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The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell

The Sparrow (original 1996; edition 1997)

by Mary Doria Russell, Mary Doria Russell

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
5,9313241,020 (4.2)1 / 857
Title:The Sparrow
Authors:Mary Doria Russell
Other authors:Mary Doria Russell
Info:Ballantine Books (1997), Paperback, 408 pages
Collections:Your library

Work details

The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell (1996)

Recently added byotashm, rena75, private library, VeeMcD123, ctcoke, Vulco1, christina_reads
Legacy LibrariesTim Spalding
  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
    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.
  8. 10
    Eden by Stanisław Lem (pitjrw)
    pitjrw: A much better book on the uncertainties, misapprehensions, and danger of first contact.
  9. 10
    The Keys of the Kingdom by A. J. Cronin (aulsmith)
    aulsmith: Missionary priests deal with abuse, spiritual questioning and alien cultures
  10. 21
    The Time Machine by H. G. Wells (Tanya-dogearedcopy)
    Tanya-dogearedcopy: First Contact sections of both novels are remarkably similar
  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
    Archangel (Samaria, Book 1) by Sharon Shinn (espertus)
  13. 10
    Bright of the Sky by Kay Kenyon (Anonymous user)
  14. 21
    Under the Skin by Michel Faber (Anonymous user)
  15. 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.
  16. 00
    Black Robe: A Novel by Brian Moore (amanda4242)
  17. 11
    Dark Eden by Chris Beckett (JGoto)
    JGoto: Not quite as good, but some similar themes and an interesting read.
  18. 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
  19. 00
    Wulfsyarn by Phillip Mann (AlanPoulter)
    AlanPoulter: Both feature an unusual mix of alien contact and religion
  20. 01
    The Foundation Trilogy by Isaac Asimov (johnxlibris)

(see all 21 recommendations)

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English (320)  German (1)  Spanish (1)  French (1)  Japanese (1)  All languages (324)
Showing 1-5 of 320 (next | show all)
Wow! This was a book that I had a hard time getting into. I was skepitcal of reading it at first because I thought it would read like an allegory (not a genre I like). I saved it for years and then gave it a chance because of a reading challenge in which I participated. I read the first few chapters and found things I didn't like, but the story seemed interesting. It turns out that this was the story of a mission to a distant planet sponsored by members of the Church of Jesus (Jesuits). My skepticism level grew. Then I discovered that, on this mission, were also an avowed atheist and a Sephardic Jew! Hmm?! I wondered how they fit into this story. I began to get bored with the story as it went into excruciating detail about the lives of the characters. And yet...I could not put this book down.

There were two time frames, and I wanted to know what would happen when they would conversge. The further I read, the more I wanted to know what would happen...and what was the real story behind the main character Emilio Sandoz's crippling hand surgery with whch he returned to Earth.

I thought the plot would be simple, and ( had already jotted down with disdain what I thought would happen. I was completely wrong! The further I read, the more complex the plot became with regard to culture, theology, and relationships. The ending was mind-blowing. I want to read the sequel, but now I need a break from the tension created by this novel.

Suffice it to say, I'm glad that i finished this book and was very impressed by the story after all. ( )
  SqueakyChu | Oct 5, 2018 |
This is one of the best sci-fi novels ever. I am shocked I hadn't listed it as read before. It's just so...textured. It's first contact, but there's no clear good guy or bad guy and that's for real, not just "well, it's shades of gray, but the heroic side is clearly good while being total jerks" type of unclear which so many writers do and I hate. Just...wonderful ( )
  jeninmotion | Sep 24, 2018 |
Four stars is really more than it deserves.

There's a lot to love about the concept. The world-building was really good, though I had to suspend my disbelief numerous times at the idea that the alien world would develop as closely to our world as it did.

What I couldn't sell myself on was the absolute incompetence of the crew. No serious testing of air, soil, plants, food. No developed plan for contact or procedure once they got there. No expectation that maybe, just maybe, these aliens might be unfriendly, even dangerous. Nah, that couldn't happen! There's no precedent for that already on earth, everyone visits strange new places here and are always welcomed with open arms!

But the part that really left me unsatisfied was the religious aspects. I just flat can't believe that someone with Emilio Sandoz's life experiences could be so naive about the nature of God. Getting beaten as a child, growing up dirt poor, his drug-running brother dying, being sent to minister in devastated countries--but only on this adventure does he finally start to question the will of God? It was the part I most looked forward to, and it brought nothing new or developed. Just a vague rehash of "why do bad things happen to good people." I could have forgiven the other faults if only this aspect had been deep or at least interesting.

So why am I giving it four stars? I'm not sure. It must be the will of God. ( )
1 vote jjLitke | Sep 21, 2018 |
An excellent speculative novel about a Jesuit-led mission to make contact with life on another planet. Less a sci-fi adventure than a moving exploration of faith, doubt, love, and humanity, Russell creates wonderful characters and subtly builds a world of the "future" (published in 1996, much of the story is set in 2019 so was kind of fun to read now). I understand people's doubts about it because of the sci-fi label, but it's less about aliens, space, and future tech than about the timeless human need to seek and to know and to connect.

4.5 stars ( )
2 vote katiekrug | Sep 16, 2018 |
Russell has a literary voice that can caress your cheek or slap you across the face, sometimes one right after the other. Superb storytelling with a detective-story-esque timeline that starts at the end and moves back and forth to slowly reveal a story full of warmth, heartbreak, technology, poverty and luxury, the human heart and more than one alien mentality. Russell's paleoanthropology background is, unsurprisingly, very suited to the task.
An exceptional novel, worth re-reading. ( )
  amandrake | Sep 12, 2018 |
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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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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)

(summary from another edition)

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