MDR has a gift for setting big theological questions in the context of vibrant characters who came to life with deep humanity as she wove personal journeys into THE quest.
Her eye for detail & her ear for speech both alien & human made her book rich indeed
The narrator added color while not inserting himself...a truly humble blessing
Perhaps one of the most surprising pieces of fiction I've encountered. This one keeps you engaged and then stays with you for months after you've left it.
His beautiful narration made me feel like I was sitting in a performance of reader's theatre. He brought all the details to life.
I read this book years ago when it came out. Hearing it again like this was truly a new spiritual awakening for me. Thank you. I can't wait until next month's credits come available so I can read the next part, Children of God!
Near the top, for sure. It was very original, and among the best sci-fi I've experienced. SO much literary value here.
The author's decision to focus a science fiction novel on the main character Sandoz' crisis of faith and crisis of guilt is ambitious and interesting, but the accidental event that catalyzes these crises falls short. It comes across as an awkward act of a cornered author, not an act of God or a sin of Sandoz'. This event also leads to a great deal of drama of Sandoz being accused of heinous crimes, but this seems quite contrived when we see that he could just clear up the matter with a few sentences.
There are other examples of the author sacrificing plausibility and character integrity for the sake of drama. For instance, the novel flashes between 2019, when Sandoz and crew visit the planet Rakhat, and 2059, when Sandoz is recuperating and telling his tale to the Jesuit bigwigs. This frame structure is just there to create suspense--we know that something horrible has happened but Sandoz won't tell the Jesuits (or us) why. But since Sandoz' reticence doesn't fit with his character and the events, the entire frame structure comes across as a suspense tactic.
Finally, the novel's pacing is odd, and not ideal for an audiobook. Most of the book is plodding, a cast of sanitized characters bantering blandly and thinking admiring thoughts of one another. Then the last quarter of the book is very rushed, with the events almost entirely told and not shown, as though the author were under deadline pressure.
Avid audiobook addict!
This was an extremely interesting, unique, and well crafted book. I never really knew just how bad-ass the Jesuits were until I read this.
Lots of questions many have asked over the years, and many more that are explored. In the end, I'm glad I stuck it out, but it was the last hour where everything happened.
Book blogger at Bookwi.se
The Sparrow is not a new book. It will be 20 year old next month. The Sparrow is the story of a group of people, mostly Jesuit priests, that travel to the first new alien world that has been discovered to understand the population for eventual evangelization.
The story starts at the end. We know that Emilio Sandoz (one of the Jesuits that specialized in linguistics) was the only survivor of the trip. He was found by a team from a follow-up United Nations mission and sent back to earth. Once the initial introduction to the story occurs, then we start at the beginning of Sandoz’s journey out of poverty through the priesthood. We see how God appears to have gathered together a team of people put at the right place and time to providentially be prepared to take on a first contact mission.
Theodicy, or how a good God can permit evil, is the main focus of the book. It takes until the very end of the book to really get the story of what happened to the mission and how everyone else died and why Sandoz was found in the status that he was found in. Sandoz at the start of the book is a completely broken man, physically, mentally and spiritually. The telling of the story is in part about the care of the man who has been brutalized (in ways that are not completely unique to other missionaries in history.)
The Sparrow is the first of two books and it feels incomplete. I have not picked up the second book, so maybe the second book will fully round out the story. But most reviews suggest that the second books is not quite as good as the first.
Mary Doria Russell, I would have assumed was Catholic. It is interesting that like The Book of Strange New Things, which The Sparrow is often compared to, neither was written by Christians. Mary Doria Russell is Jewish, as is one of the main characters. The question of theodicy is both a Jewish and Christian question. In many ways, fiction seems to be a better place to handle the question than straight theology.
I think this was a very engaging novel. The method of going back and forth in time makes sense to the way that the author seems to want to reveal the story, but I did find it a bit annoying at times. I was also a bit annoyed that after more than 15 hours of audiobook, it still felt like an unfinished story (and I do think that was intentional).
I am somewhat surprised that I have not really seen anyone compare it to Endo’s Silence. Both books are about Jesuit missionaries, both have to deal with the reality of faith in the face of serious evil perpetrated not only on themselves but on those around them. They are much more alike than The Book of Strange New Things is similar to The Sparrow. The Book of Strange New Things and The Sparrow both are about the idea of how Christianity relates to aliens as one of their themes, but other than the setting, the books are really not related.
This is not a book you want to read if you want everything to work out nicely or without some real questions. But it is a book that handles faith well and for its weaknesses I still strongly recommend it. It is yet another example of ‘secular’ books handling questions of faith better than most Christian fiction.
There is some real content warning on the book (violence, sex, torture and language). But none of it is gratuitous and it all makes sense in the context of the book and its themes.
In parts I both loved and hated this story. It was a great take of faith, exploration, and the struggles of maintaining both with an open heart. I'll probably wait to read this author again for a while, because the characters were so vividly described that I feel emotionally impacted by them.
Both the content and the narration were more than excellent. I very rarely review but in this case I needed to. I have no hesitation in highly recommending this book to anyone. It touched my heart. I now have a fairly large library and have enjoyed almost all of them but this is the first that touched me in this way.