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The Sparrow

The Sparrow

Book - 1997
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Apr 08, 2021

I did not enjoy this book but it was on our monthly read. I left out large chunks as the dialogue I found crude and meaningless.
This is what I drew from the storyline: Undeniable emotion felt by earthly group versus space group in that the draw of the music heard by the main character, Emilio Sandoz was so intense that he wanted to learn more of this planet and its people and to evangelize them. In the opposite sense, the aliens were drawn by the sense of scent to the earthly group. The author draws a paradox.
I disliked the crudeness of the dialogie. It did not bring out thoughts of peace only long drawn out dialogue. Especially the ending - terrible so much extreme passages.
Really disliked the Jesuit aspect I suppose it could be compared to the mission journeys to reach a lost people and to learn of their ways and reach them for god. But it went terribly wrong. There was a very dark side to the story and a total disregard for the sanctity of human life. A regime bent on its own purposes and ideals. A hierachy of power versus the weak and vulnerable. Sandoz was used to the very core and the stripping away of his very humanness until there was nothing left of use to go forward with - utterly hopeless and utterly lost.

Mar 09, 2021

Book #1 (of 2) in the series.

Dec 26, 2018

scifi. a series, the Sparrow Series

HCL_staff_reviews Dec 21, 2018

Have you ever wondered if there is life on other planets? The year is 2019 and when singing is detected on another planet, a Jesuit group goes on a mission of scientific exploration. What they find will change life as they know it forever.
This book is a fantastic exploration of faith, religion and clashes of culture. The story is fast paced, the characters are well developed and I found the concept very interesting. — Molly R., Oxboro Library

ArapahoeLesley Nov 14, 2018

Mary Doria Russell delves deep into her characters and this classic sci-fi/treatise on morality is full of the thought and meaning that sticks with the reader for over two decades, as it has for me. This novel introduced me to Russell's writing and she has quickly become my favorite author.

Jul 27, 2018

I like sci-fi, but The Sparrow? Give me a break.

minor_cat Sep 27, 2017

This book and it's sequel Children of God are a fantastic read for those who like really intelligent Science Fiction. In fact you don't have to be a Sci Fi buff to enjoy these books. I've never forgotten these books and have recommended them to many people over the years, and bought many copies as presents.

CMLibrary_gjd Jun 22, 2017

One of the best books I've ever read! Great, wonderful and thought provoking, this is a must read for anyone interested in human nature and what it means to be "good". Any book club discussing the themes in this work will not be disappointed. I'm going to read the follow up (Children of God) soon, but I need to let this marinate in my brain for awhile. If you think "literature" (or even Sci-Fi) isn't for you , you should pick this book up today!

Further thoughts on this book:

Feb 16, 2016

I quit half way through and I don't even care what happens to these characters! I am surprised that so many loved this one. It sorely needed a good editor. So much of the book felt like character filler that just went on and on.

cgreenly15 Nov 14, 2015

The book kept me reading to see what would happen to Emilio. But it was recommended to me by a librarian for my twelve year old. This is not a book for a tween. So I am glad I read it first

Sep 22, 2015

After reading the prologue and that haunting plea—"They meant no harm"—this rush of foreboding came over me and I sensed I was at the beginning of something extraordinary.

And I was not disappointed. Mary Doria Russell has crafted a gripping tale of what happens when good intentions meets, no, collides with, raw nature. Only the description "gripping tale" barely scratches the surface. There's so much more going on here: philosophy, religion, anthropology, linguistics, the relativistic effects of interstellar travel, social evolution, betrayal, and a test of faith unlike any I've ever read.

The Sparrow was an ideal recommendation for me. I love science fiction, though I especially love the not-too-distant-future sci-fi where the "what if?" scenarios are just as close to reality as fantasy. I want to be able to look ahead and think, yes, events could play out this way. Carl Sagan's Contact comes to mind. I'm also an agnostic who enjoys pondering the humanistic side of the faith question. Many dismiss "skeptic" and "faith" as mutually exclusive, but I find dilemmas like a crisis of belief, for example, to be one of the most intensely vulnerable and human experiences we wrestle with.

Mary Doria Russell writes with sincerity, precision and a playfulness that will not be contained. Consider me a new fan. I only wish I had discovered her sooner.

Jun 09, 2015

Anne and George are the coolest married couple ever.

