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Mary Doria Russell

Författare till The Sparrow

9+ verk 15,971 medlemmar 1,017 recensioner 109 favoritmärkta

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Foto taget av: Courtesy of the author


Verk av Mary Doria Russell

The Sparrow (1996) 7,551 exemplar
Children of God (1998) 2,946 exemplar
A Thread of Grace (2005) 2,102 exemplar
Doc (2011) 1,384 exemplar
Dreamers of the Day (2008) 1,080 exemplar
Epitaph (2015) 521 exemplar
Rakhat 2 exemplar
2000 1 exemplar

Associerade verk

A Canticle for Leibowitz (1955) — Inledning, vissa utgåvor11,457 exemplar


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Ellen (ebt1002) Reads On in 2016 - Chapter 10 i 75 Books Challenge for 2016 (oktober 2016)


As a science fiction fan who attended a Jesuit high school, I am a big fan of the "Jesuits in space" subgenre of science fiction, and so I was delighted to receive this as a SantaThing gift a few years ago (and appropriately enough, I received the subgenre's other most prominent example, James Blish's A Case of Conscience, from the same program way back in its first year).

I wouldn't say I loved this, but I liked it a lot. (It's too brutal for "enjoyed" to be the right word.) It bounces back and forth between the planning for and the aftermath of a terrible Jesuit expedition to the first known inhabited extraterrestrial planet. Russell is a very methodical writer, laying down her characters and themes and background in great detail, and I in particular enjoyed her rich character work here. All the people here really come to life, and you are very much invested in every step they take.

Brother Guy Consolmagno, S.J., the Jesuit astronomer and sf fan, tore into the book, saying, "the real crime of this novel is that the Jesuit characters take themselves far too seriously. Our real reaction to soul-shattering events is, more often than not, to laugh at ourselves and our predicament." It is a very serious book... but I actually think that's an unfair assessment of the characters, who have very well-developed senses of humor. But though I have been around many Jesuits (my high school and college best friend is one now), I am certainly not one, so maybe that gives him a different perspective.
… (mer)
1 rösta
Stevil2001 | 401 andra recensioner | Dec 2, 2023 |
This SF novel published in 1996, is more like a mainstream one which uses SF tropes - which probably accounts for the unbelievability of much of it. It is set in what is now an alternative history, since it deals with the discovery of an extraterrestrial signal from a planet around Alpha Centuri in a 2019 which has no smartphones, internet or any of the other things taken for granted in the modern day, although weirdly, someone in their 30s is asked if they remember television.

An expedition is secretly mounted by the Jesuit religious order to visit the new planet, comprised of an unlikely group of a Jesuit priest, Sandoz, an artist/gardener, a doctor, an engineer, an astronomer, a woman called Sofia who is very good at coding skills into smart computer systems, a senior Jesuit who is an ex-military man from Texas, and a man who we never find much out about, apart from him being a musician - the signals are in the form of songs - as he is soon killed off. Apart from him, the other expedition members are old friends of at least one other person in the group.

Although some of the essentials are thought through, they would have benefited from having someone from Nasa along, for example, as there is no thought of having an alien contact protocol, which accounts for many of the subsequent mistakes. When they finally arrive, they spend weeks wandering around, documenting forest wildlife and trying out the native foods on themselves, which seems pretty foolhardy. And one - the engineer - burns up too much fuel with fancy flying in the landing craft so that a later mishap means they have no means of returning to their ship in orbit. They spend the whole story lurching from one bungle to another.

Meanwhile, they have met a group of native people who are peaceful herbivores living in a rock-cut village. The word 'herbivores' is used advisedly, as it becomes clear before too long that the Runa, as they are known, are prey to the dominant carnivorous species, the Jana'ata, who are the 'singers' and who possess the higher technology, including radio. Predation has become more civilised over the centuries so that now the Runa are either bred for particular traits when they live alongside their masters in the city, or they live in rural communities where they harvest natural resources, such as flowers, to trade with the Jana'ata. In return they receive manufactured goods and - if they earn enough profit - are permitted at intervals to breed, although the humans only discover this too late, despite the clues. Initially, the humans settle in and learn the Runa language, and inadvertantly influence their hosts, with tragic results.

The book's structure is odd as it begins with Sandoz, sole survivor of the first expedition, back on Earth and facing condemnation for things he supposedly did (according to a second, commercial expedition which followed the first and broadcast back a message full of hearsay), and the lead-up to the expedition and then its arrival on the planet. Since it's a waiting game from the beginning until each of the other expedition members is killed off, this makes it difficult for a reader to invest in any of them. The style is also rather offputting as there is constant head hopping between characters within a scene, which distracts again from identifying with any of the characters.

The main issue though is that the book is extremely tedious. The whole sequence of Sandoz, whose hands have been mutilated by the village's Jena'ata 'sponsor' for his own purposes, being interrogated by other Jesuits while obviously traumatised and very ill, and the slow revelation of what happened previously, is dragged out for far too long. It is also hard to believe that the reality of what was done to him - he was sold to the Jena'ata local leader by the sponsor as a sex slave, in return for the sponsor being given Founder status and therefore allowed to breed (which as a third born son, he wasn't) - isn't obvious to his interrogators. Even the more sympathetic persist in believing that he was 'prostituting' himself despite his injuries and general condition. So his 'cure' is to force him to tell them in detail what happened, which takes months before he is finally recovered enough to be able to do so without being physically sick.

This all came over as completely incredible: the awareness of abuse even when the book was written should surely have meant that the first person they engaged to help him would have been a rape counsellor. It was also highly implausible that a carnivorous species would keep prey 'animals' such as the Runa for sexual use or that they could contemplate using an alien for such a purpose. It would literally be bestiality for them, and I can't see that they would get any 'enjoyment' from it. As this is such a main aspect of the whole book, it undercuts its credibility entirely.

There are some nicely written vignettes in the story, and it is an exploration of belief in God and whether that can withstand horror and tragedy, but I didn't find the portrayal of Sandoz as a 'saint' after they find the Runa convincing either. Given that it was a chore to read until near the end when the carnvivorous sponsor arrives and it gets a bit more interesting, I can't say I enjoyed it, hence the 1 star rating.
… (mer)
kitsune_reader | 401 andra recensioner | Nov 23, 2023 |
More fantasy than SciFi.Very little real science. On arrival, with very little observation they land and start interacting. The whole Catholic church meets Alien is not well presented. The final twist is just insult on top injury.
NoelShortt | 401 andra recensioner | Nov 13, 2023 |
Very interesting. Recommend. The god angle is thought provoking.
xfitkitten | 401 andra recensioner | Nov 13, 2023 |


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Giotto diBondone Cover artist
Giotto di Bodone Cover artist
Anna Fields Narrator
Mark Bramhall Narrator


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