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
What an amazing read! This was one of THE best books I have ever read! The story is very unique and interesting and the message is really great. I have downloaded the sequel and am looking forward to reading it soon.
Can't express fully how much I loved this book. It sounds like one that I'd maybe avoid: A sci-fi novel about a group of Jesuit priests and their secular colleagues who travel to a distant planet from which radio songs have been detected in order to spread the gospel and/or visit God's other children. But it starts from the end, when the sole survivor returns to Earth near death and is implicated in debauchery and the murder of a child. The revelation at the end of what's really happening on the planet is profound and deserves long contemplation. Plus the writing itself is stunning, both beautiful and smart.
The narration was perfect.
Bechdel test: Unsure.
The characters were wonderful. Mary Doria Russell created multi-dimensional people and made me not only care for them, but also wish they were in my life.
This is my first tentative foray into speculative fiction so I don't have much to compare it to. I NEVER imagined I would enjoy science fiction so much. The characters' depth was similar to those in The Prince of Tides--these are people I who will stay with me.
There were so many poignant scenes. The best was probably the moment of contact, when Father Emilio was overwhelmed with the sense that his whole life had led to that moment , and he finally experienced God.
I laughed, I cried, I gasped. I will need at least a week to recover from the horrific events that unfold in the final chapters. And I am already pining for my "friends."
If you steer away from science fiction because it's "not your thing," I encourage you to try this one. The writing is beautiful and smart--there's plenty to stimulate almost any reader. Physics, chemistry, astronomy, anatomy, medicine, linguistics, anthropology, Latin, psychology, faith...all wrapped up in some very clever storytelling. Honestly--don't skip over this one just because it looks like it's about aliens and other worlds.
I really enjoyed this book. The author has an understanding of faith and explores the question, "Why did God allow this to happen?" in the science fiction genre. This book is beautifully written and I looked forward to listening each day. The narrator was excellent and captured the "voices" for the various characters in this book very well. However, he is very soft and hard to hear at times. So be prepared to crank up the volume at those parts.
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.
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.
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.
In the top 25%, barely.
Disappointment. I can't explain why without giving some clues about the ending, so if you don't want even a hint, don't read any further.
The ending made half of the story, i.e. the part taking place in 2060, entirely untenable. In this day and age--never mind 50 years hence, short of some totally improbable cataclysmic loss of awareness taking place--no official UN expedition would have made the assumption that was made in this story on finding the protagonist when they arrived on the planet. And even if UN officials had made such an assumption, it would not have been accepted at face value by the people back on Earth as happened in this story. Too many people know better. Had it been set as a private Jesuit mission in which the 2060 part of the book took place in 1960, THEN it could have worked. Otherwise, the author could have left out the erroneous assumption that drives the 2060 part, written it with the correct understanding of what the UN folks saw, and made the drama of the 2060 part be all about how the protagonist and other characters dealt with the reality of what happened.
Terrific narration! I found nothing to complain about and much to admire.
The author is a wonderful writer who needs to craft her plots so that they hold together right to the end. Critical as I am about the 2060 part of the story, I still intend to get the sequel.
this is my second time around with this book...the first time I read a digital copy....I enjoyed the narration so much it was worth hearing again.
Am glad I read this book. Minor weakness is the scant descriptions of the SF technology. Major weakness is the poor contrivances used to advance plot. Strength is the interaction between several faiths which provide excellent opportunities to think especially on bad things happening to good people and its afteraffects.
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