Sandoz is a part of the crew sent to explore a new planet. What they find is a civilization so alien and incomprehensible that they feel compelled to wonder what it means to be human.
The priest is the only surviving member of the crew, and upon his return, he is confronted by public inquisition and accusations of the most heinous crimes imaginable. His faith utterly destroyed, crippled and defenseless, his only hope is to tell his tale. Father John Candotti has been charged with discovering the truth, but the truth may be more than Earth is willing to accept.
©2008 Mary Doria Russell; (P)2008 Brilliance Audio
I love to read, but I am time-limited. Audible allows me to keep up with all my favorite authors while on the hiking trail. Thanks, Audible!
What an outstanding series debut! Sparrow follows a interstellar Jesuit mission that takes place, because music signals are detected through SETI. While it may not sound like it, this book has it all: alien cultures and ecosystems, evolution, love, friendship, mentorship, loss, betrayal, brutality, slavery, meaning of life, moral obligation, etc. Additionally, this book has the added theological discussions that inevitably emerge when people decide to walk with God but are good friends with atheists and agnostics. The mission crew members are described in detail giving the reader textured insight into their motivations. Basically, this is a great book. I can't wait to listen to the sequel.
Besides incessant listening to audiobooks, I also read on my Kindle at night, birdwatch, garden (roses, daylilies), and do genealogy.
I read this book in paper and was SO happy to be able to get the audiobook. Colacci does a really fine narration to make the listening experience just about perfect.
While classified as science fiction, this book is so much more. If you are NOT usually a sci-fi fan, do not write The Sparrow off. It is a very unusual book that is multi-dimensional. It has so much to offer besides the sci-fi. If you ARE a sci-fi fan, just know that you will be getting a lot more than you might be expecting. Which is also good, right?
The character development is excellent, and what interesting characters Mary Doria Russell has created! This book addresses so much--philosophy, theology (Catholicism, Judaism) , celibacy, friendship, music, sexual assault, among others. There are a great deal of references to God (after all, a number of the characters are Jesuits!) , but it didn't put me off at all. I usually am turned off by books with religiosity in them; I can't stand the sneaky preachy-ness of some authors. That is not what this book is about!
I am not going to describe the story as it has been adequately done in other reviews. Perhaps you'd be better off surprised like I was the first time I read the book. But you should know that it is a very intense listening experience, especially toward the end, when we learn what really happened to the main character, Emilio Sandoz.
This book is like no other book I have read or listened to. I am so glad I found it.
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.
This book was a tough read (or listen). It built to climax that left me feeling.....well I haven't yet been able to put words to it or explain to myself what exactly I am feeling. But I am feeling a myriad of emotions. First book in a long while that has touched me this way. Strong characters, vivid and descriptive dialog....it was like I could see it happening. I think this book will stay with me for a long time, for better or worse. I may listen to it again some day. Incredible narrator. I will definitely read other titles by this author.
This story is beautifully organized. The mix of science fiction and faith actually works and really explores what it means to be human and the costs of seeking knowledge. Each character serves a purpose and the plot development is nearly perfect. Wonderful narration doesn't confuse with too much affectation.
Absolutely...did not want it to end. Complex, moving tale. The "first contact" idea and space travel is not my usual reading fare and were off-putting initially but in the end were essential to the story. The lack of vilification but attempts to understand instead, the presentation of desire and faith so vulnerable to disappointment and confusion was very well portrayed.
How the real story unfolds through Emilio's tears and the actual bravery dressed as callousness of his superior.
No. But his voice modulation, sometimes muttering so low that I had to rewind and turn up the volume marred an otherwise good presentation of the material which included multiple complex accents, new words and languages, and sophisticated terminology of medical, aeronautic, techie and futuristic ideas.
Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father's care. I hope a film IS made of it.
This should be required reading for Christian theology classes.
When I like something I'll let you know. If I don't, I'll let you know that too!
I listened to The Sparrow and immediately moved on to The Children of God. Enjoyed listening to both and following the adventure into the discovery of other intelligent live in the solar system. Many well developed and memorable characters with dialog which propelled the story forward to discover a world beyond our own. It has many political and societal issues woven into the story, if you pay close enough attention to catch the author’s attempts to make statements about the church, capitalism, politics, belief in a higher power, slavery and population control. Some of the characters switch from good to bad and back several times during each book. These are novels that can make you listen for a while and then think about how this effects our present, our past and our future, for just as long. I found myself often stopping to contemplate these issues before continuing on with the story. If you have two credits and want several hours of intelligent novels, by all means get The Sparrow and The Children of God. (please note, you don’t need to get COG, but you really must start with The Sparrow. I don’t think you would understand near as much of COG without first listening to The Sparrow.)
Do yourself a favor and read this book. Makes other books seem amateurish by comparison. A consummate author. Very smart but knows how to tell a story.
My star rating reflects the audio quality - not story quality.
Actually, Im not quite done with this book, an hour/thirty listening time left. Im finding the story to be good, I like the characters, and it keeps my interest. Until about 3 hours ago, the narrator kept a nice pace, and I was comfortable with the listening experience.
Then, all of a sudden, it felt as though the recording was sped up fractionally. The pace is now a bit rushed, and, although it doesnt sound like Alvin and the Chipmunks, the narrator has begun to grate on me. Perhaps they were trying to meet a time-length goal, but the result has really damaged my ability to take in the story without being annoyed.
I definitely would recommend this book as sci-fi-lite. I found that the character-based storyline was a nice change from my preferred sci-fi genres, where the main goal is world-building and techno-expose. This was a nice leisurely exploration of alien encounters, but READ the book in hard copy, and skip this download.
I didn't really enjoy this book but could easily see how others would really like it and get a lot out of it. If you are looking for a book that explores the Catholic Church from a very critical but loving point of view thru hard sci-fi this book may be for you. But if you don't really care to deeply and critically spend a whole book exploring the depth of the Catholic Church and the way it interacts with the world and itself then skip it.
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