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5 books not to miss: ‘The Vanished Birds’ by Simon Jimenez; ‘Little Gods’ by Meng Jin

“The Vanished Birds,” by Simon Jimenez.

In search of something good to read? USA TODAY's Barbara VanDenburgh scopes out the shelves for this week’s hottest new book releases.

1. “The Vanished Birds,” by Simon Jimenez (Del Rey, fiction, on sale Jan. 14)

What it’s about: Nia Imani travels through space in a ship that speeds faster than light, a woman out of time. Until, while visiting one planet, a mysterious boy falls from the sky. He communicates with Nia only through music, and the two form a bond – but a dangerous woman has her own plans for the child.

The buzz: "The best of what science fiction can be: a thought-provoking, heart-rending story about the choices that define our lives,” says a starred review in Kirkus Reviews.

2. “Zed,” by Joanna Kavenna (Doubleday, fiction, on sale Jan. 14)

What it’s about: This clever, satirical, dystopian novel imagines an orderly technotopia run by a megacorporation thrown into chaos by glitching tech. A world made perfect by an algorithm isn’t so perfect after all.

The buzz: “Kavenna has skillfully made our present feel like dystopian fiction,” says a ★★★½ (out of four stars) review for USA TODAY.

3. “Little Gods,” by Meng Jin (Custom House, fiction, on sale Jan. 14)

What it’s about: A young Chinese-American woman, Liya, returns to China after the death of her mother, Su Lan, a quantum physicist who was urgently concerned with time and its relationship to family, and how to create a world free of entropy. An ambitious debut.

The buzz: A ★★★ review for USA TODAY calls it “a surprising and wrenching tale.”

4. “A World Without Work: Technology, Automation, and How We Should Respond,” by Daniel Susskind (Metropolitan Books, nonfiction, on sale Jan. 14)

What it’s about: An Oxford economist, Susskind has studied how technology will transform the workforce landscape and displace human workers – and proposes what we should do it.

The buzz: “A complex yet lucid and surprisingly optimistic account from the frontlines of technology,” says Kirkus Reviews.

5. “The Secret Guests,” by Benjamin Black (Henry Holt & Co., fiction, on sale Jan. 14)

What it’s about: As London suffers nightly bombing raids during WWII, young princesses Elizabeth and Margaret are whisked away by Britain’s secret service to an estate in Ireland for protection. The stakes are raised when suspicions about the girls' true identities are aroused.

The buzz: “When you’re done binge-watching 'The Crown,' pick up this multifaceted wartime thriller,” says Kirkus Reviews.