intellectual property and make adjustments to her agenda and Umbai's final goal.

"The Vanishing Birds", a debut work of science fiction/fantasy by Simon Jimenez explores a future world replete with genetic engineering, corporate greed, and depletion of natural resources. The many characters that populate this tome are detailed to perfection. Author Jimenez's prose had me laughing, crying, cheering and, at times, speechless. I was delighted to journey through "pocket space" with the crew of the "Debby". Kudos to Simon Jimenez!

Thank you Random House Publishing Group-Ballantine, Del Rey and Net Galley for the opportunity to read and review "The Vanishing Birds".
Profile Image for Kaa.
560 reviews52 followers
November 10, 2020
4.5 stars, for story and audio. A beautifully written, deeply creative book, with a glorious mix of complex characters, interesting technology, and non-linear storytelling. I especially loved the beginning and the end. However, though I felt the middle to be less immediately compelling, it also felt very necessary to the telling of the story - a slow, careful weaving of worlds and people so that the ending could be felt with its full emotional weight. I'll be thinking about this book for a long time.
Profile Image for Mogsy (MMOGC).
2,003 reviews2,595 followers
February 3, 2020
4 of 5 stars at The BiblioSanctum https://bibliosanctum.com/2020/01/21/...

I enjoyed The Vanished Birds very much, which surprised me, because it ended up not being the kind of book I would typically like at all! I would definitely recommend it, though I think convincing others that they should check it out will be tough, since the novel is difficult to categorize and the story itself can be a bit strange. By the end of it though, it filled me with a mix of complex emotions, some happy and bittersweet.

Told in multiple parts, and via multiple timelines across a huge time frame, the beginning of The Vanished Birds first introduces to Nia Imani who captains a transport ship, carrying goods and harvest products from their origin planets for her employers, the all-powerful Umbai Company. On one of her runs to a backwater planet, a mysterious boy falls out of the sky and into Nia’s life, giving it a new purpose and meaning. The boy doesn’t speak, but through music, he begins to form a connection with Nia, playing beautiful songs on his flute that tugs on something inside of her. There’s something about the boy, whose name is Ahro, as Nia and her crew eventually find out. He is special, though none of them really know why, but his existence eventually catches the attention of some influential and dangerous people.

Readers also get to meet aerospace engineering designer Fumiko Nakajima, who helped create Umbai’s massive space stations that allowed them to dominate the industry. It’s a decision she has always regretted, since it had meant choosing her work over love many years ago. But her employers are ever demanding more from her, including a way to make travel through space faster and more efficient. When Fumiko learns of a boy who has abilities that could potentially revolutionize space travel, she reaches out with an offer to Nia, who has since grown close to Ahro.

Shifting between points-of-view of characters, some of whom are more than hundreds of years old due to the time dilation effects of space travel and technology like suspended animation, the novel tells a saga that spans more than a millennium. In this way, the story explores a lot of the themes and issues that affect human civilization and history, among them environmental and resource depletion, corporate greed on steroids. That said, the book also takes a look at life on a more personal level, as the plot follows the loves, desires, and ambitions of characters over a thousand years. Not a lot of futuristic fiction have the advantage of being told on a scale this vast, which gives The Vanished Birds a somewhat unique angle on a premise that is already very imaginative.

However, this can also make the book quite difficult to parse, with its convoluted timelines and beginnings that aren’t really beginning and endings that aren’t really endings. If this sounds confusing, that’s because it is; this story has many layers, and they gradually peel away to reveal all the connections and answers that ultimately make this novel so satisfying. The experience requires patience and commitment to the characters and their individual journeys, because their purpose might not become clear until much later, even as the circumstances surrounding them become stranger and more abstract.

Luckily though, this is a very character-focused novel, and becoming invested in them isn’t difficult. Simon Jimenez’s writing is deep and soulful in its handling of our characters’ secret hearts and minds. The overall tone of the story can be described as quiet and emotional, but what it lacks in excitement and action it makes up for with meaningful relationships and the weight of personal decisions. I loved the bond between Nia and Ahro, which grew into something very beautiful and pure. Fumiko’s sacrifices for knowledge and progress damn near broke my heart. And speaking of heartbreak, I won’t be giving away any details of the ending, but certain elements of it did leave me feeling devastated and stricken. And yet, amidst all the losses, there is still light, and I hold tight to the hope that the words on the final page made me feel.

