... an intricate, affecting, haunting, and beautiful science fiction story that spans time, space, and lives ... Reader, I cried ... takes a winding, heartbreaking, joyful wandering through an immense galaxy, and answers questions about love, duty, age, time, relationships, sorrow, and so much more, while spiraling toward an answer about jaunting ... this book truly shines because of the deep, complex web of relationships, consequence, and character built by Jimenez, that start in very intricate places and then only grow richer as the novel marches on, as characters grow, are challenged, are confronted with fears and hopes and hates and loves. As we see new worlds, visit new stars, given new technologies or advancements, Jimenez never lets us forget why science fiction succeeds as a mode of storytelling: the living, beating hearts of characters confronted with the future, and how they react to it, can tell one hell of a story. The Vanished Birds is a story of one such future, and whether it’s worth it, if it means even one person suffers ... The reason this novel succeeds so well, and why it made me cry, and why I think it’s so important, is that everyone’s story is given the chance to be important. Jimenez shows us exactly where our main characters come from, why they are the way they are, the ironies and contradictions and quirks that make their personalities, and the hardships, torture, banality, frustrations, and pain that force them to grow or change or overcome them ... may be one of the best debuts of 2020, and that it should be remembered in the year to come. Simon Jimenez is a brilliant author (I didn’t even get to how lush and consuming his prose is!), and a writer to watch. If you enjoy science fiction with heart, if you love stories about stories, about people and the future and the things we do to keep making a future for each other, then read The Vanished Birds. You’re not going to want to miss this one, I promise.
The best science fiction stories create a bridge between ambitious, precisely calculated genre concepts and the deep, emotional truths that unite us all. Keeping the balance between intricate sci-fi backdrops and delicate matters of the heart is a high-wire act that only succeeds with tremendous care, passion and narrative grace. In his debut novel, The Vanished Birds, Simon Jimenez has announced himself as a graceful, spellbinding storyteller with the gifts to pull it off ... The book never fails to deliver the science fiction goods, and fans of high-concept leaps will be satisfied, but the book’s emotional core is what makes it fly ... The Vanished Birds strikes a breathless balance between the conceptually dazzling and the emotionally resonant, and it’s in that balance that a bright new voice in genre fiction is born.
This opening chapter, which recalls some of Le Guin’s later Hainish stories set on out-of-the-way planets, brilliantly establishes the rather melancholy tone of the entire novel. Jimenez quickly and deftly introduces us to two other viewpoints ... For the most part, Jimenez handles his more traditional elements with the confidence of someone familiar with the genre, although there are a few awkward moments of exposition ... Eventually, Jimenez brings his narrative almost full circle, even returning us briefly to that planet where it all began, while leading toward an action-filled conclusion that energetically reclaims the novel’s space opera roots. It’s still early in the year, but so far this is the most impressive debut of 2020.