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.
“The best of what science fiction can be: a thought-provoking, heartrending story about the choices that define our lives.”—Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
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.
In a profound look at humankind's spacefaring future, Jimenez's debut tells of both anguish and love as the result of heart-wrenching decisions. A century from now, aerospace engineer Fumiko believes humans should leave the climate-ravaged Earth, and regretfully chooses her career designing space stations over her lover, Dana, who would rather advocate for trying to save the planet. But Dana's efforts fail, and Earth is abandoned. Fumiko extends her life through periods of suspended animation as humans colonize the galaxy. Nearly 1,000 years later, Ahro, a boy who doesn't speak, crash-lands on a distant farming world. Spaceship captain Nia agrees to take Ahro back to Pelican, a station Fumiko designed. As they travel through "pocket space," where a few months pass for them while years go by in normal space, they grow close and Nia becomes protective of Ahro. When Fumiko learns Ahro has powers that could speed up space travel abilities sought by Fumiko's employer, the megacorporation Umbai, which is looking for more efficient ways to pillage planets she offers Nia the opportunity to keep the boy hidden, which Nia accepts, leading to ripples of choices and consequences. This is a mostly progressive future, but classism, unchecked capitalism, and resource exhaustion loom large. This extraordinary science fiction epic, which delves deep into the perils of failing to learn from one's mistakes, is perfect for fans of big ideas and intimate reflections.
Customer ReviewsSee All
Rich and colorful
I have never read a science fiction novel that is so rich and colorful that it is almost poetic, but The Vanished Birds is precisely that. It packs a subtle but definite punch with plenty of sci-fi gadgetry and an emotional plot that takes the story to a whole new level.
Favorite Character: Nia Imani. Nia is a woman of few words, who quickly earns the respect of her crew with her consistency and authoritative manner. Always moving from planet to planet, her career does not leave room for personal attachments, so she goes through life with a hefty dose of detachment. She loves collecting musical instruments and writing haikus. But most of all, she loves Ahro like the son she never had. He is the one person she has let down the wall around her heart for, and she will not lose him, no matter the cost.
What I Liked About The Vanished Birds
It is beautifully written with vibrancy and flow that make the setting come alive. Every planet, moon, or station the Debby lands on is full of unique character, and I felt like I was experiencing it along with the characters. There isn’t any element of the setting that is a vague impression.
I love how the story comes full circle, starting and ending at the same place. This circle brings a level of symmetry and balance to the story, creating a satisfying feeling knowing that the story ended where and how it should. I also love the themes of sacrifice, choices, and consequences that run throughout the novel. The metaphysical manner in which they are explored in The Vanished Birds provides a depth and poignancy to the story that resonates long after you finish reading.
To Read or Not to Read
It is a beautiful journey but not a quick one. If you are ready to sit back and enjoy the ride, no matter how long it takes, this is the book for you. It has a beautiful message and setting that really should not be overlooked, as you will be missing out if you don’t take the time to appreciate the wonder of this story.
Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for providing me with an advanced copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.