Nathaniel's Reviews > The Sparrow

The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell
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's review
May 11, 2012

really liked it
bookshelves: literature, sci-fi, religion
Read in May, 2012

The first half of this book earned the book 6 stars (yes: more than 5), but the second half really failed to live up to the first half and so--in sadness--I'm giving the book only 4 out of 5.

The Sparrow is a sci-fi first contact book with very, very heavy religious themes. These themes are handled directly, deftly, and beautifully throughout the first half of the book and--in addition--the characters are drawn thoughtfully and exquisitely. I particularly loved the way we saw Ann and George in particular (an older, married couple) experience fleeting but realistic internal feelings that ordinarily aren't described in books that don't then obsess about them. For example: in one scene Ann finds herself incredibly attracted to a younger man, and she ponders this feeling without any sense of infidelity or melodrama, but just realism. George is also attracted to a young, beautiful woman and develops a crush on her, but it never leads to any dishonorable behavior. It's not merely the fact that both are faithful (although that is a refreshing change), but instead the authenticity of seeing these kinds of feelings carefully portrayed. I especially loved the fact that they knew and were patient with each other.

Some reviewers have claimed it's not sci-fi because--essentially--it's too good. These reviewers are just genre bigots. It's definitely sci-fi. It's set in the future (2019 - 2060), involves travel to an alien planet, and detailed descriptions of alien culture and biology. It also envisions future events in human history, such as wars and technological advancements. The fact that there's deep religious and philosophical content doesn't make it less sci-fi, it just makes it *good* sci-fi.

If the book had maintained the incredible depth and beauty of the first 1/2, it would have been the best book I ever read. Sadly, it fell short. But it's still an incredible read and I highly recommend it.
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message 1: by Lisa (new)

Lisa My main complaint about sci-fi is that it is generally about all the cool futuristic "stuff". Sci-fi should be about the people too! Glad to hear this one is about the people too!

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