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January 14, 2020

The Vanished Birds by Simon Jiminez ~ a Review

by MK French

He was born with an eleventh finger. A small bead of flesh and bone beside his right pinky. The doctor calmed the worried parents and told them the nub was a harmless thing. "Be still," he said, unlacing a small cloth pouch, "a farmer needs only ten fingers to work the dhuba." He coaxed the child to sleep with the smoke of torched herbs, and sliced the nub from the nad with a cauterizing knife. And though the mother knew her baby felt no pain in is medicated sleep, she winced when the flesh was parted, and clutched him to her breast, praying that there would be no memory of the hurt when he woke, while her husband, unable to resist indulging in his hedonism even then, breathed deep the doctor's herb smoke, and was spelled by a vision of the future - in his dilated pupils his sone, a full-grown man, handsome and powerful, with a big house at the top of the hill. The new governor of the Fifth Village. To commemorate this vision, he had the finger boiled of its flesh, and its bones placed in a corked glass jar, which he shook on wistful days, listening to the clack of good omens as he whispered to his baby, "You are going to run this place one day." The boy burbled in his arms, too young to recognize the small and varied ways life was contriving to keep him put. (p. 3 - 4)

Amazon affiliate links are used on this site. A free book was provided for an honest review.

January 2020; Del Rey; 978-0593128985
audio, ebook, print (400 pages); science fiction
Nia Imani had traveled through space, so that years are like months. Friends and lovers continued to age, so all she had left was work and the next paycheck. When she meets a boy that fell out of the sky, he doesn't speak. He communicates via the music he plays on an old wooden flute. There is a connection between them, so Nia takes him in and they become a family. She isn't the only one that wants to keep him, and when the past catches up to them, it threatens to tear their family apart.

The novel opens with the perspective of someone who sees Nia from the outside, so it's almost heartbreaking to see an entire lifetime pass her by. When we switch to her perspective, it's not just the people her team is picking up harvests from, but her family has also grown older and died without her. The small team has only each other to rely on, but even then, her position as Captain sets her apart. There really aren't any good attachments in her life at the start of the novel, even with the mute boy.

As for the boy, his early appearance in the novel is a study of long perpetrated violence toward children. Medical evidence of multiple healed fractures only confirmed my guess at trauma from the way he shied away from people or loud noises, hiding in corners and his inability to speak. The music is disturbing to others when he begins to play, more because transmuting his pain into music invokes memories they would rather forget.

We eventually learn more about what's going on, with shifting viewpoints. The perspective changes aren't always easily delineated, so you really have to pay attention. The history of the people here is fascinating; their distant history of Old Earth is still in our future, with a world slowly dying. Species we take for granted go extinct, resources are scarce, and the surface temperature gradually increases to the point that life is expected to die out entirely. The series of space stations, corporate planets and city planets in their space becomes the new normal, and the nature of people really doesn't change even centuries from now.

"There is no assuaging the fear that things end & people leave."

There is a lot that can be said about relationships, what makes a family and what makes a home. This is tested halfway through the novel in a cold and cruel manner, and the fallout is devastating. We're fully attached to the characters at this point, so their pain is ours, and we long for the same reunion they do. It's a bittersweet final third of the book, and the conclusion is a satisfying one.

Buy The Vanished Birds at Amazon

Born and raised in New York City, M.K. French started writing stories when very young, dreaming of different worlds and places to visit. She always had an interest in folklore, fairy tales, and the macabre, which has definitely influenced her work. She currently lives in the Midwest with her husband and three young children.
This post is linked to First Chapter, First Paragraph at I'd Rather Be At The Beach.

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  1. Interesting paragraph, and what a unique story. Thanks for sharing, and here's mine: “SHELTER MOUNTAIN”

    1. Thanks for the link! This is definitely a great book with lots of discussion potential.

  2. Glad the end was satisfying! I love the cover on this one.

    1. The cover definitely drew my eye, and the story was just as fascinating.

  3. Sounds very interesting and I've been reading a lot about this book lately so I would like to check it out!

    1. I really enjoyed this book. I hope you get a chance to check it out!

  4. Sounds interesting and even the cover is intriguing.

  5. the title made me curious. great review
    sherry @ fundinmental