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A Case of Conscience (1958)
by James Blish
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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)
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.
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