Friday, August 11, 2023

Book Review: The Vanished Birds by Simon Jimenez


I was put off by all the character changes early on. Maybe I've just absorbed the writing "rules" that you shouldn't abandon characters, you shouldn't start with characters who won't show up (barely) again, you should have your characters eventually meet. But my emotional reaction shows me that these rules are there for a reason. I felt disappointed when the initial character was clearly left behind. I felt frustrated when a four-person spaceship crew that I had struggled to get to know all or mostly abandoned their captain. Maybe it is realistic that not everyone would stay but I had an aversion to getting to know the new crew when my previous investment had been squandered. 

There was a bit of hope when a long-ago character, who had seemed very important and indeed is where the title comes from, turns out to live long enough to potentially meet up with the current characters. There was hope that two people who'd both lost their lovers long ago would end up together. These hopes were destroyed in a nuclear-type reaction at the end. Very unsatisfying.

Another source of dissatisfaction was with the timing. One of the main questions is finally answered around 70%, but the character very selfishly doesn't do anything about it for a while. Maybe this is realistic but it made me mad at him and wanting to skip ahead to when something interesting happens. 

The author's use of language and the sci fi of his world are definitely unique. He turns nouns into verbs and makes up great tech: near-FTL travel is done by folding into the pocket and riding celestial currents that have names. Time dilation is real and affects people's lives profoundly (at least at the beginning). The ships are piloted with cat's cradles. Cool stuff like that.  (There is a chance I just don't know that this is common in these kinds of stories!)

I also appreciated how many non-heterosexual relationships there were without any mention or need to use identity words. Very much just a "this is how the world is."

And overall it is a thumbs up because hey, I finished it! Granted, it was my only book while camping for two weeks (thanks to having left my kindle on a plane, unexpectedly returned by Delta's great lost and found system), which basically forced me to get over my annoyance at the loss of main characters so early. By then I was invested enough, and hopeful enough, to carry on. But it was worth reading. 

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