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This strange, ambitious science fiction novel has already won enough attention for its first-time author to make it a selection by both the Book of the Month and QPB clubs. Father Emilio Sandoz, a Jesuit linguist, heads a team of scientists and explorers on an expedition to the planet Rakhat, where contact has been established with two apparently primitive races, the Runa and the Jana'ata. The narrative shifts back and forth between 2016, when contact is first made, and 2060, to a Vatican inquest interrogating the maimed and broken Sandoz. A paleoanthropologist, Russell makes the descriptions of the inhabitants of Rakhat both convincing and unsettling. Check out Amazon.com's Sparrow feature and read an excerpt from the book! --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Publishers Weekly
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.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top Customer Reviews
And those characters! One of the reviewers here said she would like to talk to the entire crew; hell, I want to go with them. (Although I don't want their typical fate at the end.) The depth of religious and philosophical discussions and ruminations nearly makes up for the other flaws, and sets this book well above standard sci-fi fare.
If the ending had been stronger, this would have been a five-star book.
Another intelligent new book for your consideration: An Audience for Einstein. Set in the near future, Mark Wakely's book chronicles the "rebirth" of a genius by questionable means, in a highly entertaining and surprisingly touching story that (like The Sparrow) will stay with you
I have read both books 3 times, and each time I am in awe - of the details, the ethical and moral dissection, and the plot which is both entrancing and entrapping.
If you (or anyone you know) is into Sci-Fi or, for that matter, into the deepest aspects of the ethical and moral dilemmas of vastly different cultures and customs on a collision course, then you must read both novels.
Brilliant, fascinating, intelligent, deeply moving and religious throughout (regardless of your religious leanings), this novel speaks to everyone and challenges your views of the universe, the diversity of "life" there might be out there, and the effects of forcibly placing 2 vastly different worlds and their customs/ethics/morals together in one place.
I challenge you to find a better book in existence.
And.......to make things even better........the sequel "Children of God" is EVEN BETTER!!!
This novels pushes the process to a future in which a Jesuit expedition travels to a star which has broadcast radio signals suggesting that it has intelligent life. The book is not linear but starts off with one member returning alive with his fellows killed. His hands have been mutilated and it is thought that he killed an innocent member of one of the species on the new planet. The book is broadly a gradual (some might say glacial) revalation of what happened on the expedition.
The writer is unusual in that she was a university academic who turned to writing fiction late in life. As a result the book is poignant with issues. How can a benevolent God create a universe in which there is suffering and so on. The structure of the book consists of intertwining the events as they unfold plus an inquiry which takes place some sixty years later as to whey the expedition fails. The main character who is the Jesuit priest who comes back with the mutilated hands is infuriating. For chapter after chapter one constantly exclaims, why can't you just say what happened. However we have to work to a gradual climax which only really unfolds in the last 100 or so pages of the book. In fact the last 100 pages or so are quite gripping but for the initiall 400 or so one just thinks continually of the main character, let it all out, you will feel better, but for the point of view of dramatic development we are kept guising to the end.
The book has other anoying aspects.Read more ›
Now for the quibbling. I had several issues with some of the book's major points. Characters are arguably the most important element of any good story. And these characters didn't seem quite real, more archetypes serving various functions within a cohesive whole. Anne in particular, bothered me. Her gung-ho, outrageously candid den-mother didn't ring true for me. She basically seemed like more of a catalyst for the less frank and more emotionally stunted characters. And what ultimately happened to her and D.W. really seemed to have been inexplicably glossed over for some reason, which I found quite odd as well as frustrating. George was barely developed at all. And certain revelations about other characters, D.W. especially, were way out of left field and generally unnecessary and pointless. But then, of course, there is Emilio. His Job-ian role as a vessel for human suffering is an unenviable one, to be sure. Ultimately I think he pulls it off by behaving in a realistic way, in a fashion anyone who suffered such pain and indignity would behave.Read more ›
Most recent customer reviews
I really wanted to like this but I couldn't.
I think it would have fared better if it were written in a chronological time frame.
Also, Ms. Read more
This is a good sci fi story. Haven't finished yet. The story thread weaves an interesting approach to this mans life.Published on Jan. 7 2014 by Kathleen
What an absolutely amazing book! I was afraid to read this book for a LONG time. It came highly recommneded by a friend...twice he went into it, explaining how interesting it was. Read morePublished on July 9 2012 by Love Reading
The Sparrow is a book about the existence of an alien race on another planet, and the expedition of a space crew to explore and learn from this newly discovered race. Read morePublished on March 1 2010 by Sleuth Review
Theology can become a distant logical exercise of dry doctrine and easy theoretical conclusions. When it comes down to the wet choices of real life most such theoretical Theology... Read morePublished on May 1 2008 by NeuroSplicer
I found the book to be very strong, in fact all of the members of our band Metaphor read it and decided to write and record a concept CD or rock opera, based on the book! Read morePublished on Sept. 11 2007 by Malcolm C. Smith
This book grabs you and throws you into the world of M.D.R's imagination. My wife read it after I was done with it and had to put it down because she became so attached to the... Read morePublished on Dec 3 2004 by Paul J. Redmond
What a truly amazing book! I think it must be close to the best book I've ever read. Although it's classed as science fiction, it's better described as a book that examines the... Read morePublished on June 17 2004 by Amazon Customer
I tried to read this book a few years ago, and I struggled just to get a quarter of the way through... Then I just put it down. Which is something I rarely ever do. Read morePublished on June 15 2004 by K. L. Obrien
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