Monday, March 30, 2020
Published January 2020 by Random House Publishing
Source: my copy courtesy of the publisher, through Netgalley, in exchange for an honest 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.
I requested this from Netgalley but for the life of me I can't remember why. It's not entirely uncommon for me to not remember what a book is about when I start reading it but I when I started reading this book, it wasn't even something that I would normally choose. Sci-fi? Me? Still, I have read and enjoyed sci-fi and Jimenez pulled me into his story immediately. Or, should I say his first story. Because The Vanished Bird is not so much a novel as a series of closely connected short stories that Jimenez will bring full circle by the time the book ends.
For a while, though, we're not so certain where the book is going. The book begins on the planet Umbai-V, where we first meet Nia when she arrives there to pick up a harvest and she first meets young Kaeda. Her ship arrives on the planet every 15 years, although only a few months has passed for her between visits. He is smitten and when she returns 15 years later, the two of them make love. It feels like we're reading a love story; and we are, but not the love story we're expecting. Because, of course, Kaeda is aging more than 15 times as fast as Nia. And Nia's heart will soon belong to the young boy.
So when Fumiko makes her a job offer, Nia chooses trying to save the boy over the crew which had become her family and sets out with a new crew. Fumiko thinks the boy make have a power she is certain the corporation she has spent her life working for will exploit for profit. While she has spent 1000 years helping the corporation dominate the universe, she will not stand by quietly and watch them destroy the boy.
Now, as a person who hasn't read much sci-fi, I can only guess as to how true fans will respond to this book. But I believe it will give them everything they want in a sci-fi novel - space travel, world building, time travel, a whole lot of science, and a lot of action. But the book's strength is in the fiction part of that genre name, in its characters and their relationships. It's a book about incredible greed and incredible love. About the power of one person and the power of connections.
So while I can't remember what made me request this book, I'm certainly happy that I did. It's reminded me that it's good to go out of your comfort zone; there are good stories to be found everywhere.