The Vanished Birds by Simon Jimenez [in Booklist]
Earth’s destruction, space inhabitation, time travel – none of that is unfamiliar. Rampant capitalism, workaholic isolation, and family bonds too can be pedestrian themes. Yet Simon Jimenez’s debut, which includes all of the above, is a remarkably fresh, electrifying story that, at its core, honors the unbreakable mother/child-link.
Captain Nia commands a Pocket Space-hopping, cargo-distributing, for-hire ship – eight months in transit equals 15 years on the rural planet where her lover Kaeda lives and ages – where Nia claims a mute boy who reportedly fell out of the sky. The boy – who will eventually speak, reveal his brutal past, and learn the flute – becomes Nia’s most cherished (reciprocated) connection. But Nia can’t keep him secret when aerospace engineering genius Fumiko Nakajima targets the boy as the key to controlling time travel. Deals are made, loyalties tested, but the link holds fast.
Comparisons to groundbreaking sci-fi/fantasy superstar N.K. Jemisin (Broken Earth series) have been quick to surface, making narrator Shayna Small an already-anointed cipher since she was part of Jemisin’s aural cast for bestselling How Long ‘Til Black Future Month? (2018). Small adroitly embodies Jimenez’s diverse cast – whose ethnicities remain predominantly, refreshingly, unspecified beyond mention of a sari, a given name – bestowing accents, personalities, even unique tics to create an adventure that is out of this world.
Review: “Media,” Booklist, April 1, 2020