A visionary work that combines speculative fiction with deep philosophical inquiry, The Sparrow tells the story of a charismatic Jesuit priest and linguist, Emilio Sandoz, who leads a scientific mission entrusted with a profound task: to make first contact with intelligent extraterrestrial life. The mission begins in faith, hope, and beauty, but a series of small misunderstandings brings it to a catastrophic end.
Praise for The Sparrow
“A startling, engrossing, and moral work of fiction.”—The New York Times Book Review
“Important novels leave deep cracks in our beliefs, our prejudices, and our blinders. The Sparrow is one of them.”—Entertainment Weekly
“Powerful . . . The Sparrow tackles a difficult subject with grace and intelligence.”—San Francisco Chronicle
“Provocative, challenging . . . recalls both Arthur C. Clarke and H. G. Wells, with a dash of Ray Bradbury for good measure.”—The Dallas Morning News
“[Mary Doria] Russell shows herself to be a skillful storyteller who subtly and expertly builds suspense.”—USA Today
An enigma wrapped inside a mystery sets up expectations that prove difficult to fulfill in Russell's first novel, which is about first contact with an extraterrestrial civilization. The enigma is Father Emilio Sandoz, a Jesuit linguist whose messianic virtues hide his occasional doubt about his calling. The mystery is the climactic turn of events that has left him the sole survivor of a secret Jesuit expedition to the planet Rakhat and, upon his return, made him a disgrace to his faith. Suspense escalates as the narrative ping-pongs between the years 2016, when Sandoz begins assembling the team that first detects signs of intelligent extraterrestrial life, and 2060, when a Vatican inquest is convened to coax an explanation from the physically mutilated and emotionally devastated priest. A vibrant cast of characters who come to life through their intense scientific and philosophical debates help distract attention from the space-opera elements necessary to get them off the Earth. Russell brings her training as a paleoanthropologist to bear on descriptions of the Runa and Jana'ata, the two races on Rakhat whose differences are misunderstood by the Earthlings, but the aliens never come across as more than variations of primitive earthly cultures. The final revelation of the tragic human mistake that ends in Sandoz's degradation isn't the event for which readers have been set up. Much like the worlds it juxtaposes, this novel seems composed of two stories that fail to come together. BOMC, QPB and One Spirit Book Club selections.
Compelling, but not for the faint of heart
The Sparrow wasn’t entirely what I had expected. The delivery isn’t always perfect, but all in all this is both a compelling and heartbreaking story. Read it. But be aware it is not for the faint of heart. I’m not sure I’ve ever cried so hard after finishing a book, but there are moments of pure philosophical beauty that make it well worth the read.
Jesuits In Space
See, you're interested now, aren't you? Thats is how I discovered this amazing book at a large independent bookstore, was the recommendation shelf tag said, "Jesuits... in... Space!!!!!" and you just can't walk away from that. I have given at least ten copies to various friends, as well as the sequel, and recommended it to numerous others. Definitely in my top ten favorite books.
It's not about the aliens, or the space ship, or the people who are traveling, but meeting a new culture, new species, and how badly... well you'll just have to find out. And then you'll want the sequel.
This book has no equal. In this age of endless distractions due to music, TV, text messages, web surfing and such, I found myself unable to put this book down...I also want to add that I normally read nonfiction. The Sparrow was so well written, so well prepared, the characters so well developed... This is the first 500 page book I have ever read and there were many many instances where I highlighted quotes from one of the characters. The book has many passages that make you reflect on your own morals and your own take on life. BUY IT. Fixing to read the sequel :)