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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
5,034270896 (4.2)1 / 730
  1. 130
    Children of God by Mary Doria Russell (mrstreme)
  2. 102
    A Canticle for Leibowitz by Walter M. Miller Jr. (prezzey)
    prezzey: Both are good solid science fiction novels featuring Roman Catholic monks.
  3. 62
    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.
  4. 51
    Speaker for the Dead by Orson Scott Card (sturlington)
    sturlington: Also about first contact with an alien civilization that humans cannot understand.
  5. 20
    The Book of Strange New Things by Michel Faber (GCPLreader)
  6. 10
    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. 21
    The Dazzle of Day by Molly Gloss (Rivercrest)
    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)
  9. 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.
  10. 00
    The Keys of the Kingdom by A. J. Cronin (aulsmith)
    aulsmith: Missionary priests deal with abuse, spiritual questioning and alien cultures
  11. 00
    Daniel Stein, interpreter: a novel in documents by Ljudmila Ulitskaya (spiphany)
    spiphany: A central theme of both books is the examination of faith, both within and outside of organized religion
  12. 11
    The Time Machine by H. G. Wells (Tanya-dogearedcopy)
    Tanya-dogearedcopy: First Contact sections of both novels are remarkably similar
  13. 00
    Wulfsyarn by Phillip Mann (AlanPoulter)
    AlanPoulter: Both feature an unusual mix of alien contact and religion
  14. 00
    Bright of the Sky by Kay Kenyon (Anonymous user)
  15. 11
    Archangel by Sharon Shinn (espertus)
  16. 11
    Under the Skin by Michel Faber (Anonymous user)
  17. 12
    Hyperion by Dan Simmons (tetrachromat)
    tetrachromat: Both juxtapose religion and science fiction. Hyperion is also [IMHO] a significantly better book.
  18. 01
    Dark Eden by Chris Beckett (JGoto)
    JGoto: Not quite as good, but some similar themes and an interesting read.

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English (266)  German (1)  Spanish (1)  French (1)  Japanese (1)  All languages (270)
Showing 1-5 of 266 (next | show all)
Writing in alternating time lines, the author weaves a compelling story of a group of friends, some of whom are scientists, and a Jesuit priest who travel to a distant planet of Rakhat located far, far away in Alpha Senturi.

Inspired to write this science fiction novel after the 500th year history of Christopher Columbus' mission to the new world, Russell wanted to give perspective of how difficult it is to inhabit a foreign land and try to make logic of a vastly different culture.

Drawn to Rakhat by the sound of haunting, beautiful music, Father Sandoz believed that it is a sign from God as one by one miraculous things fell into place in order for the trip to occur. Therefore, of course, the mission is deemed one of God's calling. And, when the mission disastrously fails, it can therefore be deemed as a punishment of God.

Lack of fuel strands the crew members on Rakhat with no or little hope of ever returning to earth. The members make the best of the situation and grow to like the Runi people who inhabit the space they share. All seems heavenly until members begin to die, some of them in very bloody, barbaric ways.

In the third year, another culture, more dominant and of a higher intelligence, punishes the Runi, and the earthly team, for lack of strict adherence to the rules.

Excellently written, this is a re-read for me. I obtained an advance readers copy years ago before the book was published. The violence and manner in which the people were punished, left a negative impact . I have a different reaction now.

While still reacting to the violence, I am able to discern that this is a book of faith. When Father Sandoz is rescued and returned to earth, he is the only remaining team member. Beaten down physically and emotionally, he is soulless and angry.

While severely judged by the Jesuits, soon he is made to tell his story. The graphic horror of what happened to his body and soul leaves those in judgement eventually understanding the implications of their mission. ( )
3 vote Whisper1 | Nov 6, 2015 |
I've had this book around but never got around to reading it until now. So glad I finally read it. It will be a favorite for 2015. This is a story set in the time period of 2050 to 2016 with flashbacks to 2019. Radio transmissions from outer space are heard and The Society of Jesus decide that it is their God given duty to make contact. A mission to the Rakhat is planned and paid for by the Jesuits. This is the story of that mission trip and it delves into some areas that every Christian or at least this one has asked. If God is sovereign, why did He allow this to happen. The book is science fiction and a simply good book to read but I love it for how it looked at what it means to go for ad majorem Dei gloriam or for the greater glory of God. Of course the title is familiar source for those familiar with the New Testament. I do not want to spoil this book for anyone that may not have read it yet, but the the question of God's sovereignty is spelled out in this "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. Again, all I can say without giving the end away is, I REALLY LIKED THIS ENDING.

Other tidbits; prior to writing The Sparrow the author had only written serious scientific articles and technical manuals. How did she come to write this book? The idea came to her in 1992 when the 500th anniversary of Columbus's arrival to the New World was being celebrated. It was the authors response to the the examination of mistakes made when encountering a foreign culture. She states; "It seemed unfair to me for people living at the end of the twentieth century to hold those explorers and missionaries to standards of sophistication and tolerance that we hardly manage today." The author wanted to show through the novel how difficult first contact would be. The central theme is the risks and beauties of religious faith to quote the author. ( )
  Kristelh | Aug 28, 2015 |
If I weren't already an atheist I would be after reading this book. Way to go, assuming the worst about someone . ( )
  majkia | Aug 13, 2015 |
Jesuits in Space! A SETI discovery that leads to a private space expedition that ends in tragedy. What an interesting idea. I was somewhat let down when I finished the novel, but I was pretty well hooked for a long part of the read. The pacing is pretty slow and the facts of the plot are slowly revealed but still a thoughtful and provocative novel. ( )
  joeydag | Jul 23, 2015 |
An astounding work of science fiction, The Sparrow explores the relationships between humans and our inner selves. The backdrop is another planet; while the book does not delve too deeply into the mechanics of space travel, it is fascinating nonetheless. Emilio is one I would consider a main character, although I personally am not a fan of him. Already ordered the second book! ( )
  amandacb | Jul 7, 2015 |
Showing 1-5 of 266 (next | show all)
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Mary Doria Russellprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
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."
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Wikipedia in English (3)

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.
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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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