BOOK REVIEW: The Vanished Birds, A Novel, by Simon Jimenez

I’ve given 4 out of 5 stars to The Vanished Birds: A Novel, by Simon Jimenez

I received a free copy of the book from the publisher via NetGalley, and I am voluntarily posting my honest review.

If you loved Isaac Asimov’s Foundation trilogy, or Frank Herbert’s Dune series, you will quickly become a fan of author Simon Jimenez. The Vanished Birds: A Novel is billed as his debut, and science fiction readers will enjoy sinking their teeth into this one. Readers will be eager to read subsequent novels by Mr. Jimenez.

Jimenez resists over-explaining the strange worlds and cultures he creates, thus avoiding a mistake common to debut authors. Bravo!

The author’s voice is mature and confident, and many passages are poetry-like, with diaphanous, mysterious, and/or multiple meanings.

In the tradition of the best science fiction stories, the story manages to comment on present-day societal issues without specifically naming them or becoming involved in 21st-century politics.

The novel is set at a time when Arks are leaving Earth full of society’s best citizens, bound for settlement on a far-away “station” in space. People who are left behind are doomed to a future of hardship and death as the Earth dies rapidly around them.

Naturally, conflicts and violence result when 80 percent of the population realizes they are not going on the Arks. A false promise that the Arks will return for another load of people helps calm only a few.

In the time of the novel, citizens typically design their unborn child to conform to the accepted notion of perfect beauty. (Remember the Uglies, Pretties, and Specials books by Scott Westerfield?)

In a twist on the usual heroic heroine, Fumiko Nakajima, child of a “post-vanity era” mother, was designed to be ugly. Fumiko reveals her own ethos by refusing to have herself surgically altered to meet accepted standards of beauty. Fumiko is a genius, and her inventions involving travel in time and space make her legendary.

Central character Fumiko Nakajima starkly contrasts with a second character, Nia Imani. Fumiko is obsessed with her work, at the expense of even the most important personal relationships. Fumiko is a loner.

Nia Imani, a spaceship captain who takes in a mysterious orphaned boy, has created a family out of the crew of her ship. Nia is more concerned with personal relationships — and her love for the orphaned child — than she is about her career.

These two opposites, both strong female characters with both virtues and flaws, live out their separate dramas that are connected in unpredicted ways. The story spans futuristic space-dwelling cultures and primitive feudal farming planets. Centuries of time are compressed by the Nakajima method of space travel.

The reader’s perception of what is “rudimentary” and what is “advanced” will change in the course of Simon Jimenez’s fascinating, multi-faceted, sweeping space saga.

The Vanished Birds: A Novel, by Simon Jimenez, is available on AMAZON Follow Simon Jimenez on GOODREADS

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