I came to this book looking to re-read "I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream" which I first read over 20 years ago. Only after receiving the book through...moreI came to this book looking to re-read "I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream" which I first read over 20 years ago. Only after receiving the book through inter-library loan did I realize all of the other classics contained within. Some I had read before ("Bicentennial Man", "Flowers for Algernon", "I Have No Mouth..."), some I had heard of but never read ("Enemy Mine") and some were brand new to me. I was knocked out by "Sandkings" which I had never read before. Being a fan of Martin from his "Tuf Voyaging" series, I was very pleased to find that particular gem.
In short, if you want an introduction to some of the best-ever SF short fiction (or want to revisit some old favorites) you couldn't find a better place to start than this book.(less)
"To God all things are fair and good and right; but men hold some things wrong and some right. The unlike is joined together, and from differences re...more "To God all things are fair and good and right; but men hold some things wrong and some right. The unlike is joined together, and from differences results the most beautiful harmony, and all things take place by strife."
"Matthew ten verse twenty-nine," Vincenzo Giuliani said quietly. " 'Not one sparrow can fall to the ground without your Father knowing it.' " "But the sparrow still falls," Felipe said.
-from "The Sparrow"
I found this to be an excellent, if somewhat uneven, book about man's first interstellar "mission" to another world. Different aspects of the book struck me differently. As a tale of man's interstellar journey, I'd rate it average. Good setup, but thin description in some parts.
As a tale of an alien world, I was somewhat unconvinced. I found the world described to be not quite alien enough. The book is only 400-some pages long, of which only the last half takes place on the planet Rakhat. To manage a description of an alien world in less that two hundred pages, you would either have to leave things so under-described as to make the result opaque, or be describing a world that's not all that alien. The air, water, and food on Rakhat are all generally palatable to humans. The creatures there reproduce bisexually in ways that are generally mamallian. Still, in the context of the book, the description of the planet Rakhat, it's biology and sociology, does it's job, which is to support the third aspect of the story.
That aspect is man's search for God. Specifically, one man's search for God. Emilio Sandoz, Jesuit and linguist. He comes to feel that his path to God lies in understanding the creatures of Rakhat. How that search plays out is the essence of the story. I found the way that the author tied up the mystery of the alien races with Sandoz's search, throwing in a lot of spiritual and Christian references along the way, to be a particularly good piece of writing.
However, in the end, I found it unconvincing that a character as intelligent and perceptive as Emilio Sandoz would have to travel over nine light years just to learn that bad things happen to good people. That's a lesson he could have learned -- would have learned -- in the slums of Puerto Rico where he was born. I am surprised it would cause him to lose his faith in God at the age of 45.
The Jana'ata were sentient creatures possessed of free will. How could Sandoz mistake their actions for God's will? (less)
What to say about Cat's Cradle? It took me a couple dozen pages to orient myself to the fact that this is a Vonnegut book, and not some other kind of...moreWhat to say about Cat's Cradle? It took me a couple dozen pages to orient myself to the fact that this is a Vonnegut book, and not some other kind of novel. Once there, I thoroughly enjoyed it, although I think I preferred Player Piano and Slaughterhouse Five to this.
Still, to steal a line from Quentin Tarantino: If you're going to compare a Kurt Vonnegut novel, you compare it to every other novel ever written that wasn't written by Kurt Vonnegut.(less)