Monday, May 3, 2010

Review: The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell

The Sparrow The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
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.

This book takes a very interesting perspecitve on extraterrestrial life and exploration. It's all connected to God and how these aliens are proof that God exists. It give you a lot to think about. About God, relationships with God, how we deal with horrific events and why those events happen. The book doesn't really answer these questions, just gives you a whole lot to chew on.

The writing is fantastic. The author has created some really complex characters and story lines and she switches between the present where Emilio is trying to recover spiritually and physically, and the past when he was on Rakhat with friends and also before that when they were still in Arecibo planning the mission. The story unfolds in a very unique way and gives a stark contrast between the Emilio before and during the trip and the broken Emilio who returns. She also has great little bits of foreshadowing that keep the story moving.

I give the author big points for the two species she has created for the book. These aren't the standard big-headed and big-eyed aliens we usually expect. The Runa are large, affectionate, slightly "slow on the uptake" herbivores who are bred for work. The Jana 'ata are smaller carnivores with sinister claws and teeth. They are very intelligent, calculating and can be cruel. A Jana 'ata of high status makes the music that originally drives the earthlings to Rakhat.

Parts of the book aren't easy to read, but there isn't as much graphic detail as I was expecting from what I heard about the book before reading it. This book gets four stars not so much because it is one of my favorites but for the creative and thought-provoking plot and the good writing. View all my reviews >>

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