The Sparrow (The Sparrow, #1) The Sparrow discussion


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Just someone who has read this and would like to talk about it.

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message 1: by Jennifer (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:56PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jennifer I read this book several years ago and have yet to find anyone else other than my husband who has read it and its sequel. I think it is a remarkable piece of science fiction with some pretty interesting theological and philosophical questions.


message 2: by Loftpat (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:10PM) (new)

Loftpat Jennifer:
I read the Sparrow and Children of God as well and count them among the reads I recommend when friends are looking for interesting and thought-provoking books. I also enjoyed A Thread of Grace.


message 3: by Brian (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:25PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Brian "The Sparrow" is an all-time favorite of mine... While an unusually-different style of story, I also adored "Children of God". "A Thread of Grace" was also wonderful, and I'm eagerly looking forward to "Dreamers of the Day", which is set to come out in... March, I think?

It's unfortunate... "The Sparrow" offers a reason for almost anyone to AVOID reading it (mine, originally, was the Jesuit angle, though for most, it seems to be the sci-fi angle...), but it's got something for almost everyone to think about.


message 4: by Brian (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:38PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Brian I can see what you mean, but I rather liked the way "The Sparrow" DID leave so much up to what the reader thought or believed -- it was, much like the central theme of the book, a matter of faith. "Children of God" did pretty much come right out and show the hand of God behind it all, which seemed... too easy? Hard to explain what I mean, really, since I'm not entirely sure, myself.

The knowledge of autism is pretty clearly from the ship's library... There's a mention, in "The Sparrow" that the ship's digital library pretty much has all of human knowledge, and the data pads are rechargeable and have uplinks to the ship, so that's a pretty easy idea to work in and work around.

As for the death of the not-quite-a-wife... I was okay with that. Her still being alive would have been unbelievable, to me. My own "bogus-meter" when off, for the "less than one year" issue, I have to say I don't know how many years would have been "okay", to me... And the fact that they meet there, on the Day of the Dead sort of makes sense (the daughter even mentions that she sort of hoped to find him, doesn't she? It's been a while since I read "CoG")

I LOVED the scene with the Pope, though. That may be my favorite scene of either book.


message 5: by asdfasdf (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:56PM) (new) - added it

asdfasdf I just started THE SPARROW and am looking forward to it. So far I'm on page... hrrrm... about 80, maybe, and it's shaping up to be an excellent book!


Tracy I just finished "The Sparrow" and loved it! Can't wait now to start "Children of God". There were so many aspects to this book. It definitely was thought-provoking. I am a very spiritual person but I think every human at some point questions the existence of a higher power. The book raises some very interesting questions.


Andy I remember The Sparrow had some interesting descriptions of alien music or singing. It made me consider human singing in a different way, as in, why do we do it? What would an outside civilization think of the music we make? I liked that the book led me there.


Amyss Oh my gosh is it good to see how many people loved this WONDERFUL BOOK (and its equally amazing sequel, and also her third book that is as far away from that world as one can get, Thread of Grace) I recommend this to any book lover who likes their books to blow their minds open to new ideas, ask the IMPORTANT questions without spoon-feeding you the answers, and maybe disturb you and change your world view as well. Excellent.


message 9: by Pam (new) - rated it 4 stars

Pam Something I can't get my head around is that life on another planet would confirm the existence of God.

I understand (I think) how Emilio would come to believe that the expedition was guided by God, that he was meant to find God in this way -- but alien life as proof of God?

The book made me think about it though, and it's something I haven't thought about for a long time.





Roxanne Yes - I also felt this was a very special book. Am looking forward to reading Children of God. It had elements of so many fictional writer's methods that it certainly kept interest going. I would also recomment John Twelve Hawks, "The Traveler".


message 11: by Jay (new) - rated it 4 stars

Jay I thought it was an interesting premise. Jesuits explored early america, and made contact with Native American tribes, what if Jesuits were the first to explore an alien planet? Unfortunately the story kind of runs out of gas after the party makes contact with the aliens and I found the charater's reactions to the returned Jesuit priest a bit unreasonable and unbelievable. On the whole I found the mix of sci-fi with religious ideas an enjoyable and interesting mix.


Roxanne I have not read children of god - feel compelled to do so - but also hate sequels that are so lame but I just can't put them down. Is this one of those?


Brian I don't think anything in the book was meant to be proof... I think certain characters TOOK certain things as proof, but that's meant to be what the character perceives/thinks/believes... Any number of people, over the history of the world, have taken events to be proof of God's existence; that doesn't mean it IS proof.


