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A Case of Conscience (Del Rey Impact) Paperback – September 5, 2000
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First published in 1959, James Blish's Hugo Award-winning A Case of Conscience is science fiction at its very best: a fast-paced, intelligent story that offers plenty of action while at the same time explores complex questions of values and ethics. In this case, Blish has taken on the age-old battle of good vs. evil. Lithia poses a theological question that lies at the heart of this book: is God necessary for a moral society? The Lithians are nothing if not moral. Not only do they lack the seven deadly sins, they also lack original sin. And without any sort of religious framework, they have created the Christian ideal world, one that humans would be eager to study and emulate. But is it too perfect? Is it in fact, as Father Ruiz-Sanchez suspects, the work of The Adversary? And what role does Egtverchi, the young Lithian raised on Earth, play? Is he an innocent victim of circumstance, or will he bring about the Dies Irae, the day of the wrath of God, upon the earth? The fate of two worlds hinges on the answers to these questions, and will lead to an ancient earth heresy that shakes the Jesuit priest's beliefs to their very core.
A Case of Conscience is a brilliant piece of storytelling, and it packs a lot into a scant 242 pages. Most readers will probably finish the book in one sitting, unable to stop until the spectacular denouement. But the questions posed by this little-known gem will stay with you for days afterward. --P.M. Atterberry
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Confronted with a profound scientific riddle and ethical quandary, Father Ruiz-Sanchez soon finds himself torn between the teachings of his faith, the teachings of his science, and the inner promptings of his humanity. There is only one solution: He must accept an ancient and unforgivable heresy--and risk the futures of both worlds . . .
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Top Customer Reviews
One day the earth commission discovers something truly disturbing, something cruel and horrific related to Lithian child rearing. The Lithians maybe rational, they may not be "sinners", and they may not be driven by greed or lust of any kind, but they are still not ethical in a human sense. Father Sanchez wants to protect Earth from contact with Lithia (and vice versa) and as the turbulent story unfolds it turns out that his intuition is on target.
The focus of the book is the theological and philosophical consequences that arise from the comparison of the two worlds. Father Ramon Ruiz-Sanchez is a good hearted religious man with a sharp mind. It is through his thoughts, doubts and theological tribulations that we experience this amazing story.
It does not matter whether you are a Christian, theist, atheist, or agnostic; your belief system will be challenged and most disturbingly your ethical value system will be challenged. Could it be that the Lithians are rational and lack the emotions that typically lead to "sin", but also lack a conscience (like a sociopath)? Or do they have a different ethical system but without a God? In the end I found the book to be sympathetic towards the Catholic belief system.Read more ›
The book paints the Catholic church and religion in general in a positive light, which is also interesting in that in so many science fiction novels, science has progressed to the point where most people simply take the scientific view and traditional religious views don't seem to matter much anymore. But the Jesuit father who is also the biologist and medical officer on the expedition is very well developed and a very sympathetic character. The physicist (unfortunately I don't recall his name) is a more hard-boiled and more logical and less emotional person compared to the Father, who truly agonizes over the question about whether the existence of Egtverchi's world means that God and traditional morality have no place in the universe.
I don't know of too many other sci-fi novels where religion takes center stage as the main theme, except for perhaps Walter Miller's A Canticle for Leibowitz, and Roger Zelazny's Lord of Light, coincidently two other Hugo winners from first two decades of the Hugo award.
I also don't understand a couple of reader's comments that the writing style was difficult. Come on, were you raised on MTV or something?Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
an interesting story about a debate in nthe Roman catholic church about evolutionPublished 14 months ago by j.p.m. lafranca
I read this a few years ago and remember not thinking it was much of a book to win the Hugo Award. Ten years later I tried it again thinking that it was my youth and lack of... Read morePublished 17 months ago by Luna2
There was serious science fiction that dealt with religion in mainstream science fiction back in the 1940s. Read morePublished 23 months ago by Paul Camp
I decided to give this a try because I thought I would like science fiction for the fun of it, but this one was just too far "out there" for me. Read morePublished on January 7, 2014 by Up North Reader
Set in 2049, A Case of Conscience begins with four humans on the planet Lithia. Ruiz-Sanchez is a biologist and a Jesuit priest. Cleaver is a physicist. Read morePublished on December 30, 2012 by TChris
In this novel, Blish answers the question of "What if there were sentient life on another planet?" A thoroughly uncomfortable story that reprises the disastrous consequences of the... Read morePublished on September 30, 2012 by Nerine Dorman
James Blish wrote two masterpieces, in my opinion, and they both happen to treat the mind and emotions of a religious scientist. Read morePublished on January 1, 2011 by Les carbonnades flamandes
Very interesting look at the future, from a late 1950's, early 1960's perspective. The heart of the book is a moral crisis introduced by an alien race with perfect morals but no... Read morePublished on October 26, 2010 by Tad Ottman
I like a good novel of ideas now and again and can become annoyed with books that are devoid of ideas.The novel of ideas tends to suffer from certain problems. Read morePublished on December 28, 2009 by JAK