... 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.
Each tale is powerful in its own right, the structure making the novel feel more like a collection of interconnected short stories ... The book also has a musical quality, picking up tempo and then slowing down before returning to familiar beats ... Jimenez knows just how to give each supporting character enough space to make them feel essential to the story and Nia’s makeshift family ... is at its best when it’s most intimate, spinning a story filled with romance, much of it queer, along with platonic relationships that demonstrate the power of found families. While most of the book’s characters are damaged by past tragedies and feel the heavy burden of regret, the heroes are those who work together to build and nurture something new rather than trying to reconstruct what they’ve lost ... The disconnected nature of The Vanished Birds means that it sometimes feels like less than the sum of its parts. It’s easy to want a reprise of the book’s stronger interludes ... Like any musical, not all the pieces in The Vanished Birds work equally well. But it’s still an impressively ambitious debut novel, promising a future where humanity might improve by learning from its past failings. The snapshots Jimenez provides of people, places, and time in his sprawling world leave the door open for more elaborate portraits to come.