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A Case of Conscience by James Blish

A Case of Conscience (1958)

by James Blish

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1,382388,191 (3.33)49
Recently added byUbiquitine, private library, eloquinn, kevinb96, rretzler, MWise, ChristineRagan, ctcoke, RobinJewell
Legacy LibrariesTim Spalding
  1. 51
    The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell (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.
  2. 10
    River of Gods by Ian McDonald (paradoxosalpha)
    paradoxosalpha: Contact with an alien intelligence throws theological issues into relief; multiple human protagonists reflect scientific, authoritarian, and mystical/contemplative types; all in the context of credible extrapolation to a near-future society.
  3. 01
    That Leviathan, Whom Thou Hast Made [Novelette] by Eric James Stone (bertilak)

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» See also 49 mentions

English (35)  Italian (2)  French (1)  All languages (38)
Showing 1-5 of 35 (next | show all)
I found this novel frustrating. The main character is a Jesuit priest who spends the novel trying to decide the theological implications of the first intelligent extraterrestrial species found by humans. Unfortunately, I never really connected with him, so I never really cared about the results. ( )
  crankybookwyrm | Sep 9, 2017 |
Winner of the Hugo Award in 1958, this book presents a moral dilemma confronting the four main characters. ( )
  gypsysmom | Aug 15, 2017 |
I saw this on a sci-fi "must read" list, and thinking, "I liked Blish when I was a teen...", gave it a shot.

Well....I can overlook a lot as it was published in 1958, but I had a few problems with an early main character slurring the primary species of the other planet...dates the vision to a racist U.S. ...; the story was uneven (and a very weird segment in part two was just...weird); the end sections all over the map; a character who should have known better using "light-year" as a unit of time (not sure that Blish did that deliberately, but if so, it didn't fit with the character); and the religious element just seemed silly, to put a finger on a few. And the ending far too contrived for the intelligent writer I thought I remembered.

I've wanted to re-read The Seedling Stars for some time, but I'm afraid a 40 year old memory fragment might disappoint me. I can't recommend this book, even taking its age into consideration. ( )
  Razinha | May 23, 2017 |
I didn't know that this was part of a series. I never even heard of the other novels, and probably won't read them.
I read this a long time ago, and still remember the solution to the literary question that obsesses the priest. ( )
  CarolJMO | Dec 12, 2016 |
I REALLY did not like this book. Recognizing that it was something of a fable, I could accept such characteristics as the characters being no more than "types." What I couldn't abide was that it had a pre-Copernican moral sense about it, in that it carried an attitude all in the universe was created for the purpose of earthlings (and I'd narrow it down more finely to that, to Christian earthlings).

A group of Earth scientists spends time evaluating an inhabited planet 50 light-years away. Since the planet lacks iron, its technology has been prevented from becoming too sophisticated, but what is evident is that its culture is very well-integrated and peaceful. It displays little distrust and is even welcoming and accepting of the Earth visitors. So polite is everyone that one of the scientists who is also a Jesuit likens it to Eden.

But therein, he argues to his colleagues, lies the trap. Such a seductive culture could only be the product of Satan.

Say what?!

The Jesuit provides an argument on the basis of natural law--at least the theology of natural law as laid down by the medieval clerics--but this then presupposes that all in the universe exists (and God created it) only to conform to a specifically Earth/medieval Christian understanding of how the universe works. The Jesuit-scientist is obviously a Jesuit first and a scientist only distantly second, because rather than taking the data from his new experience with this gentle society to reconsider his dogma, he feels he must judge the situation according to his ingrained dogmatic position.

And the dogma is just crazy. What a wonderful society these other beings have! Of course, it must be the Devil's work! The logical contortions that must be taken reach this conclusion probably do conform to pre-Vatican II Catholic theology (the book was written in 1957). But that only indicates how contorted such theology was.

( )
1 vote kvrfan | Aug 19, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 35 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (7 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
James Blishprimary authorall editionscalculated
Foss, ChrisCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Powers, Richard M.Cover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Sweet, Darrell K.Cover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Wyrs, JacquesCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Zitzewitz, Hoot vonCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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I schal declare the disposcioun of rome fro hys first making; ... and the seconde part schal declare ye holynesse of ye same place fro hys first crystendom; I schal not write but that I fynde in auctores or ellis that I sey with eye. John Capgrave : The Solace of Pilgrims.
Man only thinks when you prevent him from acting. — Jean-Jacques Rousseau

Man only creates when fulfilment of action increases his enigma. — Gerald Heard
to Larry Shaw
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The stone door slammed.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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The novella "A Case of Conscience" is book one in the novel with the same name
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0345438353, Paperback)

The citizens of the planet Lithia are some of the most ethical sentient beings Father Ramon Ruiz-Sanchez has ever encountered. True, they have no literature, no fine arts, and don't understand the concept of recreation, but neither do they understand the concepts of greed, envy, lust, or any of the sins and vices that plague humankind. Their world seems darned near perfect. And that is just what disturbs the good Father.

First published in 1959, James Blish's Hugo Award-winning A Case of Conscience is science fiction at its very best: a fast-paced, intelligent story that offers plenty of action while at the same time explores complex questions of values and ethics. In this case, Blish has taken on the age-old battle of good vs. evil. Lithia poses a theological question that lies at the heart of this book: is God necessary for a moral society? The Lithians are nothing if not moral. Not only do they lack the seven deadly sins, they also lack original sin. And without any sort of religious framework, they have created the Christian ideal world, one that humans would be eager to study and emulate. But is it too perfect? Is it in fact, as Father Ruiz-Sanchez suspects, the work of The Adversary? And what role does Egtverchi, the young Lithian raised on Earth, play? Is he an innocent victim of circumstance, or will he bring about the Dies Irae, the day of the wrath of God, upon the earth? The fate of two worlds hinges on the answers to these questions, and will lead to an ancient earth heresy that shakes the Jesuit priest's beliefs to their very core.

A Case of Conscience is a brilliant piece of storytelling, and it packs a lot into a scant 242 pages. Most readers will probably finish the book in one sitting, unable to stop until the spectacular denouement. But the questions posed by this little-known gem will stay with you for days afterward. --P.M. Atterberry

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:19:36 -0400)

(see all 4 descriptions)

The author of the Cities in Flight saga explores the conflicting demands of science, faith, and human feeling in this Hugo Award-winning novel. Father Ruiz-Sanchez is a dedicated man, a Jesuit priest who is also a scientist, and a scientist who is also a human being. He doesn't feel any genuine conflicts in his belief system-until he is sent to Lithia. The reptilian inhabitants of this distant world appear to be admirable in every way. Untroubled by greed or lust, they live in peace. But they have no concept of God, no literature, and no art. They rely purely on cold reason. But something darker lies beneath the surface: Do the Lithians pose a hidden threat? The answers that unfold could affect the fate of two worlds. Will Ruiz-Sanchez, a priest driven by his deeply human understanding of good and evil, do the right thing when confronted by a race that is alien to its core? The Science Fiction Encyclopedia lauds A Case of Conscience as "one of the first serious attempts to deal with religion [in science fiction], and [it] remains one of the most sophisticated. It is generally regarded as an SF classic." Readers of Isaac Asimov's Foundation Trilogy, Mary Doria Russell's The Sparrow, or Walter M. Miller Jr.'s A Canticle for Leibowitz will find this award-winning novel a gripping, compelling exploration of some of the most intractable and important questions faced by the human species. Includes an introduction by Hugo and Nebula Award-winning author Greg Bear.… (more)

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