- Series: The Sparrow (Book 1)
- Paperback: 408 pages
- Publisher: Ballantine Books; Reissue edition (September 8, 1997)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0449912558
- ISBN-13: 978-0449912553
- Product Dimensions: 5.6 x 1.1 x 8.3 inches
- Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 975 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #14,903 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Sparrow: A Novel Paperback – September 8, 1997
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“A startling, engrossing, and moral work of fiction.”—The New York Times Book Review
“Important novels leave deep cracks in our beliefs, our prejudices, and our blinders. The Sparrow is one of them.”—Entertainment Weekly
“Powerful . . . The Sparrow tackles a difficult subject with grace and intelligence.”—San Francisco Chronicle
“Provocative, challenging . . . recalls both Arthur C. Clarke and H. G. Wells, with a dash of Ray Bradbury for good measure.”—The Dallas Morning News
“[Mary Doria] Russell shows herself to be a skillful storyteller who subtly and expertly builds suspense.”—USA Today
From the Publisher
This is one of my favorite books of all time, EVER!!!! And I'm not just saying that because I work here at Ballantine/Fawcett and I have to. Being in the editorial department, there are always way too many books to read and way too little time to do it in. That's why when I first overheard one of my colleagues raving about this book to someone, I didn't give it a second thought. While it's nice to know at least a little something about the current books on our list (no small feat), this book had never caught my eye as something I'd be interested in. But after the millionth time I'd heard my cohort extolling the virtues of this book to anyone who would listen, I figured I would give it a shot.
I started reading it on my vacation, and it's a good thing, because I couldn't put it down to do anything else! I'm not quite sure what I can say about it that will do it justice, because it can be viewed so many different ways by different people----it's beautiful, ugly, sad, optimistic, and intensely compelling all at the same time. Suffice it to say that it's one of those once-in-a-lifetime books that just makes you stop and sit-up and think about things that you've never given second thought to before.
-----J. Rendon, Editorial Assistant
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So when first contact is made with an alien world in the neighboring galaxy of Alpha Centauri, and that first contact comes in the form of lovely, wistful, transcendent music, Father Sandoz is astounded and amused and intrigued. But when he and each of his closest friends turn out to have the precise skill sets required to make the journey out to this new world, he is shaken. And when, against all possible odds, Father Sandoz and those dearest to his heart land on that far away alien Garden of Eden just eighteen short months later, he is transported. For the first time, he feels, he has encountered and fallen in love with the Living God.
But crossing languages, cultures, and species is a treacherous business. As missionaries throughout the millennia of human history have learned, the cost of leading the vanguard of discovery can be very, very high. How will a fledgling faith hold up in the face of loss and suffering and despair? Can we love a God who takes away as much as He gives, who is neither simple, predictable, or safe?
Mary Doria Russell accomplished in her debut, award-winning novel what I thought was impossible in the modern age. She married the foremost theories of medicine and technology with one of the oldest and most rigidly structured religious faiths. She took atheist and Jesuit characters and treated each with the same honest affection, bound them together as a family unit, and then dissected them in a ruthless pursuit of literally "universal" truths. She did not shy away from a single charged, political question. She looked the reader in the face as she led us to an abyss we all recognize, but work very hard to ignore.
I have a new favorite book, folks. And I am challenged, once again, to expand my own view of what's possible to achieve in fiction.
The Sparrow starts with Emilio, a Jesuit priest. The year is 2060 and Emilio has just returned from a 5-6 year mission (lasting 40 earth years) to Alpha Centauri. Radio waves were discovered originating from there in 2019, and a Jesuit Mission was secretly launched to investigate and spread the Word of God.
The book starts at the end. Emilio is the only surviving mission member and he returns in disgrace- declared a murderer and a prostitute. Not only that but he has been crippled and maimed. The book then flashes back to 2019 and we get to see a kind, loving, and brilliant young priest. So what happened? The book is basically Emilio's 'confession' to the Father General. We get to see the forming of the mission and then listen to what happened.
The book is amazingly well written... and one of the most thought provoking books I have read in a long time. The book does has some issues- namely, very poor science fiction, head scratching questions regarding crew selection, the glossing over of deaths, and a resoundingly conflicting ending. Overall, I will probably read the next book. But not immediately. I need time to 'digest' The Sparrow.
The book, while spiritual, is not religion heavy. As an Agnostic, I enjoyed reading it.
I rate it as a 5 but could be anywhere from 3-5. I had a 4 star put in before writing the review...
I will admit that I was wary about this whole Jesuit priest thing. Nothing against anyone’s faith – I just don’t tend to read many books where religion is prevalent. I was worried it would feel preachy or that I would feel isolated for not having the same views as the characters (why I thought this, I don’t know; it’s not like I’d feel isolated if reading about a barbarian because I have a non-barbaric lifestyle, I’m just silly like that.) That was certainly not the case. This was an exploration of one man’s faith and how the events of this mission affected his views on God.
This is a haunting and poignant book and the end had me crying like a baby. The set up to this interplanetary mission is a slow one, I’ll warn you. The party doesn’t arrive on the planet until just about halfway through the book. However, I found it was worth the wait. The first half of the book builds up the characters, so when the plot picks up and things start happening, you care about these people.
My only real issues with this book were how much it made my hands hurt (no, not from the weight of the book, but due to a certain scene which I think you’ll understand if you read it) and how willingly Emilio’s peers in Rome were willing to demonize him without really knowing what happened on the mission. I would think that having known him, they would have been willing to give him the benefit of the doubt – as a reader, once I was given some of his backstory, I was certainly willing to hear his side of the story before passing judgment. It was puzzling, but really, not a big issue.
I can’t wait to read the sequel! If you’re looking for a character-driven sci-fi that explores faith and raises interesting social questions about what could occur if humans did make contact with other life forms, and you’re ready for some feels, then I highly, highly recommend this.