[ARC Review] The Vanished Birds by Simon Jimenez

[ARC Review] The Vanished Birds by Simon Jimenez

Title: The Vanished Birds
Author: Simon Jimenez
Genre: Science Fiction
Format: Hardcover
Length: 391 pages
Publisher: Del Rey Books
Release Date: January 14, 2020
Setting: Earth, Umbai Corporation System

Death, Environmental Destruction, Mass Genocide, Oral Sex, Abuse, Sex

Japanese, POC (not specified), Gay & Lesbian, Mute

Disclaimer: I voluntarily read and reviewed an advanced copy of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own. Thank you to Netgalley and Del Rey Books for this free copy. All quotes in this review are taken from the Advanced Reader Copy and may change in final publication.

So here apparently was another book that I was approved for on Netgalley and didn’t end up getting a chance to read it. And honestly maybe it was a good thing that I didn’t end up finishing this before it was published because I don’t think I would have been able to give this book justice. I honestly felt super uneducated while I was reading this novel because I felt like a lot of what was going on didn’t make sense to me. I understood some parts of it, and I’ll explain more here, but there was also most of the plot and content that seemed to be a lot more complex than what meets the eye, and maybe it takes someone with a lot more intelligence than me to fully be able to appreciate what Jimenez was trying to convey.

Let’s try to discuss this a little bit more.

First, I would say that each chapter almost acts as a mini storyline, but will all come together in the end. There are also some things that happen in an earlier chapter that isn’t always addressed in future chapters, so just keep that in mind also. For the most part, I would say that the main themes seem to relate to each other.

I felt like even though it seemed to be pretty subtle throughout the novel, one of the main themes that Jimenez wanted to convey was that humans are killing the Earth, and the more that we mess with the environment, the sooner that we are going to destroy it. While extraordinary genius Fumiko Nakajima figures out a way to not only save humanity, but create thriving space stations that can house thousands and thousands of people, it doesn’t stop from the majority of the human race from being impacted. As Nakajima spends years designing these space stations and trying to make sure that humans are able to get to space safely, she mentions the extinction of various birds in the world – which would probably explain the title more. She ends up naming her space stations after three birds that died because of what was going on with the Earth. She was also able to somehow frog hop through time for millennia, seeing everything that she created and being celebrated for her achievements long after she should have been dead.

But it’s not just Nakajima’s story that the reader follows, and it’s not just in the beginning of the journey where she is tasked with building these space stations. We also follow the main story of what the synopsis tells us: the story about a space ship captain named Nia, and her relationship with a boy that drops out of the sky. We get to see how Nia becomes a loving person in a sense, and how her humanity comes out because of her feelings for this boy. After what happened to Nia’s sister – which is touched upon but not completely discussed – it seems like Nia just does what she needs to do in order to get through her latest contract. It’s on this contract, on one of her last trips to a Resource Planet in the Umbai Corporation, that she comes across this boy. He can’t seem to speak, he doesn’t have any memory of where he came from, and the people that found him see him as a bad omen. They don’t want him around, and so they give him to Nia and her crew to take him back to the space station that they report to.

I don’t want to say more about the story than that because it could go into spoiler territory, and I hope that me talking about the Earth and the space stations wasn’t some sort of spoiler for you. But really, it was definitely a lyrical journey that makes you think about all of the things that we are doing to the Earth today, and makes you wonder if there really are other planets out there that can be used the way that the Umbai Corporation uses them. It was… interesting I guess. They don’t ever say whether or not these planets were previously occupied before the Umbai Corporation came into existence in the universe, but now that I think about it… it makes me wonder if there was something else behind that.

I think I was the most sad about what was happening towards the ending because it just was really intense and I didn’t like how it happened. It almost made me lose all hope for how the book would end, and I was curious to see how the author was going to come to some sort of conclusion. This definitely wasn’t the kind of soap opera or anything that I would normally come across in the Sci-Fi genre, but wow it was definitely an interesting one. I don’t think I’ve ever read anything like this, and I liked that it felt unique. I do still think that I’m a little at a loss with my feelings on this book as a whole because it has been a while, and even when I did end up finish this book, I was kind of confused on everything. It just felt like something was missing, or something wasn’t sitting right with me. Maybe it was because there were some things that were left unsaid, and even though they didn’t have to be explained because they didn’t do much for the story, it was still something that I wanted to know about. I needed some sort of closure for a lot of things.

Which is ironic because since when do I ever finish anything?!

This book got violent, it got depressing, it got…. just really, really cruel at times too. I don’t know if I got all of the content warnings that I remember from reading this book, and I’m sorry if I missed some crucial ones. These were the ones that stood out to me even now, after trying to think about this book months after I read it. I would just be careful with this if certain things like what I mentioned above are difficult for you to read about.

I didn’t feel like there were a lot of happy things that happened in this novel either, and it felt like a really slow burn type of book that just took so long to get through because I had to stop reading and stop thinking about what I just read. It would really mess with me at some points and I just had to stop and get out of my head. So yeah, this was a difficult read for me, but I’m glad that I got the opportunity to read this. It’s also a little bit difficult for me to rate as well. It was definitely well written, and for a debut, I think that Jimenez did a great job. I just don’t know if this book was for me, or at least I don’t think I would read it again personally.

Gosh I’m sorry, I feel like I was repeating myself over and over here. But as with all books, I hope that you take a chance to read it and tell me what you think of it yourself.

Oh look I’m slowly but surely working through the reviews that I needed to do since May! I think that I need to somehow go in order from May to current because I can’t seem to work backwards right now. Even though it would make sense because what I read recently should be in my head a lot more than the other ones, right? Oh well, it happens.

Have any of you read this one yet? I feel like not a lot of people in the book community mentioned this book, or even talk about it. Especially the major Sci-Fi people, I am so curious to know what you think about this. Am I missing anything key from this message? Was I completely off base? Let’s talk about it!

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