WVMLStaffPicks Dec 23, 2014

A charismatic Jesuit priest and linguist leads a twenty-first century scientific mission to a newly discovered extraterrestrial culture in search of spiritual treasure, but nothing can prepare them for the civilization they encounter. Russell creates memorable, strong characters who navigate the world of exciting ideas and disturbing moral issues without ever losing their humanity or humor.

multcolib_rachaels May 29, 2014

Father Emilio Sandoz is a Jesuit linguist who is one of the first to visit the first planet found with intelligent life. His experience is a harrowing illustration at how deeply you can misunderstand words when they a from an experience that is alien.

Oct 23, 2013

My all time favorite book. Out of this world characters, you inhabit their skins, horrifying deeds done in the name of God and man, rich worlds and vistas and the drama of human emotions.

Aug 13, 2013

I abandoned the book after forcing myself through 14 chapters. Emilio's wonderfulness was as unbearable for me as Sofia's life history and genius.

Apr 08, 2013

I have to call this a "good" book because it caused an explosion of ideas and concepts in my head while reading it. I was impressed with the range of themes this story contains. It's theological, sociological, anthropological, psychological, and philosophical, with a fair amount of heavy science thrown in to keep the sci-fi nerds pleased. The characters are all just a bit too unbelievable for me though. Emilio was the worst. I could not relate to him throughout any of the book. He came across as whiny even before all the trauma he'd suffer on the alien planet. I also thought his relationship with Supaari after everyone else died was uncharacteristic. Yes, Emilio was mortified with grief at first, but he completely failed to communicate well with Supaari. In every other mission the priest had been on, everyone sort of falls in love with him, yet Supaari is utterly bored with him, so it was unbelievable when the alien discards him. Anne and Sofia were unrealistically perfect female characters. Any flaw they had was somehow excused, justified, or reconciled in some way or another. I love strong female characters, but they have to remain human. The author admitting that she saw herself as Anne was self-promoting and awkwardly narcissistic. I have so much trouble with the event that caused all the trouble of Rahkat, the alien planet: planting a garden with Earth plants. WTF?! I'm no type of scientist and I was appalled at the concept. Endangering the ecosystem and introducing the concept of farming to a sentient species who did not have it as part of their lives is such an obvious abomination, even though I'm not a naturalist (like the character Marc) or an anthropologist (like Anne). For crap's sake, that was just ridiculously stupid. Had they been less educated Earthlings, yes, I would have viewed it as an honest mistake. Those are my rants for this book. I did love the two alien races, and the concept of herbivore/carnivore and prey/predator was brilliant. I was in love with the gentle Runa species and thoroughly intrigued by the Jana'ata and their control of the planet.

Mar 21, 2013

Simply incredible. Moderately slow start, but very strong characters and plot. Mature content undoubtedly, but with a satisfying end. Now on to the sequel.

Jul 13, 2012

This ranks among my top 5 books ever. I need to invest in a new copy, I've loaned it out so many times. I strongly encourage anyone reading this to read the first 1/3 of "Children of God" for a different perspective of the events in "The Sparrow."

Jul 09, 2012

This book is amazing. Some heavy, and some gory, stuff, not for the faint of heart, beautifully written characters, and excellent use of multiple timelines to build up a bit of mystery.

Jun 28, 2012

excellent book with great character studies. very timely material.

redhotreader Dec 08, 2011

I read this book with some trepedation as it was a sci-fi book placed in the future. It also pertained to life on other planets and first contact.

To my surprise I enjoyed this book immensley and had it haunting me after I had read it for weeks afterwards.

The book takes place in the 21st century. It has 2 time lines one is the lone survivor of a group of 6 returns from a planet. Emilo is a jesuit and is taken into the jesuit society to find out what happened to the rest of the group. He tells his story about what happened to their group. Not only is Emilo's spirt broken but his is also physically disabled.

A group of friends get together for a night of song and fun. Jimmy goes back to his office and hears music coming from one of the planets they are investigating. He tells his friends and they make plans to go to this planet with the beautiful music.

Nov 10, 2011



Great science fiction.

I especially liked the way it combined relatively modern day issues with science fiction.

The follow-up, Children of God, is also worth reading.

Oct 25, 2011

This is my favorite book! I have read it three times and enjoy it more with each read. MDR writes wonderful complex characters. I have an affinity for many of them.

Great book club book. Religion, prejudice and colonization great discussion topics.

prkmbc Sep 10, 2011

June 2004

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