The Vanished Birds is a beautifully written story of post-Earth humanity. A young man on a resource planet is infatuated with the captain of a ship that comes every fifteen years to collect the planets main export, though thanks to the physics of time travel through “the fold” it is only one year for her, a few visits encompass his lifetime. On that same planet, a young boy appears. He does not speak and the people are suspicious. The young man is an elder now and he asks the captain to take him somewhere safe. This begins the great love story of this book, between the woman and the young boy she fosters.
We learn of the woman whose brilliance created the different space centers that are the hubs of intergalactic commerce and governance. They are named for birds, long-vanished birds of earth whose beauty inspired their designer. She, too, has a love story.
When she learns of the boy, she suspects he may have the answer to some of the questions that plague intergalactic travel. The ultimate implications of this are shocking.
I loved The Vanished Birds even though more than once I was repulsed by the cruelty and inhumanity of the corporate overlords. Yes, really, the merger of commerce and government is complete and utilitarianism reigns without regard for human rights. But if that were all there were to the book, it would fail.
Instead, there is the stunning construction fo the novel in chapters that could easily stand alone as complete short stories, yet they all advance the story. The prose is beautiful and Jimenez creates a sense of place that distinguishes each of the many planets. What is most powerful though is the character development, the complexity of individuals, their dissonance of anger and guilt, the dawning awareness of who one is. It is beautifully and naturally done. Jimenez creats such a successful inter-galactic future it felt contemporaneous, as though we lived in that future time, as though it were not science fiction at all.
The Vanished Birds will be released on January 14th. I received an e-galley from the pubilsher through NetGalley.