Thursday, February 5, 2009
Book Review The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell
The Sparrow Book Review
I first heard of the Sparrow (by anthropologist Mary Doria Russell) a few weeks back when I was thumbing through an old issue of Cemetery Dance. In an interview British horror author Tim Lebbon used the Sparrow as a book that had recently disturbed him. He said “I know it’s Science Fiction, but because of what happened I thought of it as horror.” Well as a huge fan of dark brooding Science Fiction I looked it up at my library and I just finished it today.
Let me start by saying that I think it’s one of the best books I’ve read all year, even though it was marketed in a way that irritates me to no end. I’m not sure if the author is behind this, I suspect the publisher. You see even though the novel is about a first contact mission between humans and aliens on another planet this book was not Science fiction but a “Literary classic.”
As if saying that this book doesn’t belong in the Sci-FI ghetto. Which is of course bullshit. Many brilliant literary classics came out of Science Fiction and this is just another one.
Enough about that. The Sparrow is a brilliant and important novel with many messages to convey. The story that balances Science fiction realism Like Arthur C Clarke did best with very solid and real characters that Stephen King is perhaps the best at.
There are many ways in interrupt this novel so the ways the issues are introduced produce more questions than answers. Which is to say no matter how much you pay or how much time you put into this book it’s worth it.
It is the story of a group Jesuit missionaries who are sent on a mission to an alien world to make first contact with a species that has been sending out radio signals. When they leave they know very little about the species and have barely started to translate the songs.
Due to the nature of the people on the mission the novel becomes a giant exploration of faith. The author has stated she was inspired by all the ways that history judged Columbus and European first contact.
Of course humans misunderstanding and ignorance of an entire culture that developed on another not only makes for a foreboding narrative but is an excellent way to look at the ways the human race has failed.
Great book. Great Science Fiction Book.