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The Sparrow (The Sparrow, #1)
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Read Alongs > [November] The Sparrow

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message 1: by imyril (last edited Nov 08, 2019 01:47AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

imyril | 310 comments Mod
Yep, there's 2 read-alongs for Sci-Fi Month - I have dragged my heels, but a group read of The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell is ON. Why did the Jesuits send a spaceship to another planet? What went so terribly wrong when they got there? I adored this book back when I read it, and I'm really excited to reread - tag yourself if you'd like to join me.

Wednesday 6th November | Beginning through end Chapter Eleven
Wednesday 13th November | Chapter Twelve - Nineteen
Wednesday 20th November | Chapter Twenty - Twenty-six
Wednesday 27th November | Chapter Twenty-seven - end

(Spoiler-tagged) Discussion questions will be posted here the preceding Sunday (or as close to it as possible).

Spoiler warning: there is active discussion in this thread - 'ware untagged spoilers if you haven't read the book before!

Lisa (deargeekplace) | 549 comments Mod

message 3: by Ash (new) - rated it 1 star

Ash (_ash) | 4 comments Yay!

message 4: by imyril (last edited Nov 04, 2019 05:46AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

imyril | 310 comments Mod
Sorry for the late questions this week! Best laid plans, etc...

(view spoiler)

Mark | 2 comments imyril wrote: "Sorry for the late questions this week! Best laid plans, etc...

1. "They went ad majorem Dei gloriam: for the greater glory of God. They meant no harm." What was your initial/gut response to the..."

1. It didn't particularly move me. I'm not Catholic (or any sort of Christian), though. I don't think you have to be understand and appreciate the book. But I do think someone with a Catholic background will get something different out of it.

2. Nobody saw cell phones coming the way they have.

3. Emilio and Sofia are both highly damaged people.
Jimmy Quinn isn't damaged at all, to the extent that his lack of damage might itself be a form of damage. His height, his gawkiness in pairing with his scientific interests make him a bit of a broad stroke "nerd" character.
The portrayal of Anne has a fair degree of subtlety and ambiguity: I'm not always sure how to interpret what she says and does. I think this is a feature, not a bug. It's a virtue of the book that it keeps to it's limited POV and doesn't give you a clear idea of what she's thinking.
We only see George when we see Anne; we only hear about his other activities. He feels the least developed of the characters so far.
4. Some of its work is certainly admirable. I respect the ethos of service. It never occurred to me, really, that priests could have that level of doubt, that some might not even have the "experience" of God's presence. I'm gaining a better appreciation for the multiplicity of forms that faith can take, which run the spectrum from full-on Joan of Arc "hearing God" to making a *choice* to believe.
What I have a hard time with is understanding the choice to believe. I'm a skeptic with a naturalist bent, and it's difficult for me to understand the motivation to believe without the evidence of first-person experience.
I once joked that while "spiritual, but not religious" is a category for people characterizing their religious status, "religious, but not spiritual isn't." It turns out, actually, that it is. And that seems to be a big part of the Society's niche.

The Captain | 3 comments 1. "They went ad majorem Dei gloriam: for the greater glory of God. They meant no harm." What was your initial/gut response to the Prologue?

What a cool reason for the Jesuits to be involved and how are the humans going to screw up the aliens this time?

2. How are you getting on with the split timeline and the many points of view? How about Mary Doria Russell's predictions for 2019?

I actually don't mind the split timeline in this. I was equally enthralled by both and wanted to know what's going on. I do wish that our 2019 current space program was as advanced.

3. What are your first impressions of the characters? Any favourites so far?

Emilio is certainly me favourite. Sophia be a close second.

4. From what we learn of Emilio's training and what we see in the 'present' day (2050s), what do you make of the Society of Jesus as portrayed here?

I am not religious meself but I actually like the Jesuits as portrayed in this book. I mean there is always politics in every thing but I like their focus on education and their ability to have faith and science together. I also like their focus on serving humanity.

Lisa (deargeekplace) | 549 comments Mod
Better late than never! My thoughts are released into the wild here: https://deargeekplace.com/greater-glo...

imyril | 310 comments Mod
I suspect we'll all gain plenty of fodder for considering our attitudes to religion, faith and spirituality in the coming weeks :)

For me, I like the intentions of the Jesuits but oh boy I'm leery of the suggestion that it's okay to manipulate/use people. I can't help but think that will always have collateral damage for (some of) the people involved (o hai Emilio - although at least he was entirely complicit in going to Rakhat!) - and I don't have the comfort of faith to make me feel okay about the ends justifying the means.

100% with the Captain in wishing we had such an advanced space program!

imyril | 310 comments Mod
Ahem, I think late questions are a feature not a bug on this read-along - apologies folks. Here's some questions for week two - feel free to answer some or all of them!

(view spoiler)

The Captain | 3 comments If you were choosing who to send to make first contact on a newly-discovered planet, how would you approach it?

I would pick someone way smarter than meself to make the decisions. If NASA still existed then I would choose them.

Would you go to Rakhat if you were in Anne/Sofia's shoes? Why/not?

I be a klutz and so going to a new planet where I could get others killed? No way. I would only go to space after a VERY safe space tourist industry was in place.

