It could. It very much could. If nothing else, it will certainly be a strong contender. Of the books I’ve reviewed so far (Rhythm of War, and Network Effect) this book, to me, felt the most like a Hugo award recipient. I suppose this requires some explanation . . .
Unlike previous books I’ve considered, I came at this book almost completely blind. As mentioned in the Hugos are coming! post, I sort of cheated when trying to find a starting point for what books I would review. Sadly, at the time I made the list, I’d only read two books published in 2020, and both had been part of a longer series, so that’s how I’d known about them. As such, you might say that I only came across two titles published in 2020 ‘organically’ meaning, completely on my own, without any help from advertisements.
I relied on various lists around the internet to help me compose my eventual list. I believe The Vanished Birds was part of the Goodreads choice awards for Science Fiction, and I’d seen it in a couple other places on the net (Top 10 Tuesday SF Debuts at Onemore.org; as a runner up at Polygon’s The best sci-fi and fantasy books of 2020 to catch up with; and finally on Tor.com’s Reviewers’ Choice: The Best Books of 2020)
I’ll say immediately, that one of the things that drew me to the book before any of the many others I’ve but on the list, is that this book was a debut. I have my old standby authors who I read obsessively like anyone else, but I’ll admit that I occasionally let one eye wander to see what is new within the genre. For the Hugo award, this seems extra important as I feel a book winning a yearly award, should be ‘of the moment’ for the year it wins. Also, I don’t have to read any other works to get context for this one, whether it be other books in a series, or some of the author’s other books which are unrelated.
So, seeing that it was a new author that I didn’t recognize, I bumped it up on the priority list (I’m sure this was made easier because I did not have a long wait in the library queue).
So what did you think?
I really enjoyed this book. For me, enjoying this book seemed to stem from two things: 1) the character relationships, and 2) I felt like there was a kind of aesthetic pleasure in the descriptions and prose.
The future presented in The Vanished Birds is both beautiful and awful. Connected, but lonely. Given the book’s focus on traveling through something akin to wormholes (although I think they’re termed something else), there is also an emphasis on the passage of time, a kind of immortality, and being isolated from the rest of humanity through overly long lifespans.
Tack on a ruthless corporation bent on expanding ever outward into the galaxy, and there’s a lot of motives acting upon the characters at once. In many instances, all they can do is deal with the pressure on their own or try to bond with the few people that are in their unique situation. A kind of found family. I’m always a sucker for found family for some reason.
The only part I did not like about the book, was sadly the end. I had a feeling that during the last quarter of the book, the main story had already finished, and that everything the reader was supposed to take away from the book had already been given.
The Vanished Birds was the closest we’ve come to a yes for me. I think this book really set the tone and is the one to beat for any books I review going forward. It was extremely helpful in getting me to define what my criteria for the nominations will be, and I’m hopeful I can type those up so y’all can see them in another post.
I don’t think this one will get the nomination from me though, even it is certainly good enough to be nominated. I have no doubt it will have many, many other people pushing for it, and rightfully so.
I’m going to hold my vote for now though.
See you next time!