Brian Roxanne -

I was a little reluctant to read it, myself, since I didn't think "The Sparrow" really needed a sequel. While I don't think it was QUITE on-par with "The Sparrow", I thought it was really good and I enjoyed it. It gives the author the chance to show her anthropologic roots and explore the history and culture of Rakhat a little further... Plus, she very intentionally sets up the reader, in "The Sparrow" to make the same mistake that the team makes -- an assumption that seems perfectly valid, based on the information given, turns out to be completely untrue, so we find out that one of the Rakhati from the first book is very much not what we thought.


Roxanne Well thanks Brian - I will definitely read it. Going to the used book store on Wednesday so will hopefully find it there. I thought there was more depth in her sci fi writing than in most. Not just a bunch of gimmicks but human hopes, dreams, behavior and aspirations that all rang true to me.


Fiona I Loved both of these and have not found many people who have read them..


I thought that the premise was brilliant, and loved every single page - I actually wrote to the author and she replied.. How great is that.

Loved it.


Linda I loved this book and its sequel. It really made me think of the impact that we can have on others societies by either thinking we know best or just plain old misunderstanding.


Tamela Hopefully you've already started Children of God so this is moot, but I highly reccommend reading it.

It's not as good as The Sparrow in my opinion--most of my favorite characters in The Sparrow are not there :( and the new ones aren't quite as interesting. But if the way Emilio was left at the end of The Sparrow ripped your heart out as it did mine, then continuing his story is a must!


message 19: by Teri (new) - rated it 4 stars

Teri Re: Brian and the time issue

I'm taking a stab in the dark here (not being huge into sci-fi and not really being good at all the sciencey and mathematical stuff...) but the Earth and Rakhat are a significant amount of (light?) years away, right? Which would make the "less than a year and a half" thing feasible...

That said, I thought the author did a fabulous job. The beginning was a bit slow for me, but Russell has a fantastic command of time, scene and character development. I think Emilio's transformation is the most human and the most obvious. I love how he's portrayed as someone who got into the priesthood sort as a fluke and he's the character who ends up being considered saint material. It's unfortunate that his encounter with "God" has ruined his faith and completely within the boundaries of his character.

For me, this book is one of those pieces that I got done reading and said to myself "Wish I'd written that."


Brian Oh, I was just replying to Ginny's thoughts about Emilio's arrival, at the end of "Children of God", a year after a rather significant death, not about the travel time and whatnot.

"The Sparrow" is probably my favorite book, and "Children of God" is amongst my favorite books. Character work, reflection on so many fundamental issues, creativity, the development of an entirely new culture (well, two, in a sense), AND the science of it all -- I love it all.


message 21: by Teri (new) - rated it 4 stars

Teri Gotcha - sorry to stick my nose in :)


Brian Pfft. No need to apologize in the first place, as far as I'm concerned. All the less-so, since you were trying to defend and praise a book I love. ;)


Astraea I read this book at least once a year. It is a beautiful and tragic story. The linguistic details are fascinating.

Gabriel


Robert Delikat Here we are, it appears, 4 years after this thread began and people are still feeling compelled to comment here on this book. I am not surprised. I don't often (never) comment on a book until I'm finished reading it. Sometimes endings can heavily influence the final review. Well, maybe. I'm only 1/3 of the way through and I just cannot contain myself: IT'S FREAKING INCREDIBLE!


Jeanne Roxanne wrote: "I have not read children of god - feel compelled to do so - but also hate sequels that are so lame but I just can't put them down. Is this one of those?"

I gave The Sparrow out to 12 friends for Christmas presents one year. It is one of my favorite books of all time. That said, I also make them PROMISE me that they won't read the sequel. Children of God feels to me like the Hollywood ending tacked on at the end of a movie to try and even out the discomfort and make everyone leave with a smile on their face. All the beautiful intricacy and lack of forced answers that make the first novel such an amazingly unusual book are unpicked and taken away by the second.

Just my (very strong) opinion! I tell you to just move on to Thread of Grace.


sandy Jeanne wrote: "Roxanne wrote: "I have not read children of god - feel compelled to do so - but also hate sequels that are so lame but I just can't put them down. Is this one of those?"

ohmygosh - i think the sequel is even better than the original! i make everyone promise to read both!



Kathryn Our book club read this several years ago and found it really compelling. I disagree that the "jesuit angle" was unwelcome; it was, in fact, the whole story. Read James Martin's "The Jesuit Guide to (Almost) Everything" for an accessible understanding of Jesuit philosophy. But back to "The Sparrow" ... this is science fiction with a real question: when we seek to do good; are there unforeseen consequences? I think Barbara Kingsolver tackled this same question in "The Poisonwood Bible" and so did Conrad in "The Heart of Darkness". When we go into the unknown, but bring our own baggage, prejudices, faith, knowledge, and ignorance, there are consequences.


