The Vanished Birds

“The people who leave always forget that the world doesn't end once they've gone," she said. "They forget about the decay.” Simon Jimenez's first novel starts with a microscopic view of one character who will not show up (and will rarely be mentioned) in the rest of the book. It's a frustratingly beautiful choice that offers an introductory glimpse into a universe full of galaxies and, more importantly, full of complex individuals.

Part space opera, part love story, part futuristic dystopia, The Vanished Birds presents a universe where we have figured out how to colonise other planets after destroying our own. Jimenez "jaunts" us back and forth in time and space to show how that reality came to be: from the scientist who figured out quick space travel, to the baffling consequences of time relativity (think Interstellar).

I tend not to go for sci-fi tomes (I was nerdy enough in high school without that label also being applied) but now that I realise how dumb that was, I'm starting to dive into those deeper waters of fiction. And it's paying off: I've found that books that rely heavily on world-building are easier to get lost in, and for me that's one of the highlights of reading.

The book isn't perfect (the pacing is sometimes jolting, the love interests often bordering on cliche), but it's close. The first chapter had me caring about someone I wouldn't see again; the last had me thinking of those in my life that I would destroy the universe for. If you're good with a bit of drama, a whole lot of societal commentary, and a book that will take you more than a couple days to finish, The Vanished Birds is worth picking up.


Rating: Five Stars

Similar books: Arcadia by Iain Pears, The Mother Code by Carole Stivers