So if The Vanished Birds sounds like something you might like, I highly encourage you to give it a try, bearing in mind some of its twisted complexities, apparent agendas, and aspects that are just downright bizarre. However, if you are a fan of character-driven novels with emphasis on interpersonal relationships and choices that shape the world and their future, it is absolutely worth your time and attention. This is an excellent, thoroughly enchanting debut by Simon Jimenez.
Profile Image for Hank.
778 reviews72 followers
September 5, 2020
More like a 3.5 stars. The first couple of chapters/stories were very good and captivated me. Wondering where the overall story was headed, I liked the way Jimenez setup the main characters' interactions using their different, respective timelines.

Unfortunately it just wasn't able to keep me emotionally attached. There were some moments, like when the first crew gets dumped and the very end when Ahro and Nia almost find each other again but mostly it felt like mindless wandering around other colonies and planets. Hamilton does planet wandering much better in the Commenwealth duology and I just wasn't buying into Nia's connections.

Solid start and ending but fairly bland in the middle, sort of the opposite of an oreo where the middle is the whole point.
Profile Image for nessma.
179 reviews94 followers
September 14, 2021
"take my day, but give me the night."

beautifully atmospheric, fascinating, and deliciously expansive. this story grips you from the start and keeps dragging you into the unknown across galaxies and constellations for thousands and thousands of years through the lens of a handful of compelling characters you grow to adore. this book is just beyond describing how incredibly mind-blowing it is and i’m already out of words. i loved this. a lot. highly recommend.
Profile Image for The Captain.
1,062 reviews356 followers
January 15, 2020
Ahoy there me mateys!  I received this sci-fi eARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.  So here be me honest musings . . .

This is certainly an excellent debut novel even if the third part of the book didn't work for me.  The book follows three people - a ship's Captain (Nia), a scientist (Fumiko), and a mute boy who falls from the sky.  Eventually the lives of all three of these people intersect and changes the world.

This really was a hard novel to classify so if any of this sounds interesting give it a shot.  Though the three characters are the overall focus, the plot is not a straightforward one.  In fact, the beginning of the novel showcases a minor trading planet and the life of one of its residents.  How this section unfolds is beautifully written but the true significance of the setting doesn't manifest until much later in the novel.  This novel is not full of action and battles like a lot of sci-fi.  Instead it deals with large ideas, interpersonal relationships, and the consequences of choices interacting with the passage of time.

Part one features the introduction of all three characters.  Ye have Nia who be a ship's captain (Arrr!) who runs an interstellar shipping route.  The main problem is that time for her be relativistic.  A trip that takes months for her is years or decades for the rest of the world.  Consequently she is rather closed off and focuses on the moment.  Fumiko is a brilliant designer baby whose talents literally open up the stars.  However the choices she makes in terms of her career have long term impacts both professionally and personally.  The boy is rescued from a crash as a sole survivor.  He ends up being the linchpin between Nia and Fumiko.  This section introduces the history of Earth, the pasts of Nia and Fumiko, and sets up the mystery of the boy.  It was spellbinding.

Part two deals with the boy at the center.  This section primarily takes place on Nia's ship and the worlds she is trading with.  This part deals the most with interpersonal relationships and the ideas of found family.  The ship's mission is fascinating and witnessing this time period is lovely.  It feels quiet and contemplative but was never boring.  Ye get answers to the mystery of the boy and watch him grow and mature.  His very presence changes everyone around him for the better.  I grew to love both him and the other ship's occupants.

Part three is where this book started to fail me because the plot took an abrupt left turn.  Up until then I would have given this book five stars.  In this section, the boy becomes a political and monetary weapon.  I felt that the entire book was believable and beautifully executed until part three's very first sentence.  Then the confusion began.  Corporation politics is the focus and the choices they make regarding the boy were absolutely mind-boggling and strange.  The events that happen to Nia and Fumiko were equally perplexing.  There were good things in this section but overall the tone shifted and realism seemed to dissipate.