Gregory Allen I read both of these books several years ago. I much preferred The Sparrow, but I fault my expectations for that because The Sparrow was so good. The vegetarian angle is what fascinated me about this story. I'm not a vegetarian, but if I lived on a planet where the source of meat was another (albeit slightly less) intelligent species, would I become one? I'd certainly like to think so! Of course, the fact is, I do live on a planet where the source of meat is a less intelligent species. Made me question that. So far, I haven't put my mouth where my mouth is. I still eat meat, but it made me think, as good books are supposed to.


message 29: by A.C. (new) - rated it 5 stars

A.C. Flory Like quite a few people on this thread I loved The Sparrow and was left feeling disappointed by Children of God - too neat, too pat, too...predictable. Nonetheless it was still head and shoulders above a great many sci-fi books I've read in the past.

I think what I loved the most about the Sparrow was the fusion of sci-fi with unashamed philosophy. As an atheist of catholic extraction I truly enjoyed the mind-bending, mental gymnastics of the first book. There is a great deal to be said for the singer even if you don't like the song.


Shayne Andrea wrote: "There is a great deal to be said for the singer even if you don't like the song"

I like this! And i suppose the opposite is true too.



The Sparrow was delicious - probably in my top ten right now. I'm reading Children of Godnow and find it a bit slippery but it still has its moments.It is very much worth reading if you "want to find out what happens", but I don't think its a required read. Russell can bring me to tears or laughter with a single sentence.


Tracy I read The Sparrow years ago. It broke my already broken heart. I loved it so much. I remember I wrote to the author and she wrote me back, how cool is that. I didn't find her second book Children of God as compelling, the message of it seemed to hit you over the head. But it was still pretty excellent. I also recommend A Thread of Grace. It is another heart-breaker, gorgeously written.


Chris My bookclub read The Sparrow a number of years ago. I think I was the only one who didn't like it. I found the premise interesting, but the idea that the Jesuits would plan a mission to anywhere and not plan on proselytizing seemed absurd to me. From what I remember now, a lot seemed absurd. Needless to say I never bothered with Children of God. However, I did read Russell's Doc last year, and it was one of my favorite books of the year. I'd like to read Thread of Grace some day.


message 33: by Paul (new) - rated it 5 stars

Paul Dale As another atheist Catholic, I loved The Sparrow. Original, thought provoking sci fi. While Jesuits in space does have a crazy kind of logic given the order's history, the thing it managed to capture for me was the combination of abuse and guilt.


message 34: by Mae (new) - rated it 5 stars

Mae I purchased this book ten years ago, everyone in my family has read both... The Sparrow and Children of God. I just finished reading the first. I don't know what took me so long.... LOVED IT. Deep and fascinating.


message 35: by Mae (new) - rated it 5 stars

Mae Roxanne wrote: "Well thanks Brian - I will definitely read it. Going to the used book store on Wednesday so will hopefully find it there. I thought there was more depth in her sci fi writing than in most. Not just..."
Totally agree with you...


Beth Jennifer wrote: " I read this book several years ago and have yet to find anyone else other than my husband who has read it and its sequel. I think it is a remarkable piece of science fiction with some pretty int..."

I agree. And I thought the sequel was better.


Rachel I, too, loved the book. In fact, this is realy the first work of sci fi that I have enjoyed. I went on to read the sequel, then more of Russell's books. A winner!


Beth Rachel wrote: "I, too, loved the book. In fact, this is realy the first work of sci fi that I have enjoyed. I went on to read the sequel, then more of Russell's books. A winner!"

Me, too. I've read everything she's written.


Suzanne Vincent Non-sci-fi readers love this book because, really, it's not sci-fi.

'Huh?' you say!

A book can't be counted as sci-fi just because it has futuristic elements and technology. This book could have been equally powerful, with exactly the same themes, set in ancient Mesopotamia.

In true sci-fi, the technology powers the book and has a prominent, if not essential hand in bringing the book to resolution. That isn't the case here. The technology is little more than a vehicle used to get our characters from one place to another and to record what they encounter. It is no more or less important to the story than the Nina, the Pinta and the Santa Maria were to the story of Columbus.

If you've read Dune, for example, the technology is so deeply entwined with the storyline and characters that they are unable to function without it. The story could not happen without it. The story would be so entirely different as to be unrecognizable.

At its heart, The Sparrow is a character story--it's about the rise and fall of faith, its about human longings, triumphs, and tragedies.

Wonderful book. One I will likely read again--which is saying something.


Brian Suzanne wrote: "Non-sci-fi readers love this book because, really, it's not sci-fi."

I applaud most of what you're saying, Suzanne, but I disagree with your definition. A book (or movie, or tv show) is still science-fiction, even if it's not so technologically-focused that it's inaccessible to people who aren't fans of the genre. Sci-fi's been considered off-putting to many for a long time because people do assume it's going to be what's now called "hard" sci-fi (Arthur C. Clarke, Larry Niven, David Brin), but that's never been true.

