The Vanished Birds by Simon Jimenez is a science fiction debut novel that revolves around the meaning of time and space travel. We follow a very small ship whose crew’s main job is to collect a special type of seed that is locally grown on a planet and to deliver them to other planet destinations. All of this gets upended when the captain takes in a mysterious boy that somehow crashed onto the planet from the sky. The Vanished Birds is beautifully written although I’ll be guessing that others who are not familiar to this will consider it boring and slow. This novel is not about action but rather on what time can mean for people on both sides of the equation. While it may take only five months for a ship and its members to jump through hyperspace to reach their destination on the other side of the galaxy, it can also mean that fifteen or more years may have actually past for the local inhabitants of the planet. How do the people deal with this? Is it possible to make friends and more importantly, find love, knowing this?
“Take my day, but give me the night.” – Harvest Song
Suffice it to say, this is not the first novel to talk about space travel and the time differences in relation to that. Honestly, I feel that the author could have done a better job at really hitting home this main theme. It just didn’t hit me enough in the emotional department in a way that I believe the author would have wanted. I do feel like it had just the right amount of characters in the story and while we do get small details regarding each of the captains crew members and of their past history, they didn’t really form an emotional attachment with me. If someone left for example, it was like oh well, let’s move it along and see who comes after. This felt a little odd because we actually do get to spend a lot of time with the crew while they travel to different planets doing various missions but again, I wasn’t able to feel that emotional bond with the majority of characters save for one of them.
Although this novel deals with time differences due to space travel, I also felt this point wasn’t really driven home in a way that could have really blown away the readers. For a emotional themed story such as this for example, I would have expected more sadness of side stories where some of the members discover their loved ones and friends have past away the next time they returned to a planet. Or maybe how time can change a planet so dramatically that the characters have a hard time adjusting because to them only a short period of time would have elapsed while planetside a few decades would have swung by for its inhabitants. Instead, the majority of the book would have us follow the members planet hopping in hopes for the mysterious boy the captain picked up to come to terms with his ability that can alter time traveling forever.
“What more is there to say in the face of truth than silence?” – Sartoris Moth
Books like The Vanished Birds are fun to read because we ourselves are so far off from where things will look like in the story. It is something I’ll at least will never be able to witness in my lifetime but what about the future generations? Earth itself can’t be the only habitable planet and it also can’t sustain the rate at which we are destroying it so I’d like to think that yes, one day far, far into the future the human race will find a way to travel to other planets and they’ll also be stuck with the time difference conundrum. I’ll definitely be interested in reading this author’s future projects.