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The Sparrow: A Novel by Mary Doria Russell
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The Sparrow: A Novel (original 1996; edition 1996)

by Mary Doria Russell

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
4,901264939 (4.2)1 / 683
Member:Kammbia1
Title:The Sparrow: A Novel
Authors:Mary Doria Russell
Info:Villard (1996), Edition: 1st, Hardcover, 408 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:*****
Tags:None

Work details

The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell (1996)

Recently added bykvrfan, lottpoet, wreichard, private library, anngraf, spounds, PrettyEvil, pickupsticks
  1. 120
    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. 61
    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. 41
    Speaker for the Dead (Ender, Book 2) by Orson Scott Card (sturlington)
    sturlington: Also about first contact with an alien civilization that humans cannot understand.
  5. 10
    Eifelheim by Michael Flynn (aulsmith)
    aulsmith: Another Catholic priest deals with aliens
  6. 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.
  7. 10
    The Book of Strange New Things by Michel Faber (GCPLreader)
  8. 00
    The Keys of the Kingdom by A. J. Cronin (aulsmith)
    aulsmith: Missionary priests deal with abuse, spiritual questioning and alien cultures
  9. 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
  10. 00
    Eden by Stanisław Lem (pitjrw)
    pitjrw: A much better book on the uncertainties, misapprehensions, and danger of first contact.
  11. 11
    Under the Skin by Michel Faber (Anonymous user)
  12. 00
    Bright of the Sky by Kay Kenyon (Anonymous user)
  13. 00
    Wulfsyarn by Phillip Mann (AlanPoulter)
    AlanPoulter: Both feature an unusual mix of alien contact and religion
  14. 11
    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)
  15. 11
    Archangel by Sharon Shinn (espertus)
  16. 00
    Dark Eden by Chris Beckett (JGoto)
    JGoto: Not quite as good, but some similar themes and an interesting read.
  17. 00
    Girl in Landscape: A Novel by Jonathan Lethem (sturlington)
  18. 01
    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 (260)  German (1)  Spanish (1)  French (1)  Japanese (1)  All languages (264)
Showing 1-5 of 260 (next | show all)
After reading the prologue and that haunting plea, "They meant no harm," this wave of foreboding came over me and just like that I was immersed. I was at the beginning of something extraordinary. ( )
  Daniel.Estes | Mar 30, 2015 |
Okay. I think it is important to say first and foremost that I am not a Sci-fi enthusiast.

With that out of the way I will say I really didn't enjoy this book very much. I started out pretty optimistically. I found the idea that Jesuits would be involved in space travel pretty intriguing. It all sort of fell apart for me in the execution of the plot.

I will say that the characters are pretty well drawn here. The author takes her time building back stories for all the major characters. Despite the relatively large number of important (earth) characters - I felt like I was given enough to understand and remember them all.

I usually don't mind the when author's tease an ending and then work back towards the final conclusion but in this case it all progressed very very slowly. Because there were constant jumps in time working towards what in the book was the present day - it felt like we were hopscotching through quicksand trying to get to the finish line. Some parts would be pretty engaging and then others were so so very slow. The final reveal that we spend some much time working our way towards seemed very anticlimatic to me.

I found the foreign places names and being names really hard to keep track of and over wrought.

I will admit I knew this wasn't in my comfort zone when I picked it up - but I had hopes I would enjoy it more. I have to say that reading it really felt like work. ( )
  alanna1122 | Mar 24, 2015 |
Some Jesuit priests and their friends travel to another planet after hearing beautiful music broadcasts. But what they find is horrific and ultimately tragic. A well-structured novel with good character development, Sparrow makes some interesting commentary on what is means to be civilized and human, but it is primarily an exploration of the depths of religious faith.

I recommend this book. It was well done, though for some reason I did not find it to be a page-turner, even though a keen since of foreboding was established. ( )
  technodiabla | Mar 22, 2015 |
I was hooked from the moment John Candotti took pity on Emilio Sandoz, mutilated survivor of the Jesuit mission to make first contact on another planet. Full review here. ( )
  CarsonKicklighter | Jan 26, 2015 |
Description: 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.

Thoughts: I will admit that I'm a little more than shattered by this book. Shaken, disgusted, depressed, uplifted and amazed at all the same time. Damn.

Thanks to those that suggested this book to me because I'm so glad that I read it. For a novel that is far from perfect- the pacing is weird, the major milestones oddly delayed and then rushed, the too abrupt resolution- the voices that Russell brings forth are staggeringly human and touching and oh so real. Their juxtopositions- to each other and to God and to the inhabitants of Rakhat- are perfect and encompassing and I can't imagine a reader not finding something to respond to in one of their stories.

The story of that unfolds is realistic (even for being about alien planets) and terrifyingly plausiable. You want to suspend judgement from a human Western perspective but it's very hard not to be affected by what happens. And this is probably the part that spoke to me, the former Anthropologist, the most. The delimma of contact and non-interferance in the face of human emotion and the instinct of community. I love that Russell's own background in Anthro is so vivid here in her attention to the very real concerns one would face in this situation and especially how almost impossible it is to completely remove one's own sociocultural filter in order to avoid mistakes. The fact that the story ends up pinioning on such a small, supposedly well thought-out action is just perfect.

The religious ramifications and implications are the same that I've always personally struggled with, something that's made me a tenuous agnostic. While I can recognize that Emilio's position is an extreme one, it's a rational one and a question that I am drawn to. This was a very nice and intriguing way of exploring faith and the nature of God.

I only wish there had been more time spent on the Rakhati cultures and characters and that the conclusion hadn't come so abruptly. I now see that there is a sequel so maybe that is why. I'm not ready to go back into that world yet, but I'm sure it's just a matter of time.

Rating: 4.1

Liked: 4.5
Plot: 3.5
Characterization: 4.5
Writing: 3.5

http://www.librarything.com/topic/153717#4088548 ( )
  leahbird | Jan 17, 2015 |
Showing 1-5 of 260 (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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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."
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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.
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 Mon, 30 Sep 2013 14:06:30 -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.

(summary from another edition)

» see all 4 descriptions

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