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The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell
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The Sparrow (1996)

by Mary Doria Russell

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: The Sparrow (1)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
6,0173321,036 (4.2)1 / 875
  1. 130
    Children of God by Mary Doria Russell (mrstreme)
  2. 122
    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, vwinsloe)
    aulsmith: Another Catholic priest deals with aliens
    vwinsloe: Religion/first contact
  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. 21
    Archangel by Sharon Shinn (espertus)
  10. 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.
  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. 21
    The Time Machine by H. G. Wells (Tanya-dogearedcopy)
    Tanya-dogearedcopy: First Contact sections of both novels are remarkably similar
  13. 00
    Daniel Stein, Interpreter: A Novel by Ludmila Ulitskaya (spiphany)
    spiphany: A central theme of both books is the examination of faith, both within and outside of organized religion
  14. 00
    Black Robe: A Novel by Brian Moore (amanda4242)
  15. 11
    Dark Eden by Chris Beckett (JGoto)
    JGoto: Not quite as good, but some similar themes and an interesting read.
  16. 11
    Under the Skin by Michel Faber (Anonymous user)
  17. 00
    Wulfsyarn by Phillip Mann (AlanPoulter)
    AlanPoulter: Both feature an unusual mix of alien contact and religion
  18. 00
    Bright of the Sky by Kay Kenyon (Anonymous user)
  19. 00
    The Faded Sun Trilogy by C. J. Cherryh (kaydern)
    kaydern: A book equally interested alien anthropology, but with more emphasis on military and sociology of alien-human interaction.
  20. 12
    Hyperion by Dan Simmons (tetrachromat)
    tetrachromat: Both juxtapose religion and science fiction. Hyperion is also [IMHO] a significantly better book.

(see all 21 recommendations)

To Read (459)
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English (326)  German (1)  Spanish (1)  French (1)  Japanese (1)  All languages (330)
Showing 1-5 of 326 (next | show all)
This was fantastic. Very emotionally hard-hitting. Had the feel of Kim Stanley Robinson's attention to detail and ensemble cast, mixed with old-school Ursula Le Guin's anthropological look at aliens. All that with Jesuits mixed in. Highly recommended. ( )
  xiaomarlo | Apr 17, 2019 |
I like the premise (a Jesuit-run first-contact mission), but the execution was disappointing in some ways. Aside from the protagonist Sandoz, I didn't feel much connection to or interest in most of the characters, and the portions of the novel devoted to the preparation of the mission felt long and somewhat hokey. Likewise, the sections devoted to Sandoz's emotional turmoil after the mission get tedious as they mostly serve only to build up curiosity about what horrible thing might have happened to him.

The novel does ultimately deliver on that build-up in an emotionally striking way. The theological musings scattered throughout are also sometimes fascinating, and the concept for the aliens is intriguing although not explored too deeply. ( )
  brokensandals | Feb 7, 2019 |
This book is just another first contact story. What makes it unique is that Earth is represented by Jesuits.

The story develops in two lines: first is in 2059-2060 with a sole survivor of the first contact, who returned is a miserable condition, barely alive, is hidden by fellow Jesuits from the public. What public (and a reader in the beginning) knows that there was an ugly scandal: violence, murder and prostitution. The second line starts in the early 2010s and follows a diverse cast of people, who are destined (willed by God?) be became the visitors.

The book is very well written, to a large extent I guess it should appeal not only to SF fans but to a more general literary public. Because of the priests as main characters, there are quite a lot of discussion about God, celibacy and similar topics. This is not a Christian literature, there is no urge to convert the reader.
( )
  Oleksandr_Zholud | Jan 9, 2019 |
Seriously top 10 writing. This somehow manages to have that elusive balance between hard sci-fi complexity and deeply human storytelling.

This is a book I'll be returning to at some point. I need to let it sit with me for a while first. ( )
  pixelpaperyarn | Jan 5, 2019 |
At the Arecibo telescope site in Puerto Rico, Jimmy Quinn has picked up a signal of some kind from the vast reaches of the Alpha Centauri galaxy. Is it -- music? After confirmation and much debate and preparation, the intermittent signal launches a mission of several Jesuits, an engineer and his wife, an AI vulture, and Jimmy to the planet Rakhat. What follows is a story that explores questions of philosophy, linguistics, and human nature.

The Sparrow is literary science fiction at its best. I didn't expect to laugh, but I laughed. I hardly expected to cry, but I did that, too. Highly recommended. ( )
  Jewel-eye | Dec 31, 2018 |
Showing 1-5 of 326 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (5 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Mary Doria Russellprimary authorall editionscalculated
diBondone,GiottoCover artsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
Dedication
For Maura E. Kirby
and
Mary L. Dewing

quarum sine auspicio hic
liber in lucem non esset
editas
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.
Quotations
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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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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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)

The sole survivor of a crew sent to explore a new planet, Jesuit priest Emilio Sandoz discovers an alien civilization that raises questions about the very essence of humanity, an encounter that leads Sandoz to a public inquisition and the destruction of his faith.… (more)

» see all 5 descriptions

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