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The Vanished Birds
Cover of The Vanished Birds
The Vanished Birds
A Novel
Borrow Borrow Borrow
A “highly imaginative and utterly exhilarating” (Thrillist) debut that is “the best of what science fiction can be: a thought-provoking, heartrending story about the choices that define our lives” (Kirkus Reviews, Best Debut Fiction and Best Science Fiction & Fantasy of the Year).
NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY TORDOTCOM AND KIRKUS REVIEWS
A mysterious child lands in the care of a solitary woman, changing both of their lives forever.  

I expected many things from this trip. I did not expect a family.
A ship captain, unfettered from time. A mute child, burdened with unimaginable power. A millennia-old woman, haunted by lifetimes of mistakes. In this captivating debut of connection across space and time, these outsiders will find in each other the things they lack: a place of love and belonging. A safe haven. A new beginning.
But the past hungers for them, and when it catches up, it threatens to tear this makeshift family apart.   
Praise for The Vanished Birds
“This is the most impressive debut of 2020.”—Locus
“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.”—Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“A lyrical and moving narrative of space travel, found families, and lost loves set against an evocative space-opera background.”—Booklist (starred review)
 
The Vanished Birds finds an intimate heartbeat of longing in a saga of galactic progress and its crushing fallout. . . . A novel of vast scope that yet makes time for compassion, wonder, and poetry.”—Indra Das, author of The Devourers
A “highly imaginative and utterly exhilarating” (Thrillist) debut that is “the best of what science fiction can be: a thought-provoking, heartrending story about the choices that define our lives” (Kirkus Reviews, Best Debut Fiction and Best Science Fiction & Fantasy of the Year).
NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY TORDOTCOM AND KIRKUS REVIEWS
A mysterious child lands in the care of a solitary woman, changing both of their lives forever.  

I expected many things from this trip. I did not expect a family.
A ship captain, unfettered from time. A mute child, burdened with unimaginable power. A millennia-old woman, haunted by lifetimes of mistakes. In this captivating debut of connection across space and time, these outsiders will find in each other the things they lack: a place of love and belonging. A safe haven. A new beginning.
But the past hungers for them, and when it catches up, it threatens to tear this makeshift family apart.   
Praise for The Vanished Birds
“This is the most impressive debut of 2020.”—Locus
“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.”—Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“A lyrical and moving narrative of space travel, found families, and lost loves set against an evocative space-opera background.”—Booklist (starred review)
 
The Vanished Birds finds an intimate heartbeat of longing in a saga of galactic progress and its crushing fallout. . . . A novel of vast scope that yet makes time for compassion, wonder, and poetry.”—Indra Das, author of The Devourers
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Excerpts-
  • From the book 1

    Six Harvests

    He was born with an eleventh finger. A small bead of flesh and bone beside his right pinky. The doctor calmed the worried parents and told them the nub was a harmless thing. "But still," he said, unlacing a small cloth pouch, "a farmer needs only ten fingers to work the dhuba." He coaxed the child to sleep with the smoke of torched herbs, and sliced the nub from the hand with a cauterizing knife. And though the mother knew her baby felt no pain in his medicated sleep, she winced when the flesh was parted, and clutched him to her breast, praying that there would be no memory of the hurt when he woke, while her husband, unable to resist indulging in his hedonism even then, breathed deep the doctor's herb smoke, and was spelled by a vision of the future—­in his dilated pupils his son, a full-­grown man, handsome and powerful, with a big house at the top of the hill. The new governor of the Fifth Village. To commemorate this vision, he had the finger boiled of its flesh, and its bones placed in a corked glass jar, which he shook on wistful days, listening to the clack of good omens as he whispered to his baby, "You are going to run this place one day." The boy burbled in his arms, too young to recognize the small and varied ways life was contriving to keep him put.

    They called him Kaeda, the old name of this world.

    Kaeda grew up proud of the scar on his right hand, the shape of it changing over the years. When he was seven, the healed tissue rippled down the side of his palm like a troubled river. He was happy to show the other children the mark when he was asked, and he giggled as they stroked the skin with furrowed brows, at once impressed and unnerved by its texture. Some children called him cursed; those were the children who learned from their parents to distrust the unusual. To them, he shoved his scar under their noses and confronted them with the fact of it, repeating the words of his father: "I'm going to run this place one day!" and through sheer force of will convinced them that the scar on his hand was a lucky thing.

    He had a natural charisma. The caretakers doted on him, and the other kids played the games he wanted to play, believed what he believed. Everyone but a girl named Jhige, who never missed an opportunity to push back against his wild declarations, matching pride with pride as she countered his wild theories on why the sky was red, and why the smell of the air changed during the day; why everything smelled soft and sweet in the morning and sour as a kiri fruit at dusk. "And your scar isn't special," Jhige shouted. "It just means you were born wrong!" They wrestled in the yellow grass until the caretakers separated them. They fought like dogs most days, but despite the bruises he might nurse on the way home, he always emerged from the fights unbothered, certain that she was only jealous that it was he who was destined for greatness, and not her, though what greatness that was, he did not know, and would not, until the day the offworlders arrived.

