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New York, New York, United States
"Life isn't divided into genres. It's a horrifying, romantic, tragic, comical, science-fiction cowboy detective novel."

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

The Sparrow

Wow. What an unexpected find. While this is, in essence, a science fiction novel, the true heart of the story lies in its main characters and the questions of morality they face in the most unusual of situations. A scientist, Jimmy Quinn, at a space telescope station discovers radio signals from a planet in the Alpha Centauri system that turn out to be the ethereal strains of alien music. Jimmy and a crew of his fellow friends: a physicist, her engineer husband, a child prostitute turned computer genius, and four Jesuit priests, including the enigmatic and intense Father Emilio Sandoz, are all sent on a mission to discover and explore this mysterious planet. You learn at the beginning of the book (fifty years after the mission has taken place) that Father Sandoz is apparently the only survivor of the mission. He has been tortured and is near death...as the story progresses, you learn more of what has happened to this poor man and his team.

It was difficult for me to get into the first fifty or so pages of this book. But once Jimmy discovered the music from Rakhat, I was hooked. Without a doubt, the best part of this novel were the characters. The humor and pathos in their dialogue and the love they developed for each other during this exhilarating yet horrifying mission was beautiful to behold. And I say behold because the characters literally jumped out of the pages for me. Imagine facing an entirely new species somewhere that is unfathomably far from home...adapting to the new culture and lifestyle and diet...yet retaining what makes you, in essence, human. And that is faith. I don't mean only religious faith, but faith in yourself, faith in others, faith in that when the bottom seems to drop out of your world, that there's always a bright side, a future.

Beautiful, rich, heartfelt story. Kudos to MDR.