This book is compelling in that I continue to think about ramifications of the plot and writing long after completing the novel.  In fact, the review took over a week and a half to write because I was pondering how I felt about the reading experience.  Ultimately the last 10% was unsatisfying and the conclusion was horrible and I hated it.  However, up until that third section, I was completely engrossed and loving it.  I do believe that the author is one to watch and I will certainly be picking up whatever he writes next because I loved the first two parts.

So lastly . . .

Thank you Random House!
Profile Image for ash.
264 reviews200 followers
September 7, 2021
i'm saying fuck it and rating it a full 5 stars for emotional damage.

there are so many things i love about this book:
- the writing is GORGEOUS. it is so simple yet beautiful, never purple. THIS is creative writing. it's so tasteful, tender, and evocative.
- amazing storytelling. i was Hooked right from the very first page, simple yet compelling and never boring. executed so effortlessly. the transitions are sooo so smooth and the narrative structure worked so well with the story.
- the themes? heart-wrenching. had me sobbing on a monday afternoon. the tragedy, the loneliness, the determination, the destruction, the love, the struggle, the cost, the EVERYTHING . i don't think i can do it justice. it's so ???? wretched? stunning? insane?
- the characters are so skillfully written. their complicated psyches, their relationships, the— EVERYTHING. they're so whole and so real and [oh wow i'm crying while writing this review oh my god] just thinking about them makes me feel so unwell.
- the pacing was so deliciously slow, but it’s consistent. it spans decades— lifetimes, even — and yet the close-ups on little moments?? the intimacy, the [and now i'm crying again lmaooo this is insane.] like, it spoke to me? i feel like it changed my brain chemistry in some irreversible way. it's hysterical.
- the worldbuilding is stellar. incredible. impressive. no dreaded info-dumping from the usual sci-fi. it's so easy. so effortless. so enchanting.

anyway, this book is PHENOMENAL. it takes mad skills to write a story in this scale and make it feel so intimate, and even greater skills to pull it off so beautifully. an unexpected new favorite! shoutout to Rina for recommending this to me! see her review here https://www.goodreads.com/review/show...
Profile Image for Dawn F.
494 reviews66 followers
September 6, 2020
This book is both beautiful and horrific. I’m quite shaken, to be honest, and don’t really know how I feel about it.

The prose is definitely wonderful, and there’s real beauty in the relationships between the many characters described, especially the ship’s captain, Nia, and the boy she takes care of as her own. I wept for them. A lot.

But there were other characters whose motivations didn’t stand out as strong for me, so I missed out on feeling connected to parts of the story. The parts that did speak to me, however, were the best - and worst part of it. I was honestly sick to my stomach at one particular time, and the last part of the book made me feel so bad I don’t know if I can truly say I enjoyed this.

However, it moved me greatly. It tore at me and clawed at my gut, and I must give it props for that. I’d be very curious to see whatelse Jimenez comes up with in the future.
Profile Image for richa.
840 reviews208 followers
July 4, 2022
2.5/5 ✨
What even happened in the end? 😃
Profile Image for Janelle.
1,125 reviews136 followers
February 3, 2021
Really loved this. It’s a space opera I guess, as it’s all about space travel, crossing galaxies and there’s many planets and cultures visited but for me it read as a very human story about relationships, and friendship, love and memories and connections. There’s also a big undercurrent of corporate exploitation of both their employees and their research.
It’s quite a long book so not a quick read and the chapters are quite different with different characters taking centre stage which I enjoyed, they read almost like interconnected short stories to start with particularly as the first chapter with Fumiko in it jumps back 1000yrs in time. This helped to get to know the characters, I found it an interesting style, in that the main thread of the story doesn’t really appear until about a quarter of the way in, and not all the characters are likeable. In the end that first chapter makes a lot of sense.
Beautifully written and constructed, I never found it boring or dragging. An excellent read.
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