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A Case of Conscience (Del Rey Impact) Paperback

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Product Details

  • Series: Del Rey Impact
  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Del Rey; 1 edition (September 5, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0345438353
  • ISBN-13: 978-0345438355
  • Product Dimensions: 8.5 x 5.5 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (48 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #317,390 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

The citizens of the planet Lithia are some of the most ethical sentient beings Father Ramon Ruiz-Sanchez has ever encountered. True, they have no literature, no fine arts, and don't understand the concept of recreation, but neither do they understand the concepts of greed, envy, lust, or any of the sins and vices that plague humankind. Their world seems darned near perfect. And that is just what disturbs the good Father.

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

From the Inside Flap

Father Ruiz-Sanchez is a dedicated man--a priest who is also a scientist, and a scientist who is also a human being. He has found no insoluble conflicts in his beliefs or his ethics . . . until he is sent to Lithia. There he comes upon a race of aliens who are admirable in every way except for their total reliance on cold reason; they are incapable of faith or belief.

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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Customer Reviews

Maybe I just wanted too badly to like it.
Kurt Granzow
This classic starts off strong, with thought provoking ideas about a peaceful alien culture that may or may not need a dose of human religion.
Brian Neuhauser
This is one of my favorite science fiction books.
Michael D Ward

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

31 of 32 people found the following review helpful By Thomas Wikman VINE VOICE on April 30, 2008
Format: Paperback
Father Ramon Ruiz-Sanchez is stationed on the planet Lithia as a biologist. Lithia is inhabited by perfectly rational and good natured reptile like creatures. They are peaceful and unselfish but they have no concept of God or faith and have no literature or art. Even though he admires the Lithians he does not feel comfortable with the situation, something is wrong. It does not make sense to Father Sanchez that creatures that have no concept of God are still perfectly ethical. Could they possibly be the creation of Satan? Then again, does Satan create anything?

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.
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29 of 32 people found the following review helpful By Kurt Granzow on April 12, 2001
Format: Paperback
I really wanted to like this book. As a science fiction fan who happens to be a minister, I was looking forward to how James Blish would explore the idea of religion in a sci fi setting. While I still like the idea, I had a hard time making it through this book. The book gets off to a good start on the planet Lithia as Sanchez and the others disvocer some surprising revelations and discuss whether or not to allow the planet to be opened up or to close it off to further contact. However, as soon as we get back to Earth, things slow down considerably and the book loses alot of momentum. I think the biggest problem is that I wasn't really sure what Blish was trying to say. What does it all mean. Of course, this could be a problem of my own ignorance and missing the point rather than a flaw in the book. If you like your sci fi novels plot driven and full of action, this is not the book for you. If you like your sci fi to be more thoughtful and character driven, this book might be worth your while to pick up just because it IS one of those classic sci fi novels that made an impact on the genre. Personally, this is not a book I regret reading, but not one I would want to read again either. Maybe I just wanted too badly to like it.
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Michael D Ward on September 7, 2000
Format: Paperback
This is one of my favorite science fiction books. Well written and thought provoking. It deservedly won the Hugo award. Many SF readers are familiar with Blish for his novelizations of the Star Trek TV episodes. But he is a genuine talent in his own right and shouldn't be dismissed. If the book seems to drag through the first fifty pages, stay with it. It is well worth it. What is so fascinating about this book is that Blish's central character is both a biologist and a catholic priest. By learning to see the events in the story through to eyes of a priest and a scientist the reader is brought to a conclusion both holy and horrifying. The climax is either a triumph of God over Satan, or the greatest man-made tragedy the universe has seen. And the ambiguity is not lost on Blish's priest/scientist and hopefully not his reader.
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22 of 25 people found the following review helpful By Michael Battaglia on January 27, 2000
Format: Hardcover
I'm not all that deeply religious and this book made me think about this quite a bit. This book isn't for fans of action oriented SF, if you find yourself reading the Foundation books by Isaac Asimov over and over again this is probably more your speed, like those books (and most books by Asimov) there's little action (most of it being off stage anyway) and the plot mostly centers around people standing arguing over the central point. Here the point is whether we can grant the existence of original sin to a race of creatures that has no concept of faith or belief and who exist basically by reason alone. The priest protagonist has to worry about this and in the beginning you wonder what his problem is but Blish manages to snag you in if you're willing and unravel everything. His tone is measured and calm and he takes his time laying everything out and even if you go in with a certain point of view, he may not change your mind but he'll at least give you cause to stop and think for a moment about your beliefs, whether you're religious or an athiest. Desersedly a winner of the Hugo award a long time ago (this was published in the late fifties I think) these days it's no longer in print for whatever reason which is a shame because in these days of flashy adventure book, we need more novels based on solid ideas that take those ideas to logical ends and make the reader think along the way. If you thought all that James Blish did was those Star Trek books, stop here and see how much better he can be.
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