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The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell

The Sparrow (1996)

by Mary Doria Russell

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: The Sparrow (1)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
5,511305789 (4.2)1 / 790
Recently added bycatherinegallo83, private library, Trent1492, Beelzebozo668, elsebeok, weber93, ltheil, anneofia, MadLudwig
Legacy LibrariesTim Spalding
  1. 130
    Children of God by Mary Doria Russell (mrstreme)
  2. 112
    A Canticle for Leibowitz by Walter M. Miller Jr. (prezzey)
    prezzey: Both are good solid science fiction novels featuring Roman Catholic monks.
  3. 61
    Speaker for the Dead by Orson Scott Card (sturlington)
    sturlington: Also about first contact with an alien civilization that humans cannot understand.
  4. 72
    A Case of Conscience by James Blish (kevinashley)
    kevinashley: Both of these books deal with the combined issues of first contact with aliens and religion, through the involvement of priests. Both leave open questions, and both are well-written.
  5. 30
    The Book of Strange New Things by Michel Faber (GCPLreader)
  6. 20
    Eifelheim by Michael Flynn (aulsmith)
    aulsmith: Another Catholic priest deals with aliens
  7. 10
    Eden by Stanisław Lem (pitjrw)
    pitjrw: A much better book on the uncertainties, misapprehensions, and danger of first contact.
  8. 10
    The Keys of the Kingdom by A. J. Cronin (aulsmith)
    aulsmith: Missionary priests deal with abuse, spiritual questioning and alien cultures
  9. 10
    Bright of the Sky by Kay Kenyon (Anonymous user)
  10. 21
    Under the Skin by Michel Faber (Anonymous user)
  11. 21
    The Dazzle of Day by Molly Gloss (Rivercrest, vwinsloe)
    Rivercrest: Dazzle of Day explores the trials of community living and community choices in the same context as Sparrow; space flight, alien landscapes and religous exploration. It also has the same deft use of language, visual descriptions and charecter development. And though I love Sparrow and go back to it time and again, I like how the author ends Dazzle of Day better. Enjoy.… (more)
  12. 10
    Anathem by Neal Stephenson (quartzite)
    quartzite: Both books deal with key groups of people preparing to meet alien cultures with a bit of theology and philosophy thrown in.
  13. 00
    Black Robe: A Novel by Brian Moore (amanda4242)
  14. 11
    The Time Machine by H. G. Wells (Tanya-dogearedcopy)
    Tanya-dogearedcopy: First Contact sections of both novels are remarkably similar
  15. 11
    Dark Eden by Chris Beckett (JGoto)
    JGoto: Not quite as good, but some similar themes and an interesting read.
  16. 00
    Wulfsyarn by Phillip Mann (AlanPoulter)
    AlanPoulter: Both feature an unusual mix of alien contact and religion
  17. 00
    Daniel Stein, Interpreter: A Novel by Ljudmila Ulitskaya (spiphany)
    spiphany: A central theme of both books is the examination of faith, both within and outside of organized religion
  18. 11
    Archangel by Sharon Shinn (espertus)
  19. 12
    Hyperion by Dan Simmons (tetrachromat)
    tetrachromat: Both juxtapose religion and science fiction. Hyperion is also [IMHO] a significantly better book.
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English (301)  German (1)  Spanish (1)  French (1)  Japanese (1)  All (305)
Showing 1-5 of 301 (next | show all)
Unbelievably bad. Awful writing and worse science. It was impossible to suspend disbelief with this novel. ( )
  AugustvonOrth | Apr 20, 2017 |
I don't often give 5 stars but this was an amazing read. At its best science fiction deals with contemporary social issues as it explores them in the dynamics of the future. Russell does an outstanding job of exploring cultural conflict and the collision of social structures as her characters from the Earth explore Rakhat and its indigenous peoples the Runa and the Jana'ata. But all is not as it seems and the Jesuit party that has come to live among the Runa soon discover awful truths about the social structure of this strange world. And Emilio Sandoz, the only member of the party who survives the encounter, has to struggle not only with what he saw, learned, and experienced but he also has to find God again. For his faith was lost somewhere on Rakhat amid the ashes of what he failed to understand about the societies he encountered. Russell's characters are well constructed and she builds empathy for them as well as a familiarity that draws the reader into the story so that you feel almost like a participant. The culture she constructs on Rakhat is deliciously complex and deceitfully attractive all at once. The story is very readable drawing the reader ever deeper into the tale trying, very much like Emilio Sandoz, to understand. As Sandoz says, "God is in the why." And the reader can only discover the why of Rakhat as Sandoz does - through the journey. ( )
  Al-G | Apr 16, 2017 |
I don't even know how to describe this book. It's a speculative fiction first contact story with significant religious overtones. Sounds a little bit boring - it's not.

