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The Sparrow: A Novel Paperback – Sep 8 1997


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The Sparrow: A Novel + Children of God + A Thread of Grace
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 448 pages
  • Publisher: Ballantine Books; Reissue edition (Sept. 8 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0449912558
  • ISBN-13: 978-0449912553
  • Product Dimensions: 2.5 x 14.1 x 20.6 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 295 g
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (362 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #3,862 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

From Amazon

In 2019, humanity finally finds proof of extraterrestrial life when a listening post in Puerto Rico picks up exquisite singing from a planet which will come to be known as Rakhat. While United Nations diplomats endlessly debate a possible first contact mission, the Society of Jesus quietly organizes an eight-person scientific expedition of its own. What the Jesuits find is a world so beyond comprehension that it will lead them to question the meaning of being "human." When the lone survivor of the expedition, Emilio Sandoz, returns to Earth in 2059, he will try to explain what went wrong... Words like "provocative" and "compelling" will come to mind as you read this shocking novel about first contact with a race that creates music akin to both poetry and prayer. --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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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Bob Alexander on Feb. 13 2006
Format: Paperback
This is something of a rarity among all the science fiction titles published every year: it's a highly intelligent work of literature. That said, plot still counts for something, and endings can make or break books. The fact that this remains a cult classic despite its uneven plot and weak denouement is due to the cast of vivid characters and the strength of ideas expressed, which (ironically) only serve to make the "what the...?" ending even more disappointing.
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
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Format: Paperback
In years gone by the Jesuits travelled far and wide trying to convert civilisations to Christianity. Jesuits were men of considerable learning and they became the friends of Emperors in such places as China and Japan. It is not clear if they actually were particularly succesfull but their travels make interesting reading.
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.
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By Red Robin on March 23 2004
Format: Paperback
This is one title I've known about for years. Intrigued by the book cover and the description, but somehow always steered myself away, most likely by the science fiction element. A huge fan of sci-fi in my youth I've since become immersed in other genres. But alas, ever the student of popular culture, once I heard it was being adapted for the screen I decided to give it a second look. All in all, worth the read and I am anticipating reading Children of God. The scholarship in this book is quite evident. Coherent character development and cogency of plot, less so. Russell takes on a very ambitious project here and she is a talented writer.
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.
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Format: Paperback
Reviewed by Richard Gray
[...]
Father Emilio Sandoz, a Jesuit Priest, is a master linguist who has been ordered by his superiors from place to place, learning languages and helping the poor and unfortunate for the glory of his God. When he is allowed to return to his home town in Arecibo Puerto Rico he befriends Anne Rice, a physician; her engineer husband, George; a young astronomer, Jimmy Quinn; and a former child prostitute turned computer expert, Sofia Mendez. On August 3rd, 2019 a radio transmission is picked up at the Arecibo dish from intelligent life on another planet. Jimmy Quinn is the first to hear it, and, against protocol, Jimmy's closets friends are next.
From the instant Sandoz hears the people of Rakhat singing from 4 light-years away he is convinced in the need to meet them for the glory of his God. He and his Jesuit order stop at nothing to put together the first mission to the planet and the crew ncludes himself, three other Jesuits, and his skilled friends from Arecibo.
Despite initial success, the mission goes horribly wrong. When a government led mission arrive they find Sandoz with brutally mangled hands, living as a prostitute, and standing over the body of an alien child he had just murdered. Sandoz returns to earth, disgraced, and it is up to his Jesuit superiors to try and find out what happened.
The book is written from the point of view of two different time periods, alternating from chapter to chapter. One follows Sandoz as a broken man being questioned about the mission, and the other shows how the mission unfolded and what really happened. This approach to telling the story works perfectly for the plot and everything from chapter to chapter is masterfully paced.
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