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The Vanished Birds

A Novel
Written by: Simon Jimenez
Narrated by: Shayna Small
Length: 13 hrs and 17 mins
4 out of 5 stars (1 rating)

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Publisher's Summary

A mysterious child lands in the care of a solitary woman, changing both of their lives forever, in this captivating debut of connection across space and time.

"The best of what science fiction can be: a thought-provoking, heartrending story about the choices that define our lives." (Kirkus Reviews starred review)

A solitary ship captain, drifting through time.

Nia Imani is a woman out of place. Traveling through the stars condenses decades into mere months for her, though the years continue to march steadily onward for everyone she has ever known. Her friends and lovers have aged past her. She lives only for the next paycheck, until the day she meets a mysterious boy, fallen from the sky.

A mute child, burdened with unimaginable power.

The scarred boy does not speak, his only form of communication the haunting music he plays on an old wooden flute. Captured by his songs and otherworldly nature, Nia decides to take the boy in to live amongst her crew. Soon, these two outsiders discover in each other the things they lack. For him, a home, a place of love and safety. For her, an anchor to the world outside of herself. For both of them, a family. But Nia is not the only one who wants the boy.

A millennia-old woman, poised to burn down the future.

Fumiko Nakajima designed the ships that allowed humanity to flee a dying Earth. One thousand years later, she now regrets what she has done in the name of progress. When chance brings Fumiko, Nia, and the child together, she recognizes the potential of his gifts, and what will happen if the ruling powers discover him. So she sends the pair to the distant corners of space to hide them as she crafts a plan to redeem her old mistakes.

But time is running out. The past hungers for the boy, and when it catches up, it threatens to tear this makeshift family apart.

©2020 Simon Jimenez (P)2020 Random House Audio

What the critics say

"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)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
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  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars
  • David
  • 2020-02-08

Character driven, tech minimum space opera

Unusual book about chosen families and memory (and colonialism, too) in a space opera setting. Some beautiful writing. Will look forward to author’s next book. Narrator conveys story well.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Grace
  • 2020-03-16

Didn't live up to potential

The concepts, character development, and description of the ways in which the characters experience time was phenomenal. However, the overall story felt lacking. After the climax (at least, I think it was the climax because it took almost the entire book to get there), the story faded away a bit and I was close to losing interest. By the ending, I wasn't really invested anymore. Interesting, but I feel like it had so much more potential.

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  • Aydelette
  • 2020-02-18

Human story

I love this novel. I wish I were better at writing down why.

It's perfect for listening, intricate but with an overall clarity which makes all the rich detail a dark foliage. (I want to start listening again.)

It's about transport, in a way, and it does that, describing places and times and following a few strong, imperfect characters. These are the kind of characters who unknowingly and secretly shape the world beneath the notice of large powers, or knowingly and secretly despite the notice of large powers. But only in fine strands between the giant impersonal idiot waves of those large powers. (You know the ones.)

The performance is excellent mostly. There are a very few false shifts and accents in the thirteen hours.



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  • Brenda
  • 2020-02-15

Incredible Deeply moving

I love science fiction for its exploration of big themes like what does it mean to be human and what is our place in the universe. This story delivers one that is much more personal and specific. It destroyed me. Reduced to tears so that I had to pull over to the side of the road more than once. Deeply moving on many levels. Also delivers the space tech and world building if that is your thing. This is an immediate favorite , an incredible debut novel, and I can’t wait to see what Jimenez comes up with next.

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  • CJC
  • 2020-02-13

Unique and lovely

Poetic and probing. I loved that there were same sex partnerships and strong women characters. Eventually stopped what I was doing and just listened to the last few hours.