Book Review: The Vanished Birds, by Simon Jimenez

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.

Goodreads

I loved The Vanished Birds so much, I don’t even know where to start.

The Vanished Birds is a character-driven literary science fiction novel. And while I love idea-driven or plot-driven hardcore science fiction, there are times when I love a book like The Vanished Birds more. With all of the vintage science fiction I read in January, The Vanished Birds was a much-needed reprieve from that kind of hardcore science fiction.

The Vanished Birds gave me a book hangover, and I haven’t had a true book hangover in a long time.

I didn’t want it to end.

I sighed and just sat there, staring off into space (pun totally intended), for a good amount of time after I finished reading it.

The Vanished Birds has a great plot, yes, but it’s really about the connections made (and lost) over the span of a millennium. It is told from a few different points of view, but the whole story really revolves around Nia and the boy — Ahro — placed in her care. Their relationship is not necessarily the most important one in the book, but it is the most focused on, and it is important in terms of how it drives their actions and how it drives the story.

It’s not all about the characters, though. Jimenez writes about some important ideas and issues in The Vanished Birds, too, such as colonization, resources, and ownership (of worlds and people). The way the Ahro is treated at the end is absolutely rage-inducing.

When I truly love a book…when it really moves me…I can never put into words exactly how it made me feel. I’m repeating myself here, but all I can say is that The Vanished Birds really pulled me in and I didn’t want to put it down, while at the same time, I didn’t want it to end. It gave me a real book hangover. Jimenez’s writing is lovely, the story is lovely and bittersweet, and the characters are so well done.

Even if you aren’t into science fiction generally, I highly recommend reading The Vanished Birds.

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