CLoggie: booklog: The Sparrow
The Sparrow
Mary Doria Russell
Published in 1996.

When the radio telescope in Puerto Rico finally discovers extraterrestial intelligence in 2019, the Jesuits launch an expedition to the planet Rakhat and find not one, but two species of intelligent beings. Years later, in 2059, the last survivor, the priest Emilio Sanchez, has returned to earth with the second, UN sponsored expedition in disgrace. In a series of interviews with the head of his order he slowly reveals what went wrong.

The story is told through two interweaving sequences: the first is set in 2059 and further and is the story of father Sanchez and his slow recovery of what happened at Rakhat. The second story line is the story of the expedition itself, which starts far before the discovery of signals coming from Rakhat and goes into the background of the members of the expedition as well. Most of whom are friends and have known each other for some time. Towards the end of the book, the two storylines flow together.

Central in this novel is not the theme of first contact, but more of theology, of how people deal with their religion when awful things happen. It's the psychology of her characters Russell is interested in, not so much the mechanics of contact between two alien races. At times, this can be frustrating.

Equally frustrating is her habit of telling important incidents in the story second hand, by for example letting Sanchez tell about them, rather then show them directly. She tends to lead up to important scenes, then turn away from them and zooming in again afterwards.

Webpage created 02-09-2001, last updated 10-12-2001
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