Ahoy there me mateys! I received this sci-fi eARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. So here be me honest musings . . .
the vanished birds (Simon Jimenez)
Title: the vanished birds
Author: Simon Jimenez
Publication Date: TODAY!!! (hardcover/e-book)
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!
Goodreads has this to say about the novel:
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.
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