Sci-fi's always been about exploring concepts, characters, or storylines that couldn't be told in a real-world setting. Sometimes it's fantastical enough that it's got to be set in an unrecognizably-distant future, and sometimes the author is so fascinated by science and technology that they delve into in in such depth that it's off-putting to those not equally fascinated - and, admittedly, there's always been an area of sci-fi that's inarguably simply adolescent male fantasy. But that's a part of sci-fi; it doesn't define sci-fi. Sci-fi is also "The Sparrow" and "Children of God".

Philip K. Dick's "The Man in the High Castle" was written in 1962, and it's set in 1962, though a 1962 where FDR was assassinated in 1933 and the Axis powers won WW2. It's inarguably sci-fi, and it won the Hugo Award for Science Fiction in 1963, but it was set in the same year it was written. No rayguns, no spaceships at all. 1962 technology.

Walter Miller's Hugo Award-winning "A Canticle for Leibowitz" was first published in 1960. It, too, is inarguably sci-fi, though it's a post-apocalyptic sci-fi using a sort of Dark Ages setting. It's also a favorite of Mary Doria Russell's (she wrote the introduction to a recent edition).

Some of my favorite authors are not even remotely sci-fi. I love Charles Dickens and Anne Bronte, as well as Zadie Smith and A. S. Byatt. I also love Philip K. Dick, William Gibson, and Neil Stephenson, who tend to bend even the most flexible definitions of sci-fi, and I love Herbert's "Dune" series... But, having spent years as an Event Coordinator in an indie bookstore, I got to host Mary Doria Russell twice, and she'd be the first to tell you "The Sparrow" is Science Fiction.

There's no need to try to apologize for "The Sparrow" in any sense. It's sci-fi. But sci-fi isn't restricted to the pigeon hole where many have relegated it for over a century... You are officially a sci-fi fan, Suzanne... welcome! =)


Serkan Good explaination Brian. Sparrow is a soft sci-fi Suzanne. It surely has some philosophical elements in it, but that doesn't make it something else. Don't be ashamed that you loved a sci-fi book.

By the way, this is one of the best books i have ever read. For the people that didn't do it yet, go grab one!.


Amyss Rachel wrote: "I, too, loved the book. In fact, this is realy the first work of sci fi that I have enjoyed. I went on to read the sequel, then more of Russell's books. A winner!"

That is exactly how it has been for me! Everything she has read I have just read immediately and always LOVED!!!!


Sadie Forsythe Serkan wrote: "By the way, this is one of the best books i have ever read. For the people that didn't do it yet, go grab one!. "

Whole heartedly agree. This is one of my absolute favourites.


Allan To all saying this The Sparrow is not science Fiction; WELL, it's a text about first contact with an extraterrestrial sentient intelligent species. That's definitionally science fiction, unless you're considering that Area 51 holds secrets to already contacted extraterrestrials. I reread The Sparrow last summer in anticipation of reading CoG, comes to find out even though CoG is a chronological conclusion to TS that the two are completely different books. But it's not a gadget story, but many of Robert A. Heinlein's books are not gadget stories either, nor are most of Gene Wolf's stories either.


Ellen What I liked so much about The Sparrow is that the author did not over-explain the alien civilizations and left enough unsaid for the reader to try to fill in their own blanks. What I found to be truly unique was the combination of spirituality & science fiction which isn't attempted often [successfully]. Children of God was not as spiritualky rich though it had a more anthropological bend....


message 46: by Gary (new) - rated it 5 stars

Gary Loved both books but find it difficult to describe them to others. Certainly not like anything I have read before or since.


Kelly Waldschmidt Brian wrote: ""The Sparrow" is an all-time favorite of mine... While an unusually-different style of story, I also adored "Children of God". "A Thread of Grace" was also wonderful, and I'm eagerly looking forw..."

I was actually drawn into the Science Fiction aspect of it. I found this book heartbreaking. I thought that Emilio was constructed beautifully as a character. I am currently reading Children of God.


Beth Kelly wrote: "Brian wrote: "I am currently reading Children of God..."

which is even better


Linda When I learned that the new pope was a Jesuit, I emailed the author that she should write another book in the series because I loved them so much. She actually wrote me back. I was so thrlled that she took the time to write back.


Beth Linda wrote: "I emailed the author that she should write another book in the series because I loved them so much. She actually wrote me back..."

Mary Doria Russel is very conscientous about responding to her readers. I've emailed back and forth with her, and she gave me lengthy responses, even offered to write to my online book club.

When she came to my library to do a booksigning/lecture, she called THE SPARROW "Jesuits in Space."

Linda, will you please tell us or me what her response was? I, too, would like her to write another book in the series.


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