The Vanished Birds by Simon Jimenez
Published by Del Rey Books
Release Date : 14th January 2020
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.
Once in a rare while, there is an alignment. Moments that, to some, reveal the workings of God, and to others are simple fortune. But there is no known explanation for this communion of events. It only is.
An emotional Sci-Fi standalone about a bond shared between two souls, a bond that stands the test of time.
Around a week ago my Twitter timeline was flooded by a close friend’s mental break down over this book. For a while I was simply entertained by it but with the passing days I got really curious because she kept tweeting the quotes. Since I just finished my current read at that time I was looking for something new. I tried reading three other books before I finally picked up The Vanished Birds. I went in completely blind something I will recommend to all future readers should do to fully enjoy the book. The grip was instant and enticing from the first chapter. Right then I knew it is gonna be an EXPERIENCE reading this book.
The dream was gone, and only now, at the end of the day, was he awake.
The Vanished Birds is the 2021 Locus Award Nominee and first novel by debut author Simon Jimenez. It is a story about one woman’s job which spans years as she captains her ship across the galaxy with her crew : a veteran soldier, an engineer, a doctor, a pilot, a writer-entertainer, and a mysterious boy that fell from the sky. I will not elaborate more about the story because I highly recommend for future readers to not know anything about the book and I do not recommend reading the synopsis either. The Vanished Birds is the type of book that is better and more enjoyable if you don’t know anything prior to reading it. The synopsis contains a few major things about the story that if I read it before going into the book it would hinder me in enjoying the book. But this is just my personal opinion and preference.
Take this letter as evidence that I am still thinking about you, and that, despite my self-interest, I am still waiting.
The Vanished Birds follows a multitude of perspectives. Usually the formatting of a multi POV stories I’ve read with each new chapter comes a new POV from a new character. But in The Vanished Birds in one chapter there could be one or more POVs. I found this way of writing to be refreshing as readers can see the progression of plot for different characters simultaneously without having to focus on just one character. These perspectives will then converge slowly as the story develops and their arcs overlap. During the early chapters this perspective shift isn’t apparent as this shift only starts in the later chapters. Saying that the writing is well written is an understatement because Jimenez’s writing is beautiful and astounding. Each sentence is written with meticulous care and thought as they are formed into well intentioned paragraphs that is consistent with each page forming the masterpiece that is this book. Jimenez’s prose is immaculate and expertly executed leaving me floored in awe as I read each line. It is a banquet of delicious, lyrical, and articulate writing that is evident from the first chapter until the very end of the book.
“If we can’t have our world, then no one can.”
A lot of the general issues with time travel books is the execution—how the transitions are done and how effectively it is used for the plot. Time is an unforgiving all consuming tool that is prominent throughout the story. Jimenez used time as a heart wrenching reminder for all the characters and readers of the cost of inter stellar travel. The harsh reality of how the movement of time differs from space travel and real time is felt throughout the story. This is what I love about the time travelling aspect of The Vanished Birds how time moves forward for some faster than others. There are no quick fixes or U-Turns to right the wrongs that was done complete with the consequences and regrets. The checks and balances surrounding time and it’s progression within the world are achieved in a consistent and precise manner. The transitions of the time jumps are done wonderfully, it adds a layer of urgency to the story building up tension and amplifying the emotional impact when the story reaches it’s climax.
Here before her was proof that time was moving, and quick. Here was this child who had already survived so much, but was still naïve about the way of things. Here was a small fire that must be nursed.
At the heart of the story is the ever expanding view of perspectives and world building that spans across a multitude of galaxies. The world building is expansive, vibrant, and full of imaginative aspects. The places that the characters get to see from the space stations to the city planets to an unknown part of the galaxy they all have a certain charm and unique attributes. In this time travel Sci-Fi epic the origin of space expansion of the world is told from the perspective of three main characters that directly or indirectly influenced by it. These characters are Fumiko Nakajima, the Captain, and the Boy that fell from the sky. Fumiko’s arc goes hand and hand with the Captain and the Boy, as the greed and ambition for technological advancements and world expansion of a third power threatens the balance. The cruel and insidious acts of colonization of this third power is the bane of our main character’s existence. The antagonist that has been grasping behind the scenes to conquer and exploit for the sake of power. The intertwining fates of these three characters with this third power brings forth the growth to an ever expanding view of the world and the consequences that comes with it serving as a one of the many crucial themes in the story.
She would play her song, and he would find that new flame, and together, they would add another voice to the choir.
Friendship, determination, abandonment, coming of age, trust, love, and redemption are few of the themes that are weaved into The Vanished Birds. These themes are explored through the character relationships that formed throughout the story and through the characters’ back stories. The found family aspect and platonic friendships are complex, meaningful, and full of depth. The perspectives of characters varies from different backgrounds as each have their own role in progressing the story further. The characterization and the development are masterfully done by Jimenez from the main characters to the side characters. There is no character in The Vanished Birds that are forgettable or uninteresting. I’d say their existence in the story is impactful and leaves an imprint no matter how small their appearances may be. All of the characters have their own story arc complete with believable character development, well fleshed out personalities, and a means to their end that is satisfyingly done. Proving how well Simon Jimenez knows their characters and how well intentioned their existence are within the story.
Take my day, but give me the night.
Feed the hearth and ready the brew.
For I am coming home to you. I am coming home to you.
Final thoughts, The Vanished Birds is a lyrical and beautiful Sci-Fi debut about life and the bonds that stands true and strong against the current of time. A remarkable adventure crossing galaxies with a cast of brilliantly crafted characters during their arduous journey to find their closure or a way home. A gripping story with unexpected twists and turns that will leave you floored and silenced by heart wrenching pain. I was trapped in an emotional storm after I finished this book even as I write this review I’m still recovering from it. The emotional impact of that ending will stick with me for a long time. There are so many note worthy moments in this story that I’ve highlighted whole paragraphs not wanting to forget any of Simon Jimenez’s flawless writing. Let me remind you that The Vanished Birds is a standalone and within it’s 400 pages contains a story that spans a lifetime. Jimenez single handedly accomplished a feat like no other presenting an impactful story that is weaved with expertise solidifying The Vanished Birds as one of the best debuts in 2020 and a new personal favorite. I will also be looking forward to Simon Jimenez’s future works knowing how strong this debut book is. With that I would like to recommend this masterpiece of a book to everyone I know as I hope for you all to relish and suffer a long with me. It is a crime that not a lot of people know about this book so I urge you to read it or consider it for your next read. You will not regret it.
Please mark your calendars and add Simon Jimenez’s new novel set to release March 2022 titled The Spear Cuts Through Water. Check out the cover and the pre-order links below !