The novel will make you care so deeply about the characters, and ache so much at their fate. It moves inexorably from the past to the future so that as the stories come together and their fate is revealed you can literally, slowly and painfully, feel their lives disintegrate.

Open, revealing and honest, it is one of the few books that I've ever read that successfully combines Speculative Fiction and religion in a way that's totally believable. Highly recommended. ( )
  bhuesers | Mar 29, 2017 |
One of the best books I have ever read. ( )
  srtsrt | Mar 28, 2017 |
Ad majorem Dei gloriam. For the glory of God.

"The Sparrow" is partly science-fiction, partly thriller, and partly and exploration of what it means to have faith in God.

Truth be told, this story didn't need to be science fiction, it could have been set in an unexplored part of the globe several hundred years ago as easily as it was set on the newly discovered planet, Rakhat. The Jesuit mission to Rakhat follows the Jesuit tradition of missions seeking the salvation and perfection of human beings.

But when music is picked up by Jimmy Quinn, a friend of Jesuit priest Emilio Sandoz, the Jesuits are quick to organize a mission to the planet. The mission is comprised almost entirely of people close to Emilio Sandoz, the protagonist. This is one of the aspects of the story I had problems with. it seemed a little to pat, a little too convenient.

The book, published in 1997, spans nearly 40 years, from 2019 to 2060. We hear the story through flashbacks and so we jump back and forth between present day (2060) and the years of the mission (roughly 2019 to 2025?)

At it's heart though, The Sparrow tells the story of Emilio's struggle with believing in a God who lets awful things happen. Let me be more specific, Emilio has faith in a God who lets awful things happen to others, its when they happen to him that he struggles.

I won't say too much more as I don't want to give away too much. I enjoyed the book insofar as it kept my attention and it moved along quickly, and the writing is excellent. I do have problems with some of what the book is trying to convey as far as the meaning of faith and religion, but still the book is worth a read. ( )
  bravewoman | Feb 3, 2017 |
Showing 1-5 of 301 (next | show all)
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Mary Doria Russellprimary authorall editionscalculated
diBondone,GiottoCover artsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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For Maura E. Kirby
Mary L. Dewing

quarum sine auspicio hic
liber in lucem non esset
First words
On December 7, 2059, Emilio Sandoz was released from the isolation ward of Salvator Mundi Hospital in the middle of the night and transported in a bread van to the Jesuit Residence at Number 5 Borgo Santo Spirito, a few minutes' walk across St. Peter's Square from the Vatican.
I don't understand, but I can learn if you will teach me.
"There are no beggars on Rakhat. There is no unemployment. There is no overcrowding. No starvation. No environmental degradation. There is no genetic disease. The elderly do not suffer decline. Those with terminal illness do not linger. They pay a terrible price for this system, but we too pay, Felipe, and the coin we use is the suffering of children. How many kids starved to death this afternoon, while we sat here? Just because their corpses aren't eaten doesn't make our species any more moral!"
"...Because if I was led by God to love God, step by step, as it seemed, if I accept that the beauty and the rapture were real and true, then the rest of it was God's will too, and that, gentlemen, is cause for bitterness. But if I am simply a deluded ape who took a lot of old folktales far too seriously, then I brought all this on myself and my companions and the whole business becomes farcical, doesn't it. The problem with atheism, I find, under these circumstances," he continued with academic exactitude, each word etched on the air with acid, "is that I have no one to despise but myself. If however, I choose to believe that God is vicious, then at least I have the solace of hating God."
"'Not one sparrow can fall to the ground without your Father knowing it.'" "But the sparrow still falls," Felipe said.
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Wikipedia in English (1)

Book description
A novel about a remarkable man, a living saint, a life-long celibate and Jesuit priest, who undergoes an experience so harrowing and profound that it makes him question the existence of God. This experience--the first contact between human beings and intelligent extraterrestrial life--begins with a small mistake and ends in a horrible catastrophe.
Haiku summary

Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0449912558, Paperback)

In 2019, humanity finally finds proof of extraterrestrial life when a listening post in Puerto Rico picks up exquisite singing from a planet which will come to be known as Rakhat. While United Nations diplomats endlessly debate a possible first contact mission, the Society of Jesus quietly organizes an eight-person scientific expedition of its own. What the Jesuits find is a world so beyond comprehension that it will lead them to question the meaning of being "human." When the lone survivor of the expedition, Emilio Sandoz, returns to Earth in 2059, he will try to explain what went wrong... Words like "provocative" and "compelling" will come to mind as you read this shocking novel about first contact with a race that creates music akin to both poetry and prayer.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:25:46 -0400)

(see all 4 descriptions)

Combining elements of science fiction and spiritual philosophy, this novel is a tale of the devastating consequences of a scientific mission to make contact with an extraterrestrial culture.

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