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Set in the 21st century - between 20 and 60 years from now - The Sparrow is the story of a charismatic Jesuit priest and talented linguist, Emilio Sandoz, who - in response to a remarkable radio signal from the depths of space - leads a scientific mission to make first contact with an extraterrestrial culture. In the true tradition of Jesuit adventurers before him, Sandoz and his companions are prepared to endure isolation, suffering - even death - but nothing can prepare them for the civilisation they encounter, or for the tragic misunderstanding that brings the mission to a devastating end. Once considered a living saint, Sandoz returns alone to Earth horrifically maimed, both physically and spiritually, the mission's sole survivor - only to be blamed for the mission's failure and accused of heinous crimes. Written in clean, effortless prose and peopled with memorable, superbly-realised characters who never lose their humanity or humour, The Sparrow is a powerful, haunting fiction - a tragic but ultimately triumphant novel about the nature of faith, of love and what it means to be 'human'.

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Book Details

ISBN: 9780552997775
ISBN-10: 0552997773
Format: Paperback
(198mm x 127mm x 32mm)
Pages: 512
Imprint: Black Swan
Publisher: Transworld Publishers Ltd
Publish Date: 1-Nov-1997
Country of Publication: United Kingdom

Reviews

US Kirkus Review » Brilliant first novel about the discovery of extraterrestrial life and the voyage of a party of Jesuit missionaries to Alpha Centauri. Russell lays down two narratives: One begins in 2059, in the aftermath of the mission; the other in 2019, when a young astronomer intercepts a transmission of haunting songs from Alpha Centauri. In the latter, a linguist and Jesuit priest named Emilio Sandoz swiftly organizes a group of Jesuits and civilian specialists to turn an asteroid into a spaceship. The ship will reach the singing planet, called Rakhat, in four years of passenger time, even though 17 years will pass on Earth. In the narrative beginning in 2059, therefore, the mission's only survivor, Sandoz himself, is only a decade older. But he is a broken man physically and spiritually. The mission began well: Rakhat was beautiful and bountiful, and the men and women from Earth lived peacefully alongside a gentle and dreamy race, rather like the eloi of H.G. Wells's The Time Machine, here called the runs. Then, inadvertently, the visitors improve the local diet, causing a surge in births among the Runa; suddenly, another, fiercer race appears to put things right. It seems that the Jana'ata raise the Runa like rabbits. The newborn are slain and eaten, as is the party from Earth, except for Sandoz, who is taken to the strange capitol city and sold into a brothel. There, he is raped repeatedly by the great poet who wrote the angelic songs that fetched the Jesuits in the first place. A startling portrait of an alien culture and of the nature of God as well, since, in his utter humiliation and in the annihilation of his spirit, Sandoz is reborn in faith. Shades of Wells, Ursula K. LeGuin, and Arthur C. Clarke, with just a dash of Edgar Rice Burroughs - and yet strikingly original, even so. (Kirkus Reviews)


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Author Biography - Mary Doria Russell

Mary Doria Russell is a former anatomist, has studied six languages, trained as a paleoanthropologist and is the author of scientific papers on subjects as various as bone biology and cannibalism. Her first novel, The Sparrow, won the 1996 James Tiptree Award, the 1998 BSFA Award and the 1998 Arthur C. Clarke Award and she has also won the Cleveland Arts Council Prize for Literature and the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer of Science Fiction. Her second novel, Children of God, is the sequel to The Sparrow. Mary Doria Russell lives in Cleveland, Ohio, with her husband and their son.

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