What would be your essential items to pack on a voyage into the unknown? Coffee? Duct tape?

food, medical supplies, me cutlass.

Anne and Emilio both talk passionately about vows this week and give Jimmy a new perspective. What do you think?

Trust be key. Me Ship Me Rules. And as long as vows are mutual and don't hurt someone, then each to their own.

What do you think the outcome will be of the attraction between Emilio and Sofia?

I finished the book so, well, I already know.

There has been much allusion to God's will this week, both positive (removing hindrances) and negative (Alan's death). Any thoughts you'd like to share?

Being non-religious meself, I don't get the bother about which religion ye are. That said I love learning about different religions. If a higher power exists, then the status of the soul is between the higher power and the individual. I try to respect all religions and use the same "And as long as vows are mutual and don't hurt someone, then each to their own."

Anything else you'd like to reflect on?

I have been really enjoying all the various viewpoints about this book. This would be an excellent book club book. Arrrr!

imyril | 310 comments Mod
Oh gosh, I just keep getting later and later... week 3 questions below the cut!

(view spoiler)

...and of course any other thoughts or predictions you have to share! Me, I'm still chewing over concepts of sainthood.

The Captain | 3 comments First contact at last! What are your initial impressions of the cultures of Rakhat?

- I thought how first contact happened and how the relationships evolve was one of the highlights of the book. It was different to other books I have read and awesome in both how quickly I cared about the aliens and the culture. The language aspects were fascinating.

Emilio and Anne have a briefly-serious conversation about faith. How did Emilio's comments on faith ("some poetry is tragic") resonate for you - in terms of your own beliefs and/or in terms of what we know the future holds for Emilio?

- Depressing. Sad.

We've had many different perspectives on Emilio this week and learnt more about Vincenzo Giuliani. How have your perceptions of these characters and their motivations changed? What outcome do you predict in the present day narrative?

- I know the outcome having read ahead but I thought that it was interesting on how much I kept going back and forth in this section on whether I thought Vincenzo was being sadistic or cared about Emilio at all. Sometimes me viewpoint would change on the same page!

"[Cain] made his sacrifice in good faith. Why did God refuse it?"
There have been some terrible moments for Emilio as he has reflected on his experiences on Rakhat. What do you think he meant when talking to Brother Behr about Sofia - and do you think Ed understood him correctly?

- No real thoughts on this but interested in reading other folks.

...and of course any other thoughts or predictions you have to share! Me, I'm still chewing over concepts of sainthood.

- Aye, sainthood. I am still pondering that one too.

message 13: by Lisa (new) - rated it 4 stars

Lisa (deargeekplace) | 549 comments Mod
Here's my week 3 post, also pitifully late but AAAAAH https://deargeekplace.com/deus-vult-t...

imyril | 310 comments Mod
Oh gosh, it's a new record: questions are a whole week late! Note to self: read the book months in advance and set all the questions before SciFiMonth even starts next year (pause for hysterical laughter). Ahem. Anyway. Questions!

...there's so many I could ask, but I'm going to throw out a few for you to pick/choose between as you wish, and leave this week wide open for whatever you would like to discuss at the bitter end.

(view spoiler)

message 16: by Mark (new) - rated it 5 stars

Mark | 2 comments I am unsure how to judge Supaari's choices - if I even can. There are big questions here about the universality of ethics that this pushes against. Our ethical codes are influenced by our evolutionary history. There's a whole field of study on how conventional morality is the product of an evolutionary game. If morality is the product of such a game, does it apply, then, only to the people playing that game? Supaari and his people are playing a different game than we are.

This book also provides us with an opportunity to look at the practices of raising and eating meat. Rakhat presents what at least looks like an extreme version of us, as their prey is sentient/sapient - things we, to the best of our knowledge, believe are not true of what we eat. But where does the line get drawn? If the Jana'ata are wrong to do what they do, can we be so sure that our own gustatory practices are so innocent?

It was fascinating to learn that, after drifting from the Catholic faith in her teens, Russell converted to Judaism as an adult. This was not totally surprising to me, though. There's a passage, written from Sofia's POV, that gives a sense of how *bizarre* Christianity seems from the outside, and through Jewish eyes. Russell absolutely nails this. I am a non-practicing Jew, and this passage was a revelation.

imyril | 310 comments Mod
...I'm fascinated by the even-handed presentation of Jana'ata society here, but I'd forgotten how very ambiguous the portrayal of Supaari was. It's not necessarily appropriate to judge the Jana'ata and Runa by our moral compass. but I think there are lines we can draw (...altho yes, good point that it's a dangerous game to play). In the end though, morality is always subjective. I don't judge Emilio for eating the meat - but I am wildly uncomfortable with the oh-so-careful Jana'ata management of their ecosystem.

I didn't realise Russell converted to Judaism. I do love the way it is portrayed as a faith in The Sparrow - and I was rather beguiled at the end when we were presented with the distinction between Catholic and Jewish ideas on why a merciful God and outright horror can co-exist: 'not one sparrow can fall to the ground without your father knowing it' vs the idea that God takes up too much space, so Creation is where he withdrew his breath to make space. I'm not religious, but... that's a portrayal of the divine I can get on board with.

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