The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
The Sparrow is a somewhat difficult book to enjoy. This is not to say it is a bad book, it is in fact a very well written book with a very interesting first contact story. The reason it is difficult to enjoy is because some very terrible things happen to the primary character Emillio Sandoz. I am sure the author's intent was to write a modern day Book of Job. Father Emillio Sandoz is a Jesuit priest blessed with many friends and a happy successful career, serving God. When one of his friends detects radio transmission from space, this sets Father Sandoz on his path to destruction, where his friends, his freedom and his purpose in life are all stripped from him as he slips into slavery and degradation. Father Sandoz's faith is tested to the very limits.
The Sparrow is a story of how NOT to send people 4 light years to make first contact with an alien race. I get it, the idea that an organization like the Society of Jesus (Jesuits), has the resources and the ability to make a unilateral decision to send 8 people into space and make it happen, is an interesting one. The author explores this idea pretty well and makes it abundantly clear how bad of an idea it really is. None of these people were truly equipped to deal with cultural differences and their doom was inevitable, because they simply did not understand what was happening around them and why. Missionaries have historically always been on the leading edge of exploration, after all, bringing the word of God to heathens is part of the very DNA of almost all religions. This, however, does not make them the best candidates for such things.
From the point of view of speculative fiction, this is a really interesting book, from the view point of an empathetic human being, this book is rather depressing and it is difficult not to put the book down as the fate of the crew unfolds. At this point I have not decided if I am going to read the second book or not.
View all my reviews