    Before that day, he was only familiar with the stories his parents shared: how every fifteen years the offworlders broke the sky with their cloth-­and-­metal ships and landed in the plains east of the village to collect the harvest of dhuba seeds. His father told him that this special day was called Shipment Day, and that on every Shipment Day, a great party was held for both the offworlders and the farmers. "A party you will never forget," he promised.

    His mother laughed from the other room. "Unless you drink too much."

    "The drink is half the fun," his father countered.

    Kaeda was unable to sleep the night before his...
About the Author-
  • Simon Jimenez's short fiction has appeared in Canyon Voices, and 100 Word Story's anthology of flash fiction, Nothing Short Of. He received his MFA from Emerson College. This is his first novel.
Reviews-
  • Publisher's Weekly

    Starred review from September 2, 2019
    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.

  • Library Journal

    October 1, 2019

    DEBUT In the Fifth Village during Shipment Day, dubha seeds are collected by offworlders. Kaeda is one of the harvesters, and upon meeting Nia Imani, one of the offworlders, he falls in love. Their affair is complicated by Pocket Space, where eight months pass in Nia's world, while 15 years go by in Kaeda's. Just before one of the scheduled collections, the elderly Kaeda finds a mute, undernourished boy who isn't of his planet. Nia agrees to transport the boy back to the authorities. Meanwhile, Fumiko Nakajima, a scientist/engineer, succeeds in designing inhabitable space stations for Earth's residents. Fumiko is also obsessed with solving Pocket Space, and believes the key to resolving it lies within the boy Nia found. As the paths of Nia and the boy intersect with Fumiko's, the story takes on a tone and depth that recalls an N.K. Jemison novel, with a flute playing a crucial role. VERDICT The boy is reminiscent of Amy Bellafonte from Justin Cronin's The Passage, yet the journey itself evokes Bryce Courtenay's The Power of One, creating crossover appeal for readers who enjoy a bit of emotional attachment with their time travel.--Tina Panik, Avon Free P.L., CT

    Copyright 2019 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

  • Kirkus

    Starred review from November 1, 2019
    In this gorgeous debut novel, love becomes a force that can shatter space and time. We first see Nia Imani through the eyes of someone she is always leaving behind: Kaeda, a boy growing up on a backwater planet visited once every 15 years by offworlders who come to collect its harvests. Nia is the captain of a faster-than-light ship that travels through Pocket Space. While Kaeda lives a decade and a half, Nia spends just a few months traveling between various resource-producing worlds like his, shipping goods for the powerful Umbai Company. It's not until a mysterious boy falls out of the sky on Kaeda's planet that Nia begins to form a connection she's not willing to walk away from. The boy doesn't talk, but he's drawn to music, particularly a traditional workers' song from Kaeda's world: Take my day, but give me the night. Kaeda teaches the boy to play the flute, and the music speaks to Nia. But there's something else about the boy, something that draws the attention of Fumiko Nakajima, the woman who designed the massive space stations that anchor this corporate-controlled empire. Something dangerous. Something that could change the universe. Spanning a thousand years, this sweeping novel takes the reader from the drowned cities of Old Earth to the vast reaches of Umbai corporate space but always anchors itself in human connection. Even characters whose lives are glimpsed only in passing, as waypoints along Nia's time-skipping journeys, are fully realized and achingly alive on the page. This powerful, suspenseful story asks us to consider what we'd sacrifice for progress--or for the ones we love. The best of what science fiction can be: a thought-provoking, heart-rending story about the choices that define our lives.

    COPYRIGHT(2019) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

  • Booklist

    Starred review from November 1, 2019
    Jiminez's debut depicts a future dominated by vast corporations that, in the wake of Earth's destruction, claim space stations, people, and even whole planets as proprietary resources. Ships travel through Pocket Space, a dimension that allows for vast amounts of distance to be covered but increases the already dramatic effects of relativity so that travelers experience the passing of months instead of years. The overall narrative centers on Captain Nia Imani and her connection to a boy who falls out of the sky on the corporate-resource world of Umbai V. The boy's mysterious origins and possible relevance to the future of space travel draw the attention of the thousand-year-old scientist Fumiko Nakajima as she tries to study the boy's potential while hiding her work from her ruthless Umbai backers. As Nia and a select crew journey across the fringes of corporate space, the competing desires of the captain, her adopted boy, a vast and hungry corporate machine, and an ancient woman who can't even remember the things she has lost will all come to a head. A lyrical and moving narrative of space travel, found families, and lost loves set against an evocative space-opera background.(Reprinted with permission of Booklist, copyright 2019, American Library Association.)